You can collect business intelligence online by using a search engine and Internet-accessible databases maintained by government agencies and private companies that aggregate business information. The widespread use of the Internet to collect, present, and pass along information has made it an incomparable repository of historical data on businesses and individuals. Much of the information is free to the public, but certain proprietary databases charge a fee.
Business intelligence online can be collected from primary or secondary sources. Primary sources include government agencies that make business filings available to the public for scrutiny. These sources enable you to look at documents or information prepared or filed by the business itself in response to regulatory requirements. If you use these sources you can be sure the information is accurate, but you will have to analyze and synthesize the data yourself since you will be collecting data without screening by an expert or analyst.
Examples of primary sources of business intelligence online include government agencies that accept business registrations, such as articles of incorporation, and issue business licenses. Another popular source of intelligence is the financial filings made annually to government agencies that regulate corporations and securities offerings. Government agencies that hire businesses as contractors make public much of the information on the business affairs of the contractors that are awarded jobs and maintain a database of performance reviews that can provide important intelligence. Tax agencies and local real property recorders are other primary sources that can provide intelligence about what a business owns and owes.
After you collect all of the information available through primary sources, you can advance to a secondary source search. Secondary sources are proprietary databases that collect information from primary sources and make an aggregated database available for convenience. This kind of database often provides a range of information from multiple primary sources so you do not have to do all of the legwork. There are both free and fee-based databases under this category.
An example of a free secondary database is one that allows you to search for the addresses of a company across multiple locations or that allows you to search court filings across multiple court systems. Fee-based databases include business credit report companies and databases maintained by companies that specialize in business intelligence and make their information available under the auspices of their reputation for finding the most relevant contextual information.
Once you have decided which secondary databases to use, you can collect other types of business intelligence online by using a search engine to find news, media reports and analysis of current and historical events that involve the business. Search engines are also useful to ferret out public comments, customer reviews, and reputation-based information on the business and its key employees.