Four Different Types of Communication Mediums
 Executive Summary
Globalization brings us a new era – reducing production costs and increasing productivity and competitiveness have become a must in today’s business world. The concepts and applications of competitive intelligence (business intelligence) are becoming increasingly important in our knowledge based society. This report discusses how communication is important in Competitive Intelligence process and how communication modes & methods affect effective communication. So what is Competitive Intelligence? Prof. Jonathan Calof at the University of Ottawa, a leader in competitive intelligence, clearly defined “Competitive intelligence is the art and science of preparing companies for the future by way of a systematic knowledge management process. It is creating knowledge from openly available information by use of a systematic process involving planning, collection, analysis, communication and management, which results in decision-maker action.” (Calof and Skinner, 1999).
What kind of role does communication play in the Competitive Intelligence (CI) process? Communication is the delivery vehicle during the CI process. As the basic unit of CI process, it contains four aspects: plan & direction, collect, analysis, dissemination or communication. As the final aspect of the process we should consider the mode when communicating information. Normally, we have a number of options including face-to-face, presentation, telephone, email, and written memo. Which mode we choose also depends on the receiving manager's personality as well as their location and the sensitivity of the intelligence. Access to highly sensitive information may need to be restricted to those with the need to know. Thus care needs to be taken to control written material and especially e-mailed data. In some cases, where the location allows, a face-to-face meeting may be the safest approach.
Other information - a product comparison matrix, for example - may be made accessible to staff that need to know how competitor products compare. This group may include sales people, customer relationship staff, marketing and product management staff. As a result such information may need a wide distribution and may possibly be placed on the corporate intranet as the common practice.
Therefore, using Competitive Intelligence (CI) technology and skills to determine what is going to happen next in our environment and then take advantage of it is critical to any organizations. Competitive Intelligence (CI) is increasingly being recognized as one of the most effective tools for creating competitiveness. Effective communication is the key to the success of competitive intelligence, strategic intelligence, economic intelligence and business intelligence.
 1.0. Introduction
Communication is the process through which members of an organization share ideas, communicate information and provide feedback. This vital process needs to be organized effectively for achieving full efficiency of the organization and for ensuring organization goals are understood by all for members, for proper implementation. The main reason of communication is to maintain well-informed team members and that necessary information flows to right person at the right time. This will automatically increase safety, prosperity or confidences within the organization.
Competitive Intelligence (CI) is information that’s been analyzed to the point where critical decision could be made. In today’s market Competitive Intelligence is one of the burning questions for any decision making process. Organizations existence depends on proper measure of CI area for either competitor or own customer. Only efficient use of affective communication among the group members of the big team or partners in the market can make it real. CI according to the president of The Conference Board James T. Mills “With competitive pressures intensifying, companies are keeping a closer eye than ever on their competition. Increasingly, they are seeking more formal, systematic ways of answering such key questions as: Who are our competitors? What can we do to outmaneuver them? Consequently, competitive intelligence – the practice of tracking competitors and predicting their movements- has been gaining new attention and new adherents.
The process of communication could be designed by using different methods. For CI, communication methods are as bellow:
- Face to face
- Written form of communication (memo)
- Intranet and Internet Systems
Generated knowledge is usually communicated. Implicit or explicit management of knowledge generation and communications is usually required for both: knowledge generation and communication. Knowledge management requires as well knowledge generation and/or communication, i.e. meta-knowledge regarding knowledge management, which has been explicitly being addressed on the organizational level. These three knowledge dimensions are highly related among each other.
Information and Communication Technology are increasingly supporting the effectiveness and the efficiency on Knowledge generations, communication and management, as well as the relationships among them. Consequently, a main purpose of KGCM (Knowledge Generation, Communications and/or Management ) is to bring together researchers, professionals, academics, consultants and practitioners related to any of these three areas, to relationships among them as well as those who are related to the conception, design or implementations of systems, tools and technologies oriented to support knowledge generation, communications and/or management.
