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Podcast Episode: The Past, Present, and Future of Competitive Intelligence

May has arrived. Do you know what that means? We have a brand new episode on Into the Fray: The Competitive Intelligence Podcast

In our latest installment, podcast host, Erik Mansur (our VP of Product Marketing), sat down with Steve Hernan, the Senior Manager of Strategic Business Intelligence at Thermo Fisher Scientific. Steve's CI background is extensive–with gigs at GE Healthcare, Rauland (a division of AMETEK), Sedulo Group, and more. As Erik put it, Steve is a “legend” in the CI space.

With Steve’s 10+ years of experience, there was no better person to discuss our latest podcast topic. The episode focused on what the CI industry looked like 5-10 years ago, what it looks like now, and where they foresee it heading.

Today’s blog post will provide a glimpse into Erik’s discussion with Steve. Without further ado, let’s dig into some key takeaways from the segment!

Get the latest data. Download the 2022 State of CI Report >>

The Past, Present, and Future of Competitive Intelligence | Steve Hernan, Senior Manager of Strategic Business Intelligence at Thermo Fisher Scientific

There’s no denying that competitive intelligence is a newer discipline and has taken many shapes over the years. While competitive research used to be conducted manually, the digital transformation brought CI software solutions to the forefront, capturing and curating the most influential intel—both on and off competitors' websites—to allow increased focus on the aspects that really move the needle: competitive analysis and activation.


Steve and Erik chatted about CI misconceptions over the years. While a decade ago, some companies associated CI with “corporate espionage”, it’s since become widely accepted as practitioners must abide by their company’s code of business ethics, weaving together insights to develop a story that helps with decision-making. 

With CI’s growth, the duo also hit on the rise of CI technology and its tremendous value—helping companies uncover valuable data and insights… that they might have missed otherwise. While automation has advanced the space, the duo dived into the psychology of this shift (Steve’s psych background came in handy here). 

Erik and Steve discussed how CI practitioners are not “stretching the muscle” like they used to and are relying on automated data collection as a crutch—a double-edged sword, so to speak. With tech giving CI pros time back in their days, the role of a CI practitioner is completely different than when Steve started in the field.

This segued to their prediction—the human element of CI will always play a critical role, even if you have tech in place. Humans will continue to have a hand in CI as machines are unable to analyze intel with the same level of scrutiny and context. While Crayon, for instance, combats this by providing customers with a dedicated competitive intel analyst, practitioners still need to activate intel within their organizations, providing value around why specific insights are important to every stakeholder.

When Erik asked Steve about when he predicts CI roles will be on the same caliber as social media or content, he had an interesting response. He predicts that CI will eventually become a responsibility within every stakeholder's role—from product and engineering to marketing. As time goes on, Steve foresees CI becoming an “institutional mindset” at companies. 

As you can see, the duo had a very thought-provoking discussion, and this blog only scratches the surface of what they covered. They also discussed gathering field intel, the emergence of KPIs, and more. Tune in to the full episode above or here!

Stay educated on the current state of the CI industry in 2022

If you want a high-level view of what CI looks like right now, this episode is a great starting point. But, if you’re looking for a deeper understanding, we highly recommend you read our latest State of CI Report. You’ll get real-life stats around CI and learn about the fierce rise of competition, the growing need for real-time intel for enterprise salespeople, and more. 

Aligning with the episode themes, our report found that CI teams are spending 14% less time on research and 15% more time on activation thanks to CI tech. Also, nearly half of the companies we surveyed are planning to increase their use of CI tech in 2022. 

If you couldn’t tell already, the CI industry is evolving rapidly. Ensure you’re up to speed by grabbing your free copy of our report below!

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Madison Blask
Madison Blask is a Content Marketing Senior Specialist at Crayon, where she creates compelling content that converts. Prior to joining Crayon, Madison worked as a Senior Copywriter at CXD Studio, a proudly women-owned creative agency based in Boston, MA.