Navigating Competitive Intelligence: The Comintelli Glossary

For your convenience, we have compiled a list of the most commonly used terms in Competitive Intelligence and Knowledge Management to help you navigate and thrive in the world of market and competitive intelligence.



Analysis refers to the process of breaking down a complex system, problem, or situation into smaller, more manageable components in order to understand its nature better, draw insights, and make informed decisions

Artificial intelligence (AI)

Artificial intelligence (AI) applies advanced analysis and logic-based techniques, including Machine Learning, to interpret events, support and automate decisions.

Automatic indexing

Automatic indexing refers to the process of automatically generating index entries or metadata for documents or data without manual intervention.


Boolean logic

Boolean logic refers to an algebraic system in which all values are reduced to TRUE or FALSE (that is, 1 or 0 in the binary system), and thus forms the basis for all electronic computing. In the context of information retrieval, Boolean operators may be used for manipulating search terms or to represent relationships between entities. The operators most frequently used are: AND (the logical product), OR (the logical sum), and NOT (the logical difference). The AND operator is used to retrieve documents that contain all the chosen search terms, no matter where they appear in the document. Increasing the number of terms helps to narrow the search. The OR operator will retrieve documents that contain at least one of the search terms. The use of additional terms will broaden the search. The NOT operator is used to exclude from the results any documents which contain the specified term or terms; thus narrowing the search. Search results may be graphically represented by using a Venn diagram. The terms are derived from the British mathematician George Boole (1815-1864), who devised the original system.


A browser is a client software program that is used to identify and locate various kinds of Internet resources.

Business environment

A Business environment encompasses all those factors that affect a company’s operations; including customers, competitors, suppliers, distributors, industry trends, substitutes, regulations, government developments. It may also be referred to as an Operating environment.

Business Intelligence (BI)

Business Intelligence is concerned with information technology solutions for transforming the output from large data collections into intelligence; usually through the integration of sales, marketing, servicing, and support operations. It covers such activities as customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning and eCommerce using data mining techniques. Those people involved in business intelligence tend to regard it as one aspect of Knowledge Management. Systems based on business intelligence software were formerly known as Executive enterprise reporting, Intelligence Analysis, Market Intelligence, Strategic early warning, Technological Intelligence.



Communication is the process whereby knowledge is codified into information by the transmitter, passed through a medium to a receiver, who then reconverts that information into new knowledge.

Community of practice (CoP)

A Community of Practice is an informal, self-organizing, interactive group that develops in response to a specific, work-related activity, subject, practice, or problem of mutual interest. Membership is determined by participation and may transcend hierarchical and organizational boundaries. It provides a means for developing best practices or solutions to problems through communication, that is, through participation in the exchange of information and the creation of knowledge. A community of practice may use a variety of media for this purpose, including face-to-face meetings, reports, email, instant messaging, collaborative workspaces, and intranets. Communities of practice can sometimes make a major contribution to social capital in organizations. A CoP may sometimes be called a Community of purpose or commitment, and a large, geographically dispersed community is often referred to as a Network of practice.

Competitive Intelligence (CI)

Competitive Intelligence is a systematic and ethical programme for gathering, analyzing, and managing any combination of data, information, and knowledge concerning the business environment in which a company operates that, when acted upon, will confer a significant competitive advantage or enable sound decisions to be made. Its primary role is strategic early warning.

Competitive monitoring

Competitive monitoring is intended to gain early warning through regular, frequent, and proactive monitoring and reporting of changes and trends in your business environment. These changes may stimulate more intensive research or call for the use of more sophisticated analytical techniques. When confined to competitors it is known as Competitor activity tracking.


A competitor is any organization that offers the same, a similar, or a substitute product or service in the field of endeavor in which a company operates.

Corporate security

Corporate security aims at protecting knowledge assets, whether in the form of physical entities or intellectual (tangible and intangible) property.


A crawler uses existing Internet search engines to carry out automatic search and retrieval of selected information on behalf of a user. It may also be known as a web crawler.

Current awareness service

A current awareness service makes available knowledge of what is being done in specific fields of endeavor through documents (such as notes, abstracts, email clippings, selective dissemination of information, and database records) or orally (such as face-to-face or telephone conversations).



A dashboard is a visualization tool that provides graphical depictions of current key performance indicators in order to enable faster response to changes in areas such as sales, customer relations, performance assessments and inventory levels.


Data consists of unconnected facts, numbers, names, codes, symbols, dates, measurements, observations, words and other items of that nature that are out of context, and that only acquire meaning through association.


