Competitive intelligence (CI) is the process and forward-looking practices used in producing knowledge about the competitive environment to improve organizational performance. It involves the systematic collection and analysis of information from multiple sources, and a coordinated CI program. It is the action of defining, gathering, analyzing, and distributing intelligence about products, customers, competitors, and any aspect of the environment needed to support executives and managers in strategic decision making for an organization.
CI means understanding and learning what is happening in the world outside the business to increase one's competitiveness. It means learning as much as possible, as soon as possible, about one's external environment including one's industry in general and relevant competitors.