Competitive intelligence is no longer a young discipline. On turning 18 (counting from the establishment of Motorola’s BI unit by Jan Herring) or 15 (counting from the founding year of SCIP), the competitive intelligence field is well past childhood. So why is it still in an identity crisis? Why do some academics and consultants, members of SCIP’s board, and distinguished Fellow-award winners continue the debate of what makes a CI professional? In other words, are we a true profession or are we still mere fledglings?
The answer is not simple. It is inevitably intertwined with the issue of education, accreditation, and the skill set demanded by the profession. Questions such as "Can we be considered a profession if no academic degree is available?" (Answer: definitely!), "Do we need competitive intelligence certification to be recognized as a profession?" (Answer: It certainly helps), and "What makes a successful CI professional?" are at the heart of the matter. Conflicting language and interests between former government "spooks" and the "business" side of the field only add to the confusion. Are we a legitimate business discipline or an extension of political and/or military disciplines?
We, at the Fuld-Gilad-Herring Academy of Competitive Intelligence have faced these questions head on when we decided in 1999 to design a rigorous competitive intelligence certification process.
We believe that competitive intelligence certification raises the standards in the field, so we have taken the initiative on two fronts. First, we decided to offer competitive intelligence certification. Then, we decide to certify the certifier, i.e., seek professional accreditation for our competitive intelligence certification curriculum.
We now grant a Competitive Intelligence Professional (CIP™) certificate. The competitive intelligence certification is granted only after the full course of study is completed- now standing at nine day courses (five core courses for the CIP-I certification and four advanced courses for the CIP-II certification), 4 optional evening courses. Graduates of the competitive intelligence certification program sit through a proficiency exam and must pass at 75% or higher to receive the competitive intelligence certification. In a field without a significant long-term track records, we regard the competitive intelligence certification as a reassurance to companies and their management that their employees have met a minimum set of educational objectives, and developed through our competitive intelligence certification the essential knowledge necessary to carry out CI tasks at the professional level.
To certify ourselves, not just the managers going through our program, we have applied and received Authorized Provider status from the International Association of Continuing Education and Training (IACET), the leading external accreditation body in continuing education. The IACET accredits such learning institutions as the American Society for Quality, Bell Leadership, the Center for Professional Advancement, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Council of Education in Management, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
In going through a rigorous professional accreditation process, we adapted a series of planning, evaluation, and feedback mechanisms, which in essence ensured that we meet the same standards we strive for our graduates. As a result of being accredited by IACET, the Academy now grants continuing education units which are recognized by companies and States as a basis for professional development compensation. It should be crystal clear that in turning to the IACET we have not attempted to say that there is just one way to do CI! Like the professions of strategists or marketers, our profession does not require a standard skill set or a rigid adherence to specific procedures and legal practices (such as accountants or lawyers). However, our action is intended to make a statement that the competitive intelligence certification is professional - it should be more than a random collection of seminars.
The accreditation process ensures that our competitive intelligence certification process meets professional standards developed across many fields. The result, we hope, will be a wider acceptance of our profession among companies and executives.
Competitive intelligence certification will keep evolving as our field keeps evolving. The professional association may deal with certification issues some time in the future. When it does, we will be ready with the most rigorous, tested, and proven competitive intelligence certification in the world. Our CIP holders testify to that achievement.