A database is a collection of interrelated data stored together without harmful or unnecessary redundancy and structured in such a manner as to serve one or more applications. The data is stored so that they are independent of programs that use the data.


A document contains recorded human knowledge, in any format; or is information structured in such a way as to facilitate human comprehension. Essential elements usually include: the identity of the orignator(s), one or more addresses, a title, the date of origin, relevant information, and where feasible one or more signatories.


Enterprise Content Management

Enterprise content management refers to the use of appropriate technology, software, and methods to create, collect, manage, store, retrieve, and disseminate content of any kind, including documents and unstructured information, within an organization in order to better achieve the aims and goals of the enterprise. The practice is sometimes inappropriately referred to as Enterprise Search.

Explicit Knowledge

Explicit knowledge consists of anything that can be codified, or expressed in words, numbers, and other symbols (such as plans, marketing surveys, customer lists, specifications, manuals, instructions for assembling components, scientific formulae, graphics) and can, therefore, be easily articulated, usually in the form of documents, processes, procedures, products, and practices.

Extensible mark-up language (XML)

Extensible mark-up language allows content producers to add metadata to non-text items, such as image, audio, or video files, and facilitates retrieval of unstructured information (an important aspect of Knowledge Management).


File transfer protocol (FTP)

File transfer protocol is a very common method of moving files between Internet sites: it offers a means to login to another site for the purpose of retrieving or sending files.


Firewall applies to software designed to protect internal computer networks against unauthorized access of intentional hostile intrusion.



Humint is an abbreviation for human intelligence that is gathered by people directly from people, rather than from published sources, hence so called Soft information. It may be conducted face-to-face, by means of telephone or facsimile, or online (email, chat rooms, intranets etc.).

Hyper Text markup language (HTML)

Hyper Text markup language is the coding language for creating hypertext documents for use on the World Wide Web. It is very like a typesetting code, where blocks of text are surrounded by codes that indicate how it should appear. In addition, HTML allows one to specify a block of text or word that is linked to another file on the Internet.



Indexing provides a means of labeling documents using freely selected keywords or phrases (natural language) or authorized descriptors from a taxonomy or thesaurus (controlled vocabulary), or any combination of those, together with some means of indicating its location in the system.


Information consists of data arranged in some sort of order (for instance, by classification or rational presentation) so that they acquire meaning or reveal associations between data items. Information may also be defined as a physical surrogate of knowledge (language for instance) used for communication.

Information management

Information management is the means by which an organization maximizes the efficiency with which it plans, collects, organizes, uses, controls, stores, disseminates, and disposes of its information, and through which it ensures that the value of that information is identified and exploited to the maximum extent possible. The aim has often been described as getting the right information to the right person, in the right format and medium, at the right time. It is sometimes referred to as: Enterprise information management, Information resources management, or Business Intelligence, especially in connection with relevant software.

Information Overload

Information overload refers to the existence of, and ease of access to, bewildering amounts of information, more than can be effectively absorbed or processed by an individual. It often results in an obsessive addiction to new information in an attempt to clarify matters. This may induce a continual state of distraction which leads to loss of productivity and interrupts social activities. It is also known as Information Fatigue Syndrome and, more colloquially, as Infoglut or Datasmog.

Information Retrieval

Information retrieval involves the identification, location, and collection of specific documents, information contained within those documents, or metadata describing those documents, from any suitable source.

Information System

Information consists of data arranged in some sort of order (for instance, by classification or rational presentation) so that they acquire meaning or reveal associations between data items. Information may also be defined as a physical surrogate of knowledge (language for instance) used for communication.

Intellectual Capital

Intellectual capital refers to the total knowledge within an organization that may be converted into value, or used to produce a higher value asset. The term embodies the knowledge and expertise of employees, brands, customer information and relationships, contracts, internal processes, methods, and technologies; and intellectual property. It equates, very approximately, the difference between the book value and the market value of a company. Intellectual capital is also referred to as intellectual assets, intangible assets, or invisible assets.


Intelligence is high-level, processed, exploitable information.

