development of trade and the emergence of
new markets have resulted in the fact that
appropriate information has become a basis
for business decisions and by this a condition
for effective operations. The requirement
for information has brought about the development
of a new field in management and modern “information
In the eighties of the 20th century, this
was lectured at business colleges as Organizational
Intelligence. Later a term was coined, i.e.
Competitive Intelligence which was replaced
by the concept of Marketing Intelligence,
Economic Intelligence, Competitive-Economic
By recognizing that business intelligence
is an appropriate concept to designate knowledge
of business significance, it is necessary
to note the variety of sources and methods
of gaining information and the risk traditionally
associated with business operations. When
summing up the critical review of applied
definitions , the author adopts a definition
according to which business intelligence is
acquiring, gathering and processing information
having economic significance.
The goal of intelligence understood in this
way is information constituting the basis
for making business decisions. The information
allows to become acquainted with and to assess
business facts and phenomena, to rationalize
the operations of the entrepreneur and to
forecast the effects of decisions made. In
market economy conditions it is not possible
to make correct decisions ensuring the proper
choice of targets for carried out business
operations as well as allocation of resources,
priorities and actions essential to be achieved
without decision making information.
The scope of gaining non public industrial
information in the United States itself is
said to be 1100 documented and 550 possible
cases a year in several thousands of the largest
companies. American industrial companies are
penetrated by companies from the US, China,
Japan, France and the UK as well as government
agencies of France, Germany, Israel, China
and South Korea. Not only documentations connected
with the newest inventions and results of
the newest research are stolen but the same
goes for production and marketing plans as
well as customer lists.
Information – concept and structure
The problem of information is an issue studied
for many years by military intelligence and
counter-intelligence specialists for whom
finding out the secrets of the enemy and keeping
own information secret has been a valued factor
of victory or loss for a long time. Lucien
Gérardin answers the question what is information
in the following way: “There are many answers
to this question. We get information from
the press, radio or through the telephone.
There is a number of ways of sending information.
But exact sciences require precise and clear
definitions. And one more thing, such a definition
must have quantitative sense. To be more clear
– in order for a philosophical concept of
information to become an exact one, it has
to receive a quantitative expression, it has
to be measurable. The above specified examples
may be summed up in such a way: information
is transferred by means of written, printed
or oral communication. In order to obtain
information, it is necessary to receive these
communications and further more – to understand
them. Understanding includes two subsequent
phases: the analysis of the structure of the
received communication and next disclosing
the sense contained in its structure. For
this purpose the communication is compared
in the brain with already existing schemes.
This process allows to disclose the sense
of communication, i.e. to receive the information
enclosed in it.”
Particular elements of a communication are
called data. These can be object designators,
its attributes (features), the values of attribute,
time in which the object has an attribute
of a defined value, additional vectors of
characteristics (e.g. unit of measure, source
of origin, method of registration etc.). The
data may have various forms: recording of
characters, analogue representation, speech,
picture, chart, diagram etc.
Particular data does not constitute information
yet. For example, the number “2000” has no
sense until it receives some content, i.e.
until it becomes a definite number of symbol
– a year, distance in meters, capacity in
litters etc. Just like the caption DETECTIVE
may be treated as a datum meaning profession,
the title of a magazine or a name of a company.
A system of data and attributes characterised
by some value in a certain time is called
Only the sense (meaning) of communication
elements and the reality between them constitute
Information is a complex concept and belongs
to many commonly applied ideas which do not
have an unambiguous definition. Philosophers
understand information to be a reflection
of a variety characterising a considered object,
event, process, phenomenon. In cybernetic
understanding information is a factor owing
to which the object that surrounds it (man,
a living organism, organization, automatic
appliance) may bring about better understanding
of the environment and more efficiently carry
out purposeful actions. However, as far as
the definition originating from the theory
of information approaches information as a
measurement of occurrence uncertainty of a
certain event from among a finite set of possible
events which leads to a conclusion that when
there is more information, the less probable
is the occurrence of a given event.
That is why for the measurement of information
amount, i.e. its unit, such an amount of information
was adopted, which would be obtained in the
case of choosing two possible answers (0 or
1), when the possibility of both answers occurring
is the same. The smallest information unit
is called a bit.
