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Where is the Intelligence?

Internet access is seemingly ubiquitous this country. Sites on the world wide web are at almost every turn offering to serve up some sort of intelligent information. One great example is doing a white pages search through BellSouth. In case you don’t find who you were looking for, there are several advertisements offering to search through public records and magazine subscriptions (for a fee). I imagine the day will come when Papa John’s sells their order database to one of these companies and for a fee, you’ll be able to find out where I live and whether I like regular or spicy Italian sausage.
But is this really the intelligence we need? I don’t think so. Sure, I’ve led some great projects centered around digitizing intelligence. We’ve developed knowledge management applications to track competitor information. SFA/CRM is another knowledge center that comes to mind. But at the end of the day, these systems can only track concrete information that we planned for.
A good example is the multiple listing service in Atlanta. When you want to buy a house, you (or your agent) can look in the MLS for a home that has a certain number of bedrooms, bathrooms, a garage, a chef’s kitchen and a big backyard. But that’s just a great start. How long has the home been on the market? Are the current owners desparate to sell due to a corporate transfer? Is it haunted? These are facts that you can certainly get from word of mouth, but you’re not going to find on MLS, much less on the Internet.
Another good example is job hunting. You can go to Monster or Computerjobs.com – but all these sites tell you is that there is a job available that requires XXX qualifications. Quite often, you don’t even know what salary range the company has in mind or even who the hiring company is. However, using human intelligence, you can find out about potential openings, salary ranges, how good of a company it is to work for, etc. Vault.com tries to provide this type of information but from what I’ve seen – it falls short. Though I have gotten some good tidbits out of it in the past.
When it comes to aggregated, general, or highly standardized information, computers can be invaluable tools. However, when you’re looking for the skinny on a particular situation, humans are still the most intelligent source of information.

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