Strategic Intelligence Gap

  • What is strategic advantage?

    When a company has a strategic advantage, it has a particular characteristic or way of doing things that makes it more successful than its competitors. This advantage provides a long-term lead over competitors and enables the company to win market share from competitors. One means to achieve a strategic advantage derives from risk management and from the ability to surprise markets and competitors with new products and new services as well as entering a new market.

    Strategic advantage vs competitive advantage

    Strategic advantage is a broader and longer-term concept than competitive advantage. A competitive advantage refers to something a company does better than the competition and includes any capability that provides value in executing a business model, such as cost advantage, brand reputation, productivity, or customer satisfaction. Key elements in managing a strategic advantage are Offensive Intelligence and Protective Intelligence.

    To keep and even improve a strategic advantage, a company must understand the competition in detail while at the same time preventing competitors from learning about its own intentions and capabilities. This builds the strategic intelligence gap and provides a significant and sustainable strategic advantage. The ability to surprise and an improved security status (see below) are key values gained.

  • Components of the Strategic Intelligence Gap

    Two components are key to shaping the Strategic Intelligence Gap and maintaining a strategic advantage: Offensive Intelligence and Protective Intelligence.

    Offensive Intelligence comprises ethical and legal activities to gather data on the competition, competitors, and the market environment and then, by analysis, turning that data into intelligence for management to rely on in decision-making and strategy development. Offensive Intelligence is also known as “Competitive Intelligence”, „Competitor Intelligence“, „Due Dilligence Investigation“ or simply „Market Intelligence“.

    Protective Intelligence is a set of activities that on the one hand controls the outflow of information from one’s organization and on the other hand uses adversaries’ own intelligence collection activities to manipulate their perception of one’s plans and intentions. Protective Intelligence is a defense that builds on existing security systems and works best with any new strategic initiative such as a new market entry, a product launch, a new production site or organizational changes. In short, it aims at

    • keeping adversaries at bay by misleading and surprising them
    • rendering adversaries’ intelligence efforts non-productive
  • I have worked with Udo and INFO + DATEN for several years now. My experience has been extremely positive; Udo and his company have provided high quality work across the board, something which is rare to find. Udo is a very smart person, and I strongly recommend his services because of the tremendous expertise and work ethic. Udo is honest, reliable and very results-oriented.“ (Fortune 1000 company in the High Tech arena)


Offensive Intelligence

  • Understanding the operation environment

    Understanding the operation environment is essential to positioning a company with confidence in the market. All businesses have competitors, and with insight it is possible to create winning strategies built on the competition’s weaknesses and shortcomings. Offensive Intelligence is sometimes referred to as “Competitive Intelligence”. It is a set of activities and methods to actively develop intelligence in an ethical and legal manner.

    It is often said that Offensive Intelligence is about predicting the future, but this is actually not accurate. There is no reliable prediction of the future in today‘s fast changing operating environments. One task of intelligence is to enable anticipation of what may be. The time span covered runs from two years in the past to five years in the future. The past provides insights to evaluate what went well and what went less well for the competitors and for one’s own company. This is useful in weighing options for the future. Looking at the future provides a view of one’s comprehensive operation environment: competitive, regulatory and political. It is a radar showing warnings of impending problems and alerting to upcoming opportunities, always in time to let management take needed action.

  • INFO + DATEN offers these Offensive Intelligence services

    Within the area of Offensive Intelligence customers may choose from three specialties: Competitor Due Diligence, Competitor Monitoring, and B2B Mystery Shopping

    Competitor Due Diligence – A due diligence effort analyses a competitor (but also relevant other topics) in depth. It provides answers beyond the publicly available information.

    Competitor Monitoring – This is the process of managing the continuous collection of intelligence from various sources (HUMINT, OSINT, IMINT, SOCMINT, …) via primary and secondary research. It is the basis for Intelligence Analysis and thus for understanding one’s competitors. Check out os:MON(TM) a monitoring service by INFO + DATEN

    B2B Mystery Shopping – It may be desirable to obtain a specific item for product comparisons. But also for developing a better understanding of quality and engineering standards. B2B Mystery Shopping helps acquire the desired items.

