The use of intelligence to achieve competitive advantage dates back much further than we think. As some law firms are only just beginning to accept that gaining a better understanding of the firm's clients and competitors must be a focus area in BD, perhaps it's worth remembering that Sun Tzu recognised the importance of "time spent in reconnaissance" back in the fifth century BC. We've got far superior access to information now, as well as the technology to assimilate and analyse this, but the basis premise remains - it's a job that needs to be done and done regularly.
The strength of Sun Tzu’s approach arises from the integration of its elements – less focused on brute force and more about disrupting the enemy and undermining its ability to fight. This could be achieved by obtaining a “superior knowledge” of the enemy and, perhaps more importantly, of yourself. Sun Tzu wrote: “If you know your enemy and yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles” – and the timelessly true “time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted.”