Competitive Intelligence (CI) is the process of collecting, aggregating and analyzing external data for the benefit of a company. A good introduction to the subject can be found in Competitive Intelligence Advantage: How to Minimize Risk, Avoid Surprises, and Grow Your Business in a Changing World. I particularly appreciate the use cases showing the distinction between competitive intelligence and competitor analysis. The below image provides a good view of CI.
When it comes to making sense of a large amount of external data for decision making, data science is in the game. In overall, one can think of topics such as text mining, social network analysis and sentiment detection. Examples of applications in patent mining are given in the following article: Data Mining tools for technology and competitive intelligence.
The book Mining for Strategic Competitive Intelligence provides several potential applications of data mining in competitive intelligence. If you have any other references to share, please post a comment.