  •  I hired INFO + DATEN to perform competitive and market intelligence for the global Intelligence team at SAP. A key area of focus was the SMB market and tracking of key vendors and related channels. Udo Hohlfeld was personally involved, and we worked together for three years. Our profound satisfaction with Udo’s services had us renewing the contract several times. Udo developed os:MON™ for my team; that tool was highly reliable and insightful with regard to the competition and to SAP and delivered very precise recommendations. Udo’s excellent interpersonal and multicultural skills enabled him to work productively with our international team. It was an excellent collaboration.“ (Fortune 1000 company in the software industry)



  • Sensitive information should be protected from being shared

    Many players are interested in a company’s sensitive if not confidential information. In a nutshell, Protective Intelligence is a process to develop and execute measures to counter intelligence gathering threats, to understand intelligence gathering activities, and to protect critical success factors in competition. This includes setting up and executing sophisticated monitoring programs to acquire insights on adversaries’ intelligence gathering efforts.

    Competitors are typically the main concern. Competitors can use intelligence, legally and ethically gathered by Offensive Intelligence, to inflict serious damage to a company’s business success. But other threats are to be considered as well: for example head hunters that penetrate companies to identify staff that can be lured away, activists looking for information that can be used to damage the company, journalists looking for a headline fed by information obtained from internal sources, consultants on the hunt for information they can use, and investment analysts. Finally, state actors seek to obtain confidential information for Industrial Espionage. Nevertheless, some tactics used in Industrial Espionage such as Social Engineering and OSINT build on publicly available information on companies.

    Economic espionage is a real threat to the corporate world, and so is competitive intelligence. Operations security (OpSec) has caught the attention of executives, but it does not provide adequate protection. A precisely designed protective intelligence effort builds on existing OpSec policies and protects intellectual property, investments, and business outcomes of companies in a sustainable manner. INFO + DATEN is experienced in setting up appropriate protective intelligence measures to reduce exposure to intelligence gathering activities of competitors and other parties.

  • INFO + DATEN offers these Protective Intelligence services

    Within the area of Protective Intelligence customers may choose from five specialties: Competitive Threat Landscape Assessment, Vulnerability Check, Employee Background Screening, Information Operations, and Investigative Intelligence

    (Competitive) Threat Landscape Assessment – Who is interested in acquiring our know-how, legally or illegally? When a company understands its specific threat landscape, it is in a superior position to align its defensive measures with the identified actors and their intelligence gathering capacities. A competitor, a supplier or even a foreign government may have reasons to understand your best practices, and to learn about your processes and critical success factors to bolster their own efforts to succeed in your market and knowledge domain. The assessment will provide you with a clear overview of your opponents and their intelligence gathering capacities, their interests in you and how to best counter them.

    Vulnerability Check (non-technical) – The Vulnerability Check is a carefully planned and executed intelligence gathering effort against your company. The focus is set on your employees, normally the weakest part of your defense strategy. The check is completely tailored and specific to your company and its business environment. The basis for the Vulnerability Check is the Threat Landscape Assessment as well as a specific threat identified to emulate an adversary’s intelligence gathering effort. The outcome of the check will show you how strong and reliable your current protective measures are.

    Employee Background Check (pre- or post-employment) – A background check reviews confidential and public information to understand an individual’s or entity’s history. Background checks are normally conducted pre-employment to ensure that applicants are who they say they are and to confirm information provided with the application for employment. Extensive background checks can be quite expensive, mainly because of the time and effort necessary to explore every item in an individual’s or entity’s history. The background check can also be executed routinely during an existing employment to learn about any relevant changes.

    Analog and Digital Information Operations / Deception – Information Operations are key Protective Intelligence activities as they show the ability to manage and safeguard the information that exists within a company. It is the art of controlling and using information outflow to protect one’s own plans and strategies. In other words, it is about managing the intelligence that adversaries gather about plans and activities in such a manner that they may draw incorrect conclusions.

    Investigative Intelligence – Investigative Intelligence services are special purpose services that are highly tailored to task specific questions that cannot be answered by traditional means, e.g. who uses our knowledge to conduct business, or where is our internal knowledge traded to our disadvantage? In cases of actual security breaches, intelligence investigations may provide the insights to understand the breaches and the drivers behind them. These insights enable customers to actively counter the corresponding threat.


  • What makes all the difference when it comes down to intelligence performance? A global understanding of the real core intelligence procedure, a comprehensive skill set, proven first hand experience, an international network, and last but not least a forceful personality. Indeed, this is my subjective view – but simply put: Udo is all that.“ (International medium-sized company in Manufacturing)