Intelligence audit

An Intelligence audit is an examination of an organization’s current level of intelligence activities with the objective of improving those operations in order to gain, and maintain, a significant competitive advantage. It involves:

  • identifying those people engaged in intelligence or related operations, together with their levels of expertise
  • locating collections of information, as well as other relevant resources, concerning the organization’s business environment
  • establishing a set of key intelligence topics or ascertaining management intelligence needs

Intelligence agents

Intelligent agents are software programs that are capable of assisting their users by performing predefined tasks on their behalf. They may, for example, automatically, and simultaneously, monitor a number of websites in order to identify, filter, and collect relevant information; and subsequently recognize patterns or other significant combinations of information; report the results to the user; and offer suggestions to solve a specific problem, draw inferences, or determine appropriate actions.

Invisible web

Invisible web is that portion (estimated to be between 60 and 80 per cent) of total web content that consists of material that is not accessible by standard search engines. It is usually to be found embedded within secure sites, or consists of archived material. Much of the information may, however, be accessed through a library gateway, a Vortal, or a fee-based database service.


Key intelligence topics (KITs)

Key intelligence topics are those topics identified as being of greatest significance to an organization’s senior executives, and which provide purpose and direction for Competitive Intelligence operations. Key intelligence topics are invariably derived from a series of interviews. They are then grouped into appropriate categories and allocated a priority, usually by the same, or a representative, group of people. The basic categories are:

  • strategic decisions and actions (including the development of strategic plans and strategies)
  • early-warning topics (for example, competitor initiatives, new technology developments, and government actions)
  • descriptions of key players (including competitors, suppliers, regulators, and potential partners)


Knowledge is a blend of experience, values, information in context, and insight that forms a basis on which to build new experiences and information, or to achieve specific goals. It refers to the process of comprehending, comparing, judging, remembering, and reasoning.

Knowledge is data that has been organized (by classification and rational presentation), synthesized (by selection, analysis, interpretation, adaptation, or compression), made useful (by presenting arguments, matching needs and problems, assessing advantages and disadvantages), and acted upon.

Knowledge is the uniquely human capability of interpreting and extracting meaning from information. It may be thought of as a structured (inter-related) set of concepts in the mind.

Knowledge assets

Knowledge assets are bodies of knowledge that are of value to an organization, including previously unarticulated expertise and experience held by individuals. They may take the form of documents, databases, individuals, or groups of people, and include records of projects or activities, knowledge maps, links to networks or communities of practice, reports, standard operating procedures, patent specifications, licenses, copyright material, taxonomies, glossaries of terms, and so on. Knowledge assets are sometimes referred to as Corporate intellectual assets, or Corporate memory.

Knowledge Management (KM)

Knowledge Management is an integrated, systematic process for identifying, collecting, storing, retrieving, and transforming information and knowledge assets into knowledge that is readily accessible in order to improve the performance of the organisation. The basic tenets of Knowledge Management are to enhance decision making, foster innovation, build relationships, establish trust, share information, and improve learning. The means for doing so might include apprenticeship schemes and mentoring programmes, briefings and debriefings, bulletin boards, databases, documents, educational and training programmes, knowledge maps, meetings, networks, and visits. Performance improvements may be effected through enhanced learning, problem solving, strategic planning, and decision-making.

Knowledge Management System

Knowledge Management System is a process and procedure for enabling Knowledge Management. It usually incorporates a search engine, data-mining facilities, and -since knowledge is primarily embodied in people -an expertise directory or location service (known as a Knowledge map). Content may include profiles of key people, industry trends, market surveys, descriptions of current and proposed projects or activities, solutions to past problems, and discussion group facilities. The term also implies the creation of a culture and information structure that promotes information sharing and innovation, and places considerable emphasis on learning and personal development.

Knowledge map

A Knowledge map may be either or a combination of both of the following:

  • a graphical display (either hierarchical, or in the form of a Semantic network) of the core Knowledge, together with the relationships between various aspects, of a subject or discipline
  • a Directory (incorporating identity, location, and subject expertise) of people possessing, or having access to, specific knowledge or experience.
In the latter sense, it is a guide to, not a repository of, knowledge or expertise. A critical element is that those people whose details are incorporated must be traceable through keywords describing their area of expertise or subject knowledge. Sometimes referred to as an Expertise database or Expertise location service, it is often compiled with the aid of Expertise locator software. When properly compiled and maintained, it may be by far the most valuable of all Knowledge Management tools. It is often referred to by its more popular term; Yellow pages.


Market Intelligence (MI)

Market Intelligence concerns the attitudes, opinions, behavior, and needs of individuals and organizations within the context of their economic, environmental, social, and everyday activities. The emphasis is on consumers – product, price, place, promotion.

Marketing research

Marketing research is the study of methods of selling and promoting a product or service; or gathering information that will support a marketing campaign (such as qualitative and quantitative data concerning customer preferences and behavior).


