Thought Leadership

Competitive Intelligence Research Is the Key to Effective Business Wargaming

June 9, 2022

Business wargaming is high stakes, high reward

If you liked the game of Risk as a kid, you probably look forward to business wargames. Many of the same principles apply. Dominating key territories. Anticipating your competitors’ moves. Knowing when to attack. When to hold and fortify your position.

But there’s more at stake in the boardroom than in the board game. In boardrooms, wargames drive real-world decisions. A well-run wargame helps teams assess the competitive battlefield, refine strategy, plan operations and execute effectively. Game designs and techniques vary, but wargaming workshops share a common goal—bringing teams together around simulated situations to prepare for different scenarios, threats and opportunities.

We sat down with the Competitive Intelligence Manager for a top consumer appliances brand to better understand the role of competitive intelligence in wargames and why team-based simulations lead to better decision-making.

Ingredients for a successful wargaming workshop

What is the value of wargaming?

Wargaming is an opportunity to get the right people in a room to do problem solving as a reaction to, or a prevention of, something important happening in the market. It is an opportunity to step away from our daily roles, to allow teams to look at things from different angles, to get different opinions and debates going.

It sounds like there’s a lot of value to team dynamics in a wargaming workshop.

Yes, absolutely. If you were to try to get the output of a wargame without a proper wargame workshop, it would take you much longer, it would be a lot less collaborative and ultimately less effective.

Tell us more about the output of a wargaming workshop.

The output for me is a clear joined-up direction, an agreed-upon approach that the company needs to take as a reaction to an event or in case a scenario unfolds.

Can you give any business wargaming examples?

Sure. In one case, we realized there was a white space in the market and one of our competitors was taking advantage of it by launching a new product. We wanted to determine how to best react. We created a series of actions to be ready, both before and after the potential launch of our competitor’s product. We looked at how we would change our marketing, pricing and messaging to react to it. In the end, we were right. The competitor launched that product several weeks later—our reaction was immediate, as we had already decided what to do and we were able to defend our market share.

So competitive insights are key?

Yes. A wargame workshop should be organized for any significant event that is impacting or will impact your market. It could be a reaction to a threat that your competitor has already made—a ‘reactive’ wargame—or it could be in anticipation of a potential disruption that might or might not happen—a ‘proactive’ wargame. You need robust competitive intelligence. Then you get those different viewpoints in the room and formulate a unified response.

What goes into effective business wargaming?

Of course, you need the right people in the room. I always try to include people from different parts of the business who have different perspectives and bring different capabilities to the table.

Second, all participants should be working from the same playbook, with a shared set of knowledge of the topic. This is a critical ingredient. And this is where competitive intelligence research comes in.

Sounds like it is important to start with a shared baseline of competitive intelligence.

Absolutely. It’s essential to have a ‘central point’ of competitive insight. A playbook. And creating a playbook is not just about gathering information. Participants want concise, easy-to-read playbooks, designed for our specific wargame objectives.

What’s in a wargame playbook?

I can’t reveal secrets! But generally speaking, there’s an overview of market dynamics. Often there are deeper dives into competitors—financials and business performance, current product portfolio, pricing information and strategy, technology development and innovation, their marketing, distribution and manufacturing strategy, as well as their people and organization. Sometimes we need to go deeper into specific competitive products. What are the features, value proposition, product claims, pricing? What’s the go-to-market strategy?

A good wargame playbook is more than a collection of data about your competitors. It should convert data and information into actionable competitive intelligence that we can use for effective scenario planning.

How to build an effective wargame playbook

Escalent creates custom playbooks based on our clients’ specific industry challenges and business objectives. There’s no one-size-fits-all. However, we start with general guidelines. Here are some typical questions we answer for our clients.

Overview of the market and competitive dynamics

Who are the main players? Emerging and adjacent players? How is the market structured? Is there merger and acquisition activity? What global, political or economic forces are impacting the competitive ecosystem as a whole? What consumer trends are driving market and competitive dynamics? What are the white space opportunities?

Deep dive into key competitors

This could include financial performance, manufacturing footprint, (recent changes such as plant openings or closings), operational footprint (presence and activity across markets), digital footprint (eshops and channel partners), and business reach.

How are competitors organized (leadership structure, recent and potential changes)? What is their product strategy? What does their portfolio look like (key product or service claims and features, new products, new technologies featured in products or services), and how do your competitors’ portfolios compare to yours?

Playbooks often include a comparative analysis of brand positioning, pricing, distribution strategy, marketing strategy and consumer perception.

What are your competitors up to? Where are they investing and divesting? Who are they hiring? What patents are they filing? We look for indications of new products in the works, potential mergers, partnerships, forays into new markets, etc.

Escalent is a catalyst of progress in industries facing disruption. We support business wargaming through comprehensive and actionable competitive intelligence.

Arm your team with a holistic view of the competitive battlefield. Ask us how.

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Silvia Springolo
Silvia Springolo
Senior Vice President

Silvia is a Monitor/Deloitte veteran, with 20+ years of expertise in insights, consulting and marketing. She has helped dozens of senior execs at Fortune 500 companies solve strategic challenges through insight. Her passion is helping companies grow and move their brands forward, whether by testing new products, discovering new consumer segments, repositioning brands or validating value propositions. She is one of Escalent’s experts in competitive intelligence and wargaming, helping clients stay ahead of competition and win in the market. Her experience spans industries, but her focus is decidedly consumer-first. Silvia is now based in Italy, but spent most of her professional life in Boston. A graduate of Boston University’s MBA program, she is also a certified yoga instructor, a fervent traveler and an intrepid mountain climber.