Original Research

Towards a universal definition of competitive intelligence

Rene Pellissier, Tshilidzi E. Nenzhelele
South African Journal of Information Management | Vol 15, No 2 | a559 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajim.v15i2.559 | © 2013 Rene Pellissier, Tshilidzi E. Nenzhelele | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 February 2013 | Published: 15 October 2013

About the author(s)

Rene Pellissier, School of Business Leadership, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Tshilidzi E. Nenzhelele, Department of Business Management, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

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Background: Enterprises face intense competition caused by globalisation. Consequently, enterprises look for tools that provide a competitive advantage. Competitive intelligence (CI) provides a competitive advantage to enterprises of all sizes. There are many definitions of CI but no universally accepted one.

Objectives: The purpose of this research is to review the current literature on CI with the aim of identifying and analysing CI definitions to establish the commonalities and differences, to propose a universal and comprehensive definition of CI and to set the borders of CI for common understanding amongst CI stakeholders.

Method: The study was qualitative in nature and content analysis was conducted on all identified sources establishing and analysing CI definitions. To identify relevant literature, academic databases and search engines were used. A review of references in related studies led to more relevant sources, the references of which were further reviewed and analysed. Keywords ‘competitive intelligence’, ‘marketing intelligence’ and ‘business intelligence’ were used in search engines to find relevant sources. To ensure reliability, only peer-reviewed articles were used.

Results: The majority of scholars define CI as a process and acknowledge that CI is collected from the internal and external or competitive environment. They also outline the goals of CI, which are to help in decision-making and provide a competitive advantage.

Conclusion: The proposed definition outlines the process, purpose, source, deliverables, beneficiaries, benefit, ethicality and legality of CI, sets out the borders of CI and ensures a common understanding amongst CI stakeholders.


Competitive Intelligence; Competitive Advantage; Ethics; Definition of Competitive Intelligence


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