Ryan Vander Ryk is the Head of Market Research at Cubic Transportation Systems in San Diego. Prior to this job, Ryan held a similar position at BAE Systems in Washington D.C., implementing Competitive Intelligence programs for each division of the company. His integrity and industry experience have given him the upper hand in assisting his clients with their competitive projects.
A Blooming Industry
The competitive intelligence field has been growing rapidly in North America over the past 15 years. When Ryan first got involved in the industry in 2004, the concept was new, and not many businesses were embracing the field. “Now I see that almost every company has some sort of competitive and market intelligence function,” Ryan says. “There are a number of different names for it, but really they’re all doing the same thing, which is competitive and market intelligence research and analysis.”
This early-adoption into the field of competitive intelligence has proved advantageous for Ryan, as he has been able to utilize his experience to achieve the best possible outcomes. Over time, his experience has shown him patterns that help him better assist his clients and the companies he interacts with.
Experience + Patterns = Success
“The majority of the time, when my internal customers come to me, they have questions about objectives that, to them, seem insurmountable. What I have found is that the overall objective of what people are trying to achieve isn’t all that different from time-to-time.” So often we spend our time trying to reinvent the wheel, when Ryan would suggest that human need is relatively consistent, and that methods used for one project often work for future projects as well. “Usually, my clients aren’t sure what they need, and they’re stumped. So, when they come to me for support, I couple the specifics of their dilemma with my experience doing this countless times for people who are trying to achieve very similar objectives and goals. I use that knowledge as guidance to help them shape the project and their own expectations.”
Ryan identifies that it takes time to get to that point. His experience has been an asset to his team, but he shares other approaches people in a Competitive Intelligence field can do to be more effective and efficient at their jobs.
Be Neutral and Unbiased at All Times
“Approaching every project and task with a neutral, unbiased perspective is the most important part of my job,” Ryan says. “There will be times where your internal customers will want you to skew your results in their favor, or tweak them to be what they need them to be, but in order to do this job properly, you need to do what’s best for the company.” He admits that sometimes this can be terribly difficult to do. “At times, it is your job to communicate what people don’t want to hear.” Ultimately, the only way to succeed in this field, Ryan says, is to be honest and unbiased, as honesty will most lastingly affect the company.
Focus Your Time, Add Value
This integrity is vital in all aspects of a job as a Competitive Intelligence specialist. Not only does one need to be honest with their clients and their companies, but they also must be honest with their time.
“These departments are generally very lean, and when it comes time for a company to cut budgets, competitive intelligence is one of the first departments to be affected. It’s a crucial job, and higher management always relies on the information you deliver to them, but it commonly gets overlooked. It’s important that you show your team just how valuable and efficient you are.”
One of the ways Ryan does this is by focusing on that which is the most important to the company. “It’s vital that you take the time to strategically uncover what matters most to your internal customers, and then focus your efforts on making sure you do as much of that as possible. It’s easy to get distracted doing things that are nice, but if your work doesn’t directly add value to the company, that’s when you will start to get overlooked.”
Competitive Intelligence Keys to Success
He said that because these departments are so commonly lightly staffed and lightly budgeted, another way to stand out is by understanding who your key customers are, what their requirements are, and by securing your sources of data upfront. “You can’t do this job without having multiple, constant sources of data flowing in at all times,” Ryan says. “And it helps to have a way to distribute that information as well.”
Ryan uses Sharpr to curate, process and distribute information. He says a tool like Sharpr is essential in helping your clients stay on track with what you’re doing, and to have a point of reference for when they begin a new project. “I point my clients to Sharpr when they have a question that is too complex for Google, but when research has already been done. Then, after they’ve exhausted that resource, I encourage them to come to me. But most of the time, I expect they’ll find what they need when they refer to the data I submit to Sharpr.”