Competitive Intelligence Spotlight #26: Chukwuemeka “Ugo” Uba-Okonkwo, Director of Strategy and Growth for Amentum

Chukwuemeka Ugo Uba-Okonkwo, Director of Strategy and Growth for Amentum

Chukwuemeka “Ugo” Uba-Okonkwo, director of Strategy and Growth with Amentum, recently spoke with ArchIntel to discuss competitive intelligence, such as how to create a formalized process to simplify discovery, how to find and train talent and the challenges businesses and customers face in the marketplace. 

“As long as the government is printing money, market conditions are favorable, and the government is making it favorable for small businesses and minority-owned businesses to get into government contracting, this market will continue to be attractive. 

As a business, you have to differentiate yourself from everyone else, and this is where the value of competitive intelligence comes into play — having a systemic, formalized CI process goes a long way.”

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ArchIntel: What are some of the valuable lessons you’ve learned throughout your career in competitive intelligence?

“Competitive intelligence is definitely valuable, and it is a matter of how you apply it to your industry. For us, within the government services industry, I’ve noticed that the most valuable intelligence resides in what people know. The interactions with clients, seeing your competitors, talking to them and sizing them up is more valuable than information gathered from public publications or sources.

So a challenge can be how to develop intelligence that can help differentiate your offering and your business in an industry that is for the most part commoditized – managing a CI network is important. You have to systematically take bits of information from individuals, sort through it and develop actionable insights. This is the trick within competitive intelligence and that’s where the hard work starts. We try to find a formalized, systematic way to gather that information, synthesize it then provide actionable intelligence. 

The second key to competitive intelligence is understanding your customers’ needs. Competitive intelligence can become a massive endeavor, and you must put a scope around it. The easiest way to do that is to understand who your customers are, people within the business, to find out what they value in the competitive intelligence that you provide. You have to focus on key areas so you don’t waste your time and don’t remove value from the process.

Finally, you have to develop a defined, structured process, a formalized program, that helps you repeat great results. With the massive quantity of data that’s available and the limited amount of time to process and synthesize all that data, a repeatable process will help you long-term in delivering the information in a timely manner.”

ArchIntel: How do you train your workforce to compile competitive intelligence and how has your experience helped you in the field?

“To define the skill set needed for the competitive intelligence workforce, you must be able to manage the CI network and understand the process from a higher-level standpoint. You must be able to see the bigger strategic picture while still maintaining the ability to deep-dive into the key tactical issues. 

If your mind is open and you let the data take you to where you need to go, that goes a long way. If your bias comes into your investigation, it muddies the outcome of your results. Given all that big data, you must be comfortable with the massive amounts of data and then be able to analyze and articulate the takeaways in a clear, concise manner. The more concise and direct you can be with the insights that you found from the data, the better.

From an educational standpoint, business acumen is important. It doesn’t hurt to have an MBA as well. It helps you look at different businesses, aspects of the business, and to be able to arrive at actionable conclusions.

Personally, my experience has helped me implement competitive intelligence. I am an engineer by training. When I worked for Boeing, I was mostly on the shop floor talking to the mechanics, solving problems and logistical issues with suppliers. I understand the value chain. Within competitive intelligence, you take the same principle of the value chain and apply it on the business, since there’s a value chain in every system, project or program you’re working on.”

ArchIntel: What are the most common challenges you face in regards to your customers and implementing CI methods for the first time?

“Every company has its problems and ranks its priorities, so the question is how do you sell CI to internal stakeholders against other priorities? 

Again, approximately 80 percent of the valuable information comes from what people know, so having a reliable network to gather that information is critical. It’s easier to do so when you have experienced employees, who have been in the industry for a while and have the right connections. 

If you have those networks in place, you can always reach out and pick their brain on what’s going on in the market. Typically, you can pay a consultant to get this information but using your network is less expensive and it can help you bridge connections within the company and strengthen network. 

You must keep in mind that as you interact, you must show value — that there’s something for the stakeholders to gain, so they make CI a priority. It’s a give and take. As I said, staying within scope is important, to you avoid spending a ton of no-value-added time on a report that could be of no value , and to avoid wandering into the realm of being unethical – being hypervigilant about ethic is important.”

ArchIntel: How do you verify information that you collect from your network?

“In certain instances, you typically have a hypothesis going into your analysis and the information you collect can be used to validate or not validate your assumptions. You can get inputs from multiple sources and if they all point in the same direction there is likelihood that something is worth digging into and the next steps will be to research further, using data to back it up. 

Also have a feedback process to make sure you are continuously improving the data collection, analysis and reporting process will help with the comfort level in the information and sources”

ArchIntel: How do you prioritize elements of competitive intelligence programs and initiatives?

“If you’re implementing a new CI program, you have to understand the needs of the organization. You must develop a network. Data is extremely important, no doubt, but you must understand the type of data that you need, and how to find the sources of the data. 

Data acquisition should be done in the most effective and efficient way, such that it doesn’t cost a lot of money. A cost-benefit analysis to determine its value to your company can be quickly performed to assess if it’s worth paying for data versus gathering the same data from other means that is less expensive.

A formalized CI process within the company has to be in place. You have to create some kind of procedure to make sure that you can repeat same quality outputs, save time, and not reinvent the wheel every time. 

It’s also important to understand reporting requirements and then develop them. Ask yourself: What kind of reports are you expecting to put out there? Who are the different customers you have internally and what do they consume? How do you tailor the report to make sure that they get what they need in a timely manner? 

After you have gone through a sample CI process, while creating say a company profile, you get a sense of the CI rollout process and a sense of your staffing needs, understanding the role they play. Of course, in today’s technological environment, efficiency and productivity is important, so having the right mix of staff and mechanization/automation (like using a Robotic Process Automation) is critical as well.”