Essayist John Oldham said “And all the future lies beneath your hat.” One day CI networks will be part of an over all social intelligence network that all countries must build in order to remain prosperous and compete for the world’s resources. In the same way any business leader need intelligence to make decision. Understanding the notion of CI and implement it in right direction it is very important to use proper method of communication on right time. The method of dissemination findings will vary greatly between organizations depending on their culture, operational structure and the preferences of individual managers. This can range from a short conversation held in the lift to a formal presentation with slides and hefty volumes of supporting documentation. The method and manner of communicating results to meet the particular needs and tastes of the audiences are addressing.
 2.0. Competitive Intelligence Communication Definition and Methodology
Communication is a part in every domain. People need to communicate with each other, share data, information, and knowledge. From the business perspective, communication is a core part inside any organization. Without communication businesses cannot survive, they will be isolated from the world. Nowadays, we see the how globalization affect human life and businesses. Executives, managers, senior management, project managers, etc. spend a lot of their time communicating using various methods; meetings, phone calls, emails, reports, etc. to ensure that the information is disseminate properly to the right person and on the right time. Without an effective communication the globalization fail and the key success factor for its success is the advance in the telecommunication technology and the internet that affect and facilitate the way people live and communicate.
Then, to establish a communication, we need three components the sender, the message, and the receiver.
- The sender is the person who formulates and encodes the message to be sent. The sender specifies to who he will send the message and the method of communication and confirm that the message is received and understood.
- The message is the data or information which will be sent to the receiver.
- The receiver is the person who receives and decodes the message and confirms that the message is understood.
Communication is very sensitive and may be influenced by many issues that may change the form of the original message. This is affected by the method used to communicate. Thus, the method of communication and the methodology are very important in order to ensure that the message is sent and received properly, without any changes, and well understood.
Communication is very complex and must address the need of all stakeholders or persons that will use the communication plan. Communication in competitive intelligence is crucial, thus, it must be well planned and well implemented in order to be effective. People must receive the information in a timely manner in order to take the right decisions. From other hand, competitive intelligence managers should always remember that producing the right competitive intelligence is incomplete until the intelligence customer has digested the competitive intelligence and decide a course of action. To be effective, communication in a competitive intelligence context must include at least the categories bellow:
- What needs to be communicate.
- Why it is needed to communicate.
- Between who (sender and receivers).
- Best method for communicating such information.
- Who will be responsible for this communication.
- When and how often need to communicate.
By clearly specify at least these things the communication method will be safe and the information will be well communicate. In a competitive intelligence context, we suggest a training for all the employees on how implement this method. Training will minimize problems and conflict that will negatively affect the business if it occurs in a sensitive time.
 3.0. Competitive Intelligence via Communication Modes
Communication modes provide different ways to communicate with someone. Getting people’s attention is critically important to communication. When we use their preferred communication modes, people respond better. Normally there are four more types of people e-mail types, phone types, letter (memo) types, in-person-meeting (face-to-face) types.
 3.1. Email types
E-mail is used primarily for internal and external communications in many organizations as well as for personal communication. Bill Gates, CEO at Microsoft, likes to be in constant contact with what’s happening at this huge company. And he wants his 16,000 – plus employees to be in touch with each other, exchanging information and ideas. He worries that Microsoft’s size will work against excellence. But E-mail has become an important tool in reducing barriers by size and distance. Workers can almost instantly communicate with each other no matter where they are. In this case, if we want to get a proposal approved, the most effective way is to communicate with each party involved in the project by E-mail as everyone can receive the same information simultaneously and can trace the information related to this project. On the other hand, due to different preferences, people may like other communication modes to communicate clearly and reach the goals. Thus we might need to use other communication modes are discussed later in this report as well.
However, E-mail also has its shortcomings. As you might guess, e-mail is particularly susceptible to abuse. Its convenience, speed, and ease draw many people to overusing it. It will also come as no surprise that E-mail has screwed up our lives as well as we learn more about the risk/reward compromises we are being faced to make each day. Therefore, people sometimes have a love/hate relationship with E-mail. In order to achieve our communication goals, it is always recommended that write clear E-mail messages and keep it as precise as possible.