Metadata is information (in the form of a metatag) that describes an Internet document and facilitates its retrieval. It is very similar to a bibliographic reference, but – where present – is often more extensive, and may include author, title, affiliation, sponsor, abstract, keywords, language, publisher, date published, contact details, classification scheme, and so on; probably the most useful being keywords.



Metadata is information (in the form of a metatag) that describes an Internet document and facilitates its retrieval. It is very similar to a bibliographic reference, but – where present – is often more extensive, and may include author, title, affiliation, sponsor, abstract, keywords, language, publisher, date published, contact details, classification scheme, and so on; probably the most useful being keywords.



Portal is a web site that acts as a gateway to the Internet by providing a broad and diverse range of services, including directories, search engines or, links, email, reference tools, forums or chat facilities, access to online shopping and banking, games, entertainment, and more.


Search engines

Search engines are microprocessor-driven software programs capable of successfully retrieving information from computer networks or databases in order to match the needs of searchers. They automatically index keywords in context, usually by using robots, then search those indexes for keywords that match the user’s request. Generally speaking, they are more suitable than directories for conducting research. Current developments may incorporate visualization techniques.

Semantic networks

Semantic networks represent knowledge in the form of concepts (known as nodes) and links (that indicate the relationships between concepts). A concept is an abstract class or set consisting of items or things that share common features or properties.


Server is a computer, or software package, that provides a specific service to client software running on other computers. A single server machine may have several different server packages, thus providing many different services to clients on the network.

Social media

Social media is a combination of sociology and information technology that allows people to publish their own content and to establish business or personal relationships.


Strategy is the timely adoption of courses of action and the allocation of resources necessary for carrying out the basic long-term goals and objectives of an enterprise with the emphasis on achieving something different or unique.

Strategy is the calculation and co-ordination of ways and means to achieve ends. An organization’s strategy may be represented visually by a strategy map which is a powerful communication tool. Strategy formulation involves the right brain, calling for creativity, as well as the ability to deal with large volumes of information and to visualize a broad perspective.

SWOT analysis

A SWOT analysis is the evaluation of available information concerning the business environment in order to identify internal strengths and weaknesses, and external threats and opportunities. SWOT analysis is also known as Situational analysis and, when applied to competitors, as Competitor profiling.


Tacit knowledge

Tacit knowledge is the product of interaction between people, or between people and their environment. It refers to knowledge that is gained only experientially and, therefore, cannot be readily articulated or explained to inexperienced parties (for example, drawing, painting, writing, tying a knot, planning, decision-making). An individual will acquire tacit knowledge only by gathering information, relating it to existing knowledge, and accumulating experience; it involves judgment, intuition, and common sense. In groups, tacit knowledge exists in the practices and relationships that develop through working together over time. The major challenges are in its recognition, sharing, and management.


A taxonomy, in its original form, refers to the science of the classification of living and extinct organisms. In modern parlance, it applies to any system or software designed to organize information or knowledge so that it may be more easily stored, maintained, and retrieved. It usually reflects the language and culture of a specific enterprise or industry and acts as the authority for identifying documents and the content of knowledge maps. A taxonomy is often created by reference to several thesauruses, classification schemes, or indexes using a combination of human intellectual effort and specialized software.

A taxonomy offers a means of classifying documents and other items of information into hierarchical groups to make them easier to identify, locate, and retrieve. It consists of a structure (or thesaurus), which embodies the terms and their relationships, and a set of applications, which provide the means to identify and locate the information.

Topic maps

Topic maps are designed to facilitate the organisation and navigation of large information collections through the use of an open (non-controlled) vocabulary using topics, associations, and occurrences. A topic may represent any concept, including subject, person, place, organization, and event. Associations represent the relationships between those concepts; and occurrences represent relevant information resources. Although sometimes used when referring to an ontology, taxonomy, or thesaurus, it may, in fact, incorporate any combination of these.


Truncate means to shorten a word by omitting letters from the end and, when used as a search term, effectively broadens the scope of the search. For example, Defen*, would retrieve all words beginning with the chosen letters, such as: Defence, Defenceless, Defend, Defendable, Defendant, Defender, Defenestration, Defense, Defensible, Defensive. Also referred to as Stemming.


Unstructured information

Unstructured information refers to the content of any document that has no defined or standard structure to allow for its convenient storage and retrieval. Examples include blogs, emails, images, audio and video files, and wikis.

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