Cipher Systems: 360 Degree Vision

Peter Grimm, Managing Director, Cipher SystemsPeter Grimm, Managing Director
As the captain of the ship, it’s not unusual for the Managing Director of Cipher Systems, Peter Grimm to clock in the hours at work. Be as it may, the probability of finding Grimm in his official cabin is slim. Stroll into the headquarters of the company in the sailing capital of America—the picturesque city of Annapolis in Maryland—the odds are that Grimm is amidst a team of bright individuals deliberating the next big Knowledge Management (KM) strategy. “My favorite space in the office is any room with a whiteboard, filled with smart people,” says Grimm. When sharp individuals throw ideas at one another, knowledge emerges, in one form or another. “I make it a point to document the resulting breakthroughs in the white-board in an attempt to manage the knowledge that has ensued. This is precisely why it is the people, who make Cipher different.”

To begin with, the Cipher team blends experienced corporate strategists, classically-trained primary researchers, and industry experts in addition to highly-trained former government intelligence analysts and the “Big Four” consultants. “This breadth of perspectives allows us to tackle our clients’ most challenging issues when it comes to KM from all angles,” assures Grimm. Now, with the pedigree of Grimm’s hand-picked team evident beyond doubt, the focus shifts to what they bring to the table. “We specialize in the Competitive Intelligence (CI) aspect of KM and assist clients to understand the playing field in their respective domains, every step of the way,” says Grimm. The prowess of the Cipher team strengthened by their knowledge sharing practices internally translates seamlessly when the company serves clients in a bid to help customers differentiate themselves from competition.

Understanding the Playing Field

Rapid globalization and technological developments have made the competition immensely dynamic in today’s business climate. Corporate leaders need to thoroughly grasp the industry dynamics and level of competition within their respective domains to craft intelligent business decisions. From multi-billion dollar conglomerates to start-ups, many companies today hire outside firms to track and analyze the actions and strategies of their competitors. This is where Cipher comes in. “Cipher helps clients gather CI and utilize the knowledge to make smarter and faster decisions,” says Grimm. Cipher provides strategic market assessments; wrapping in primary and secondary research to help eliminate uncertainty. “Our web-based, fully customizable interface software Knowledge360 is designed to assist small companies to establish and create a world-class CI capability, internally,” remarks Beau Oliver, Cipher’s Director of Business Development. “Also, our approach helps larger companies to optimize and streamline their existing CI efforts so they can do more with less.”

“One of the most common misconceptions about CI is the notion of a corporate spook, that we are stealing competitor’s secrets,” observes Grimm. Cipher or any other reputable CI firm abides by a very strict code of ethics.

Cipher helps clients gather CI and utilize the knowledge to make smarter and faster decisions

“All of our research and analysis is based-on open-source, publicly available information,” assures Grimm. This is a crucial as Research Analysts and CI professionals are often compelled to fit their processes and practices into generic tools. “The organization, as a result, ends up spending enormous amounts of money to customize these generic tools to meet the requirements of their processes,” adds Oliver. Cipher’s Knowledge360 addresses these pain-points effectively.

Knowledge360 integrates real-time aggregation of news, premium financial data, and the competitor’s job postings with field intelligence collected by their staff and the client’s own internal data. “The entirety of this content is housed in one of the most secure cloud environments available to automatically index and analyze using cutting edge semantic technology,” assures Grimm. Irrespective of the market-domain, the implementation of Knowledge360 is simple, streamlined and cost-efficient via cloud. All of the customizations can be done by the users. All of these features are housed within an industry-leading widget framework that allows each user to completely customize the tool to fit their specific preferences and business practices.

CI professionals in healthcare, for instance, are interested in what the FDA is contemplating and what their competitors are planning in terms of clinical trials. The knowledge of such information is valuable. With a generalized tool, the clients would have to visit more than a dozen websites and perform individualized searches to get their hands on the information they seek. Knowledge360 allows analysts to focus their time on developing actionable insights by reducing the amount of time they spend collecting and organizing information. The company has partnered with premium data providers to allow users to discover, organize, and analyze competitive information from multiple sources in one place and reduce overall spend on data and tools by up to half. “If any particular external information is usually tedious to attain, our goal is to make it easily accessible and easy-to-use right throughout our Knowledge360 platform,” reveals Grimm.

More with Less

Traditionally, CI professionals have been forced to buy expensive data from multiple sources. Many times they have to buy the entirety of multiple datasets from several different vendors to get access to all of the relevant information they need about their competitors.
This data can range from financials, supply chains, and distribution networks to acquisitions, R&D pipelines and news releases. In an attempt to understand a competitor’s data, companies subscribe to more data sources than they can handle, when they only really care about the few with whom they compete. “With Knowledge360, we've solved these core CI problems by harnessing the best-in-breed data sources right within the application and allowing users to subscribe to only the pieces and parts of each dataset that are most relevant to them,” clarifies Grimm.

Clients can manage existing knowledge and augment it with external data and information to discover patterns across the entire CI space, enabling them to view the whole competitive picture. “Customers can take advantage of Knowledge360's cutting-edge search feature, which engages a semantic search function using our own proprietary algorithms to identify and search against meta-data on both internal and external data and information,” says Grimm. The progressive features also enable CI professionals to perform advanced Boolean searches as well as drill down on trends through layers of filters pre-loaded into the system, further expediting their information sorting and refinement process.

"We've partnered with premium data providers to allow users to discover, organize, and analyze competitive information from multiple sources in one platform and reduce overall spend on data and tools by up to half"

Users can build and share customized dashboard views to see what's most important to them, populated with the most up-to-date data and information. Knowledge360 allows every single user create their own custom dynamic dashboards and share them with any other member of the competitive intelligence team.

“We have been in the CI business for over two decades now and have operated across almost every identifiable industry,” says Grimm.” Cipher continues to successfully harness the information that is already resonant within an enterprise, integrating it from disparate sources while connecting the sales force within the organization to the CI and strategy development teams.

For the future, Grimm firmly believes social media integration into the company’s solutions will be a game-changer as it delivers better communication internally and the consumer social media models offer tremendously rich sources of information from a CI stand-point. “We already possess strong functionalities with regard to collaboration among the various CI teams and the ability to leverage certain social media concepts to build highly effective teams within the KM environment and integration of social media into our solution is the next step forward,” Grimm concludes.