"The legal and ethical collection and analysis of information regarding the capabilities, vulnerabilities, and intentions of business competitors" - Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals
This is how Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP), the most well-known global body on Competitive Intelligence (CI), defines the concept of CI. For the uninitiated, the page on the organization's Code of Ethics for CI professionals sheds lights on the innards of the practice. One does not have to belabor the importance of the practice in the context of successfully operating a business. It is in the operational details, as is the case with most details, that the devil lies.