I'm an engineer in a company building plants. To help improve our products and to improve our market standing our team is supposed to research all of our competitors, gathering data about their products, activities, markets, capabilities, revenue etc. I have been assigned one company to research.
Key questions we are trying to answer with this project
- Which key components are bought, which are produced in house (This is often not found on the website)?
- What services are really offered in addition to the plants being built (some companies in our market claim to offer a full service in their advertising, but don't give out service contracts)?
Obvious sources of information
- Their website and gather all the info on the site. This will include sales brochures, pricing information, options, press releases, and warranty descriptions.
- Also, our accounting department will gather credit rating information etc.
Stealing protected technology is not our goal. We don't want to pose as potential customers to get proprietary information. Also, the most illegal thing I'm prepared to do for my company is maybe(!) collect a speeding ticket.
What are non-obvious sources of information that are publicly avalaible? Where do you see critical issues about the ethics and legality of different kinds of research?