In a nutshell, IIP's are self-employed people or freelancers who do research, analysis & "information brokering".
The thing I found interesting in the book, which was first published in 2002, is how the profession has changed since the rise of the Internet and search engines.
Essentially, up until very recently, IIP's were paid to search and retrieve information. Before the rise of search engines & the Internet, that really meant researching in libraries, filings, government records, etc by hand, or using a small number of specialist databases.
Up to around 5 or 6 years ago, most of the work was information retrieval, or "rip & ship" as it was commonly known.
Now, most IIP's say that up to 80% of their time is spent on analysis or synthesis of data, rather than simple retrieval. In short, most people can now "Google" for the simple questions. They only engage an IIP when they need those hard to find" answers.
Of course, the profession has also grown since the advent of the Internet, making it easier for companies to outsource some of their research and easier for IIP's to work from home.
A couple of points I found quite interesting, from my own perspective, was firstly that many IIP's are trying to distance themselves from the term "information broker". This was the term that they were all known by up until the media hi-jacked it recently and attached it to various shady dealings such as social-engineering & "dumpster-diving".
I'm always interested by they fact that everyone assumes the only way to get "information" is by illicit or illegal ways.
The truth is that pretty much everything you need for research or Market Intelligence is out there someone, either in public records, online resources or through telephone research. OK, you have to put the pieces together, but it's all there.
Another interesting point is that a lot of IIP's sub-contract their telephone research to a smaller subset of specialists. These people actually sound quite close to my own speciality, as they're the people who you say "find me a person who knows X" and they go out, find them and interview them.
It seems that there's this core set of people who make a living finding people using the telephone. Whether they're called telephone researchers or names sourcers, there always seems to be a demand for someone to pick up that phone.
Labels: competitive intelligence