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Competitive intelligence skills needed to enhance South Africa's competitiveness

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Purpose ‐ South Africa as a country continues to rank low in the world of competitiveness. It is the aim of this paper to focus on the need for South African organisations to perceive competitive intelligence (CI) as one of the most important tools to improve their competitiveness through a systematic, practical approach to make the CI cycle worthwhile, especially through skills development. The paper intends to identify the skills CI professionals in South Africa need in order to conduct the CI process in organisations effectively, thereby improving the country's competitive position. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The research for the paper is based on an extensive review of literature to identify the skills needed by CI professionals. A survey was conducted, by questionnaire, among organisations in South Africa with existing CI units in which the respondents had to identify the skills they deemed necessary for the CI professional to run the CI process effectively. Findings ‐ Findings suggested that the majority of respondents were 40 years and older, in the top structure of larger organisations and had been using CI for longer than five years. The overwhelming result is that there are skills inequalities between what skills respondents view as crucial and those that rated highest in their self-evaluation. Skills identified as most important include, among others, networking, research skills and analytical abilities. Research limitations/implications ‐ CI in South Africa is still in its infancy and in 2008 no professional CI groups existed. As a result, there is no recognised list of practising South African CI professionals available in South Africa. For this reason the respondent database consists of attendees of CI courses, workshops and seminars held by the Department of Information and Knowledge Management at the University of Johannesburg. Practical implications ‐ The research indicated that where CI had been established in certain organisations for at least five years, it did not reflect positively overall on South Africa's current competitive situation. Where there is a systematic CI approach, however, problem-solving is easier to address and negatives could be turned around. With this in mind and a proper "buy-in" into skills development, it will have a very positive outcome for all the organisations that wish to improve their competitiveness. Originality/value ‐ For a country such as South Africa (and other developing countries) this research is of extreme importance as the country is facing a serious shortage of skills. Skills development of CI professionals can create a strategic advantage for the country and increase South Africa's competitiveness.
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Keywords: Competitive strategy; Human resource development; Skills; South Africa

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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