Dubai: Companies can now learn information about their competitors that was unthinkable 20 years ago, just from the digital breadcrumbs they leave online.
Closely guarded company data such as marketing budgets, recruitments drives, and even targeted demographics can all be derived from what a business does on the internet these days.
“External data is very poorly utilised in corporate decision making,” said Jørn Lyseggen, founder and CEO of Meltwater, a media monitoring service that has developed its own data analysis software.
“Executives spend a lot of money, time, and effort mining their internal data, like financials and so on … the aftermath of activities that took place in the past,” Lyseggen said.
The CEO believes that external information is one of the biggest blind spots in corporate decision making today, and companies would be well advised to look outwards as much, if not more, than they look in.
From external data, Lyseggen said, companies can learn infinitely more important lessons about the environment that they operate in than they ever could from mining internal data.
“Job postings, advert spend, how much money your competitors are spending on various products, whether they are spending more in Germany versus France … you also have web traffic, app downloads,” Lyseggen said in an interview on Sunday.
On the internet today, he added, there is an enormous amount of evidential data that companies leave behind as digital footprints, all of which can be found, collected, and then crunched to produce actionable intelligence for businesses.
Lyseggen uses BlackBerry, the mobile phone maker, as an example.
The Canadian company enjoyed formidable results for a period in the 2000s, achieving record growth quarter after quarter.
“What they didn’t realise,” he said, was that “all around them, there market share was decreasing, and they were becoming less and less relevant, following the launch of the Apple iPhone.”
From its peak in 2007, BlackBerry’s stock value has plummeted by 97 per cent in the past 10 years.
With the phenomenon of artificial intelligence (AI) sweeping the globe, Lyseggen notes that we have the data, thanks to the internet, and now we have a means to analyse it.
“Everyone talks about AI these days, but AI is nothing without the data,” Lyseggen said.
Asked if he felt that with this increased need to understand the competitive environment, firms risked losing sight of what made them unique in the first place, Lyseggen said he did not think that was the case.
“No, [because] it’s more about finding anomalies and unusual patterns than focusing on what your competitors are doing,” he said, adding: “External data is used to find external opportunities and threats much faster.”
This information can then be used to adapt to fast-changing situations, and keep pace with the competition immediately.
“If a competitor is doubling down on their marketing, or hiring a number of new recruits, you will know immediately, and be able to respond by making a counter move, if you chose to,” he added.
Despite the rise of AI and its ability to scan the internet in seconds, analysing huge sets of data and condensing it in to digestible insights, Lyseggen believes that there will always be a role for humans in the workplace.
As AI becomes more prevalent, it will recommend decisions, but Lyseggen said that businesses will always require human judgement.
“In the future, great executives will challenge their recommendations from AI,” he said.
“AI isn’t the oracle that will tell you what to do. It’s just a tool. There’s a judgement call required at the end of the day, and that’s the role of the human,” Lyseggen said.