ISOPTT: Increasing the SMEs Own Potential for Transnational Technology Transfer

ISOPTT: Increasing the SMEs Own Potential for Transnational Technology Transfer

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Success Cases: Information retrieval

Competitive Intelligence at Spintec AB

Background

In today’s rapidly changing business climate, where technologies and markets develop and die faster than ever, it is crucial to gather, analyse and interpret the information that is available in our environment in order to make well-founded business decisions. Simply put, Competitive Intelligence is about gathering information and data from open sources about competitors, markets, trends, customers and technologies. This information is then screened and analysed according to the needs of the company and the important future challenges it is facing.

Large companies and corporations have been using tools such as Competitive Intelligence (CI) systematically for many years. Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), however, are very rarely doing this on a regular or systematic basis, mainly due to the following reasons:
  • Lack of awareness of the importance of the outside world
  • Lack of resources (time, manpower, money)
  • Lack of simple, straightforward methodologies for CI that are feasible to use for the SME
In the project described here, IVF was tasked to address two of the above issues in a project involving 5 SMEs. The objective was to introduce the concept of CI/TW identify the crucial issues for future decisions for the SME and by means of a simple methodology initiate a process for CI in the firm.

Spintec

Spintec, located in the city of Eskilstuna in mid-Sweden, specialises in high-speed spindles for machine tools. Customers are mainly manufacturers of machine tools for grinding, deburring or machining. The company was spun off from the larger file manufacturer Öbergs in the 70s.

The company employs about 10 people and is privately owned. In addition to its OEM activities, Spintec acts as re-seller of related products, services its products and manufactures sub-assemblies for other OEM manufacturers.

Spintec’s customers are mainly located in Sweden, with about 30 % being exported. Its competitors are mainly European suppliers located in Germany, Switzerland and Italy.

Project outline

IVF allocated a team of two specialists to the project, one expert on machine tools and one marketing/CI specialist. During a six-month period, the team met with Spintec management staff regularly, taking them to the project step by step.

The project was divided in the following parts:
  1. Introduction to CI and the importance of being well-informed
  2. SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Threats and Opportunities)-analysis
  3. Identification of important future decisions and questions
  4. Introduction and training in information-gathering
  5. Setting up of a simple process for CI

Result

During the above process, a number of areas were identified where the company felt it needed to know more to address the issues that came up in the SWOT-analysis. Particularly, these areas were:
  • How will the market for high-speed spindles develop?
  • What is our competition doing?
  • What geographic markets will be most attractive?
  • How will some core technologies develop?
To address these questions, the IVF team together with Spintec set up a simple procedure for intelligence gathering and analysis according to the following:

A company of Spintec’s size cannot reasonably be expected to devote a large amount of time and resources to information gathering. Thus, emphasis must be put on systematic use of such information that is already available in the organisation or gathered in the course of normal work. This can be augmented by high-quality information from a few selected, strategically important areas.

The method suggested for Spintec was termed DICA (Distributed Information-Gathering, Central Analysis). In this model, the SME uses external information suppliers to gather and filter information from certain important areas. In this project, IVF assumed the role of information gatherer, and made a thorough investigation of the issues listed above, using various sources including interviews of customers, competitors and industry experts.



The information was delivered in a standardised format, and was analysed by the company together with information from internal sources. For helping the analysis process, a matrix was developed with important business decisions and the influences of factors such as market, technology, competitors, society, etc were listed. Then a similar matrix with observations from information-gathering was made, where these could be matched with the important deciding factors.

Conclusion

The aim of the project was to:
  • Introduce the concept of CI to Spintec
  • Explain the usefulness of and need for CI
  • Develop and present a simple method for CI, tailored to Spintec’s needs
  • Starting from Spintec’s situation and strategy, start the CI process with information gathering and analysis according to the model
  • Initiate an internal process within Spintec to make CI a continuous process
The response from Spintec was very positive, and the management soon realised the need and usefulness of CI. Especially the possibilities of information-gathering through Internet were viewed as very promising.

Although the initial analysis that was made within the scope of the project was relatively limited, up-to-date information relevant for the strategic agenda of the company was rapidly found, concerning for instance the company’s advance on a new export market, or an idea about a future product development.

The responsibility for CI has now been laid with the company’s marketing manager, who is enthusiastic on continuing the work started.


ISOPTT: Increasing the
SMEs Own Potential for
Transnational Technology
Transfer