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Corporate Intelligence Playbook: Part 1

CHARACTERISTIC – From time to time, we ask Cipher Brief experts with experience in both the public and private sectors to share their thoughts on security issues.

The DNA of value creation

Indigenous business intelligence programs are no longer new. Businesses large and small have invested in intelligence people, tools, data, and third-party services to help executives understand both the opportunities and the risks in the hopes of finding a competitive advantage while limiting company exposure. But some business intelligence teams struggle to take full advantage of their value, and some business leaders struggle to determine how best to load and use intelligence (and their intelligence teams) ) to make strategically meaningful decisions. Material value is left on the table, and some people don’t even see it lying there.

For private sector intelligence leaders trying to solve this problem, there are no quick fixes. It’s a campaign, partly organic and partly choreographed, that demands mutual education and enlightenment (this means not only your client, but also yourself), a stubborn commitment to the craft and all of your technical discipline, a relentless focus on the business imperative, and a lot of commotion.

So what does the good look like?

It reflects a simple truth: “Intelligence” is a discipline, not a narrowly focused topic or tool. Packaged correctly, it will be directed to everything that matters most to a decision maker, regardless of the subject.

There is a simple formula for how, where, and why it works in a corporate environment. Objective + Investment + Process.

Goal: A business leader needs strategic intelligence just like a high-level government decision-maker. The plans and intentions of governments, individuals, businesses and non-state actors, along with their assessed outcomes and potential impacts, make a significant difference to the financial, reputational and physical well-being of a business and its employees. .

A thriving intelligence program anticipates the needs of the business and its leaders, is not constrained by the imagination to limited scope or only to tactical concerns, and is proactively and cyclically signaled a wide range of business objectives, geopolitical risks and opportunities, and other strategic executive interests. “Good” is like a business leader clearly identifying knowledge gaps on virtually any topic of strategic interest to the business, leveraging a full-cycle intelligence capability to help fill those gaps and make smarter and faster decisions as a result.

Placement: Intelligence must have a horizontal relationship with other support functions so that it can maintain a direct and vertical relationship with business leaders.

This is another place where programs fail to mature or become limited in their ability to deliver. A poor placement can create a necessarily narrow reach for the business intelligence team or unintentionally disrupt filters between information producer and information consumer, or both.

For example, most companies’ intelligence programs are linked to company security programs. This is a critical co-dependency relationship: Successful security programs thrive on threat assessment to drive risk management, and security requirements are necessarily an important part of a company’s intelligence needs. a company. But a lack of imagination, whether on the part of an intelligence team or company management, often results in the intelligence team being built as an auxiliary or subordinate function of an organization. security, which in turn limits the scope of intelligence exclusively to security issues, the highest priorities of which tend to be granular that address immediate and urgent needs. This leaves no room, or mandate, for the team to deliver more broadly or for the company to realize the full value of the team (the “Goal” described above).

The same can be said when an Intel team, whether through an enterprise design or an enterprise protocol, is managed by or has their message filtered through other support functions ( legal, compliance, government affairs, etc.). Either through a difference in purpose or through a misunderstanding of nuances in method or message, these corporate filters erode the intelligence process and unintentionally limit the ability of the business leader to take full advantage of intelligence.


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To treat: A successful program is built around a full cycle capacity. Sense:

  1. Everything the intelligence function does is motivated either by explicit, tailor-made requirements or by ongoing strategic objectives. requirements of key decision makers in the company – nothing is produced for the sake of production, and weekly / monthly “newsletters” and “roundups” are out of the question unless specifically requested and for a specific how they will be used.
  • A collection capability that not only offers passive collection (i.e. monitoring, subscriptions, open source feeds), but more importantly, active collection. This essential tool is often overlooked, and this is where many programs miss the chance to be of unique “added value” to the business. The exclusive outsourcing of active collection to external companies without an internal mechanism to directly manage this collection or provide an analytical assessment of the “gross” production of these companies creates additional risk, potential loss of relevance and insight and costs. important additional. But managed more directly, active collection provides unique, granular information in a way that