Information resources are the most valuable
resources which a man can possess.
Quality of information
Amongst different information some will prove
to be more useful, correct, giving satisfaction
and profitable to the users, while other –
will be better as far as quality is concerned.
By quality one understands significant features
of an item which distinguish it from others
and decide on its peculiarity. The quality
of information will be the general properties
of information connected with the ability
to fulfil the stated or predicted requirements
of the information user .
The quality of information consists of required
information features – the greater quality
of information, the greater is the certainty
of managers that they can rely on it when
making decisions. However, the cost of gaining
information usually grows with its quality.
If the higher quality of information does
not contribute in a significant way to decisions
made, it is justified to give up additional
When taking into account the elements of the
communication, the desired information may
include the following:
The Current character of information – that
is sufficient consistency (accuracy) of information
with the actual condition of the object. Accuracy
– means the closeness level of the attribute
level to the real value. Flexibility – is
the ability of fulfilling current and future
need of various users. Un-ambiguity – means
using a language and terms not bringing about
any doubts whatsoever, which have a clear-cut
meaning. Reliability of information – care,
objectivity, correctness of making data and
working out communication, the contents of
which comprise the information. Value –inverse
of a probability for a given event to occur
to which the information pertains. If there
is certainty (i.e. the probability equals
1) that an event will take place, then the
message has no value. Such a message has significance
in business intelligence as it makes other
data credible. Sufficiency – means such information
which allows for rational decision making.
Sources of information and methods of it being
The division into person and non-person (item)
sources is stressed. The person sources of
information include experts, informers in
enemy organizations, exterior informers as
well as “prattlers” and “chatter-boxes” telling
interesting facts during private meetings.
The non-person group includes documents as
they are the evidence of what has been officially
written in them. These can be extracts from
court registers of companies, identity cards
of a natural person, official registers, statute
documents, accounting documents, tax, technical,
technological documents etc. as well as certificates
of all sort.
Notes and publications do not belong to the
evidence group but in a given situation may
be considered to be such. Publications (books
and magazines) and the so called mass media
(the press, radio, television) are a very
strong source of information dominating in
many types of business intelligence. The use
of press sources is called “white espionage”.
One cannot pass over statistical studies,
the results of scientific work, market research
reports, data bases and in-house bulletins
as well as personal notes and even a rubbish
bin. Electronic data bases and systems of
data processing as well as communication means
with internet are growing and becoming more
and more significant.
Information is obtained by means of specific
methods: documentation analysis, observation,
intelligence, surveying and (only authorized
by appropriate regulations) by operating and
reconnaissance services .
Organizations of business intelligence
Since time immemorial man has tried to discover
the goals, plans and methods of other people.
Already in ancient Rome, in the life of Persians,
Greeks and Romans we will find traces of intelligence
activity. It was and continues to be the basis
for the power-struggle which takes place all
round the world in the sphere of politics,
the military and economy.
Probably the oldest surviving intelligence
report is the denunciation found in Mari by
Euphrates which had been written approximately
4000 years ago by a commander of a post to
his ruler . The Bible mentions spies several
times. Living in many parts of the world,
the Phoenicians, the Hittites, the Babylonians,
Greeks and Romans, the Chinese and many other
superpowers of the ancient world have left
numerous traces of using intelligence. This
was chiefly military intelligence aimed at
winning and holding territories by means of
military forces. Less is known about gaining
secrets which had economic significance, although
descriptions of efforts to gain well kept
secrets of silk production, porcelain, steam
engine, rubber and others are equally fascinating.
Revolutionary Paris became famous for a law
encouraging the development of business intelligence.
On 7th January 1791 a law was passed granting
that “each persons who as the first brings
a foreign product to France will have the
same legal protection as its inventor” .
The first and biggest intelligence organizations
of the 19th century may include a private
company belonging to the Rothschild bank.
The information obtained was used for appropriate
preparation and execution of investment operations.
In 1815 Europe was expecting news from Waterloo
in Brabant (today Belgium) on the results
of the battle of Napoleon’s army with the
British-Prussian one. Possibly Nathan Rothschild
knew that Napoleon had lost and despite this
he flooded the London market with government
bonds. Those who observed his actions did
the same thing thinking that England had lost
. Nathan bought the bonds back in the right
moment before information on Napoleon arrived,
while the bonds were of a significantly higher
value by then.
The first classical enterprise of business
intelligence offering information for sale
was the company “The Mercantile Agency” established
in 1841 by a merchant from New York called
Lewis Tappan . The main target was assessing
whether merchants were capable of fulfilling
their financial obligations as this was connected
with a financial crises which started in 1837.
Also at this time Robert Dun established an
agency which in 1859 changed its name to “R.G.Dun
& Company” and published his book with
his assessment . In 1849 John Bradstreet’s
agency was formed which published its classification
in 1857. In 1933 the competitors merged to
form “Dun & Bradstreet”. The company boasts
that for some time four presidents were its
reporters, namely these being Abraham Lincoln,
Ulysses Grant, Grover Cleveland and William
McKinley. The idea of bond classification
was expanded by John Moody to cover other
debt instruments. In 1909 he published the
first bond rating as the first part of his
book on financial analysis of railroads. In
order to give his readers an easy comparison
of investments, Moody created a universal
letter code ranging from “Aaa” to “C” which
is a world standard to this day. At present
leading world financing institutions undergo
assessment carried out by Moody’s Investors
Services rating agency in New York.
In Germany the first office of this type was
established in 1862 as Lesser&Liman, known
under the name of W.Schimmelpfenig since 1872
or under Creditreform since 1879. In 1885
another company was formed, namely Bürgel
Co&KG. In 1990 the head office of Bürgel
carried out a capital merger with the renown
Hermes AG from Hamburg to create a computer
business information base.
The set of entities specialising in supplying
data and granting information in a professional
way is enormous worldwide. Today, one may
speak of a broad market of business information.
This market is filled with numerous information
agencies, business information offices, market
research institutes and companies dealing
with market analysis, Datenbanken, Patentdatenbanken,
information services. One may encounter specialist
entities and information services as well
as private business intelligence offices as
well as Public Relations Agencies.
For many years in centrally planned economies
business intelligence was only one of the
ways of implementing the state’s economic
policy – there was no place to realize tasks
other than that of state and co-operative
companies. Private entities effectively strengthened
their position by “fixing” beneficial decisions
with clerks, civil servants and officials.
But there was no information market as all
possible information was reserved to belong
the state – and this was looked after by censors.
Commencing with 1999 private detectives have
been legally carrying out business activities.
The legal basis for their operations in Poland
is a business license while a professional
license is expected to follow.
With opening business operations to market
principles, the market of business information
was taken over by the largest – possessing
capital and information – world companies
of business intelligence. Agencies of business
intelligence offer information on companies
and their owners, history and location, creditworthiness
and financial standing, transaction risk,
information on debtors, company payment. They
offer services of claiming amounts due from
unreliable business partners both in the country
and abroad as well as publish guides on the
economic situation of particular countries
in the world. The same goes for political
analyses as well as economic and commercial
ones and many many others.
Intelligence companies usually offer information
in the form of various reports: identification,
preliminary, standard, special and supplementary.
The most important product of an intelligence
company is the report. It usually states that
the report has to be treated by the orderer
as strictly confidential and may be used exclusively
for the own purposes of the orderer.
Rating agencies offer opinions in the form
of assigning financial standing pertaining
to an analysed entity – this being an assessment
of the entity’s credibility presented in a
One must also draw attention to large business
intelligence agencies working for governments.
In Poland this includes Generalny Inspektor
Infomacji Finansowej (General Inspectorate
of Financial Information) - an organ of state
administration, which is to acquire, gather
and process information on each transaction
exceeding 10 thousand EURO.
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dohľadu, Acta oeconomica cassoviensia No 4,
2000, s. 17.
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manažmentu potrebujú exekutívne informačné
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przedsiębiorstwem, PWN Warszawa - Kraków 1999.
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rozhodování, Grada Publishing Praha 2000.
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a riziká jednotlivých spôsobov platenia, Acta
cassoviensia No 4, Košice 2000, s. 297-307.
Zieliński Tomasz, Informacja w procesie oceny
banku, "Bank" 1999, nr 8.
dr inż. Leszek Korzeniowski
European Association for Security
Śniadeckich 12 B (AWF)