 3.2. Phone types
Phone communication takes an important role in communication. While this idea is mostly about business communication, even personal communication may have similar patterns. Also, there is the possibility of having two preferred modes - say email for business and phone for personal communications or both. Here is a classic example: if we pay attention to identifying someone's preferred mode of communication and using that to reach him/her, we get better results.
It is not easy to figure out a method to immediately categorize a person. Over time, if you observe which method someone uses more often to reach you, which may be their preferred method. For instance, some people would typically send you an email in response to a voice mail you left them or some would call you in response to an email. Some would also ask you to schedule a phone meeting with you to discuss work or other business.
These are clues to determining the preferred communication mode. More importantly, by using the preferred communication mode, you can get a better response so as to get your messages across.
However, phone communication has its advantages and disadvantages.
- It facilitates the transfer of meaning via interacting.
- Some phone has voice message, call forwarding, caller ID…etc. Thus it provides good background information and records for communication.
- Phone conversations are more effective sometimes because they can be arranged any time.
- Phone communication also allows the sender to prepare a conversation carefully at a convenient time of his or her choosing.
- Phone communication is currently one of the most popular means of communication.
- Normal phone communication is significantly low in cost.
- Phone conversation allows both parties feel more openness in sharing their ideas.
- Phone communication has opportunities to reach any level of management.
- Phone communication can provide most updated information when needed.
- Phone communication can be performed between parties in different geographical areas.
- Phone communication is fast channel of communication.
- Phone communication may face challenges when the parties are in different time zone.
- Since very often we can’t record our conversations, there could be problems of storage and maintenance of records.
- Because any phone conversation is instant, there is no way we can make corrections. The impact of this method is strong.
- Phone conversation is done via human voice; there is no body language or other non-verbal signals we can observe during the communication.
 3.3. Letter types
Written communication expresses facts and ideas in writing in a clear, convincing and organized manner. Some of the various forms of written communication that are used internally for business operations include memos, reports, e-mail, letter, bulletins, job descriptions, employee manuals, and electronic mail.
We list the below recommendation of enhancing communication.
Firstly, whatever for oral communication or written communication, communication skill is very important, so improving the communication skill of personnel is the best the way to enhancing communication. How to improve communication skill can be listed in the training plan of a company.
The secondly, for a CI project, they should set up a complete system to record, store and maintain any document of written communication. Meeting records, for instance, are recorded and sent for every attendee. Each meeting record uses the regular format. The content includes task’s that has been done or are in the process for completion. Who will take the responsibility? When is the deadline of each task? All the meeting record of the project should be stored in a file and everyone can check the information at any time.
A few years back people did not use e-mail as primary means of communication. In today’s world people from every level, use e-mail is a primary means of communication. It could be for personal, social or business reasons. It had significantly lowered cost of communication than the phone or mail and it also reach to the other end faster. It has become a more standard and efficient way to communicate. E-mail has become a more standard and efficient means of communication for both business and personal use.
Advantage of using written form of communication as a means of communication:
- It facilitates the transfer of meaning across the barriers of time and space.
- It provides a relatively permanent record of the information.
- Written documents are easy to store, retrieve, and transmit.
- Writing also allows the sender to prepare a message carefully at a convenient time of his or her choosing, and allows the receiver to read it at his or her convenience and prepare a carefully worded reply.
- E-mail is currently one of the fastest means of communication.
- E-mail is significantly lower in cost.
- In e-mail both parties feel more openness in sharing their concept.
- E-mail has freedom to contact any level of management.
- In e-mail no problems if there is geographical distance deference between the parties.
- In e-mail no problems if there is time deference between the parties.
- E-mail is quick way to inform the group the little changes.
Disadvantage of using written form of communication as a means of communication:
- Since paper is extremely used for written communication there could be problems of storage and maintenance of records.
- It is a much slower channel of communication.
- It needs the exact clarity ability for recorders.
- Because the absence of prompt feedback deprives the sender of the opportunity to modify the message according to the response observed in the audience, the psychological impact of a written message requires careful consideration.
- In e-mail body language and tone of voice is missing.
- “I didn’t receive the e-mail” – nicely blame on technology.
- In e-mail due to choice of words it could miss lead or convey slightly different massage.
- In e-mail people use and abuse it.
- Nothing can be finalized via e-mail because due to its informal nature.
 3.4. In person meeting types
Face to face communication is the most frequent vehicle used in the workplace. According to the University of Huston, face-to- face communication means exchanging information, thoughts, and feelings when the participants are in the same physical space. Since communicating is the process of exchanging information, sensitive information needs to be carefully monitored, and watched.
The two main types of face-to- face communication modes include verbal and non-verbal communication. People usually associate words with verbal and non-verbal usually consists of gestures, body language, facial expressions, eye contact, and many other physical characteristics. This is a very important aspect with regards to competitive intelligence and security of the communication being received by the other party involved because you are able to see how they are reacting to what you are saying to them. For example if they are taking notes, recording the conversation, or simply just listening to what you are saying and not really focusing on the important aspects of the meeting. You as holder of the meeting (as well the secure information) can then see if he/she felt the receiver was creditable enough to receive the information.
Face-to-face communication also reduces ambiguity. It gives both parties the opportunity to make sure nothing is misinterpreted. If something is unclear, the person with the secure information can see by the facial expression of the individual that it need to be explained or possible explained in a different way. With an email, or phone conversation is it more difficulty to tell if there is something unclear.
The location of the meeting is another important aspect of CI security. As a VP of a company and the holder of sensitive information, you need to be aware of your surroundings. You need to know that exchanging secure information should be done in a closed environment. The possibility of people listening in could destroy any hopes for future gains. For example, if you as a VP of a company decided with members of your team you were going to buy out another company, an employee with no ties or obligations to the company could go leak the information to the media. This would be a gain to the employee and lead to destroying all possible future benefits for that company.
Even though face-to-face communication is extremely important for exchanging sensitive information, it does come with some downfalls. There are a number of disadvantages to this mode of communication. One disadvantage is it can become very costly to the company. With companies located in many different part of the world, flights and hotels add to the company’s expenses. Another disadvantage is time; meeting in a central location is sometimes a very hard task to do with executive’s busy schedules.
 4.0. Competitive Intelligence systems and the internet
Competitive intelligence is a domain that relies on any source of information to collect data but it is important to know how to effectively communicate the collected data. Some competitive intelligence managers request only data, other request a formal report, and even some times an analysis of what is collected are required.
Nowadays, the more effective communication method is the internet or an internet application in which the employees through their data in. The internet becomes a main source of information, between 80% and 90% of the information needed exist on the internet. Also, the internet and the web applications become an important communication method that communicates information in at time. Wherever the information collected around the world, the internet facilitates the connection between the sender and receiver to effectively send the information.
The Internet has become an additional source of information, a cost-effective means for intelligence collaboration, and method of dissemination of information to decision-makers. Companies become using the internet and web applications for every things. It plays an important role in competitive intelligence. The web now surfs to develop some kind of competitive intelligence system that can be accessed by all employees all over the world in order to distribute their collected information. Even, this system can be used by competitive intelligence managers to take timely decisions.
(Anderson et al., 1987; Van de Ven & Walker, 1984), the greater the amount of information exchanged between partners, the greater the possibility for mutual understanding of each other’s goals, which could lead to increased cooperation and faster responsiveness to opportunities and threats.
The design and deployment of such system is crucial. All employees and stakeholders must cooperate to build such system because it will be used by all the parties. Failing of the cooperation of all the employees will risk to negatively influencing the communication between them and the senior managers.
Training is a major task that completes the project objectives. All employees must take a formal training on how to effectively use the communication tool.
The construction of a Competitive Intelligence System (CIS) consists of “a process in continuous evolution, in which the administration team evaluates the development of its industry and of its current and potential competitors with the objective of maintaining and developing competitive advantages.
- Real time information.
- Centralized database.
- Accessible any time, any where.
- Can provide data analysis.
- Can eliminate data duplication.
- All employees can access information gathered by other employees.
- Competitive intelligence managers can take decisions and formulate tactical strategy faster than traditional one.
- Organization foster its competitive advantage using the web system.
- Security and confidentiality are big problems.
- Communicating sensitive information may negatively impact the organization in case of anyone interrupt the connection.
- Competitive intelligence system must be well define with a clear specifications, objectives, and goals.
- Competitive Intelligence systems may include disinformation.
 5.0. Other communication mediums
Communication is a complex process that allows people to exchange information by one of several methods. The auditory means are speaking or singing; the nonverbal, physical means are body language, sign language, paralanguage, touch, eye contact and other body motions. As communication happens at many levels (even for one single action), in many different ways, and for all beings, and some machines, so it is very important to be sure about what kind of communication one is speaking about, mainly: what type of messages are communicated, between what agents and with what kind of results.
 6.0. Conclusion
In conclusion, competitive intelligence communication is vital in the whole process of Competitive Intelligence. As discussed above, the communication modes, mediums and methods are ways of communications in different aspects, at different levels. Our team discussed why communication is most crucial in Competitive intelligence as well as how we can use them to make good communication and apply CI successfully. Our group compared and contrasted the four most popular types of communication. We discovered the advantages and disadvantages of each mode as well covered the methodology behind communication. To achieve effective communication goals, we not only need to choose appropriate approaches to contact people, but also need to consider right communication mediums to enhance the communication with others and obtain good outcome.
 7.0. References
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 Competitive intelligence on the World Wide Web. Chu, S. Professional Communication Conference, 1999. IPCC 99. Communication Jazz: Improvising the New International Communication Culture. Proceedings. 1999 IEEE International Volume , Issue , 1999 Page(s):237 – 243
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http://www.pepesearch.com/ Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP) CI Division, Special Libraries Association American Society for Information Science Alliance for Industry Analyst Relations Optimization (AIARO) American Management Association (AMA) American Training & Seminar Association ARMA International - ARMA Aslib, The Association for Information Management Association of Independent Information Professionals CASRO - Council of American Survey Research Organizations
 8.0. Leaders in the Competitive Intelligence and Competitive Intelligence Research
Dr's Calof and Nash are from the University of Ottawa, School of Management. For the past 10 years Dr. Calof and Dr. Nash have worked together on a multitude of E-government and e-business programs both for the University and the government. Together, they designed and implemented Industry Canada's E-government and E-business training program, developed a program on E-government at the masters level of the University of Ottawa and a program on E-Entrepreneurship at the University. They have published several articles in this area and have presented their work at a variety of international conferences. Dr. Nash is well known in the open source community and is a regular contributor within the practitioner networks. Dr. Calof is a member of MIT's open source research community.
Dr. Jonathan Calof is recognized as one of the leaders in competitive intelligence. An Associate Professor of International Business at the University of Ottawa and a Director of the Canadian Institute of Competitive Intelligence, reached at the School of Management, University of Ottawa, 136 Jean-Jacques Lussier, Ottawa, Ontario KIN 6N5, Canada; tel: +1 613-228-0509; fax: +1 613-562-5164.Jonathan has given over 500 speeches, seminars and keynote addresses on competitive intelligence and has helped several companies and government agencies around the world enhance their CI capabilities. In recognition of his contribution to the competitive intelligence field, Jonathan was presented with the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professional's (SCIP) Catalyst award. Interest in his work has also resulted in several interviews on, television, radio and in print in such publications as Forbes, Business week, the National Post, Globe and Mail, Canadian Business, as well as being featured on Canada A.M (CTV), As It Happens (CBC) and Global News.
Sheila Wright from the United Kingdom and Jonathan Calof from Canada, contacted faculty around the world who have been involved in competitive intelligence research. Most of those contacted were fellow academics that we had met at various SCIP functions over the years. This is called the ‘Milan Initiative’. It not only provides feedback on research methodologies and instruments, but also to encourage collaborations across disciplines and geographical boundaries.
Under the direction of Dr. J. Calof
2007; Master of Engineering Management (EMP) - University of Windsor, Canada
Grace Q. Tang
2007; Master of Engineering Management (EMP) - University of Ottawa, Canada
2007; Master of Engineering Management (EMP) - University of Ottawa, Canada
2007; Master of Engineering Management (EMP) - University of Ottawa, Canada