The competitive intelligence session at the American Association of Law Libraries‘ 2014 annual meeting (presented by Mark Gediman, Julia E. Stahl-Hughes, and John L. Jackson; moderated by Louella Randall) offered a number of practical tips and resources for law firm librarians. I summarize a few of them below.
- Fee Fie Foe Firm offers a specialized search engine function. Similar to how Google Blog Search limits web search results to blogs, Fee Fie Foe Firm limits web search results to law firms’ websites. This could be useful in seeing how other firms market themselves online.
- Dun & Bradstreet reports can include automatically generated charts and graphs, but they will not appear unless “include graphics” is selected in “report preferences.” This is a great tip for making reports visually compelling. Also, competitive intelligence reports tend to be very time-sensitive. Even though it is simple to create charts and graphs using Excel or other software, it’s quicker to generate them automatically, without the librarian having to take time to re-enter the data in a separate program.
- Dun & Bradstreet does not state when some of its information was last updated from official government sources. For example, if a company files information with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), or if lending institutions file Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) financing statements with a Secretary of State against the company’s assets, D&B generally pulls that information into its database from the same government source that a law firm librarian can search online. The difference is that it is unclear when D&B last updated that information in its database, whereas a librarian can pull the latest information on exactly the date it is needed. Therefore, the presenters recommended excluding SEC and UCC information from D&B reports, and retrieving that information from official sources instead.
- The presenters provided some examples of forms for competitive intelligence reports. The one that interested me the most was color-coded, with a few critical sources in red that will be the only ones searched if the librarian is given 20 minutes to do the research. If a longer turnaround time is possible, the librarian will provide not only the information in red, but will also search additional resources color-coded black, and with even more time, further resources colored blue can also be searched. This is a great way to quickly communicate to requesters of library services what can be done in the time available, and what the information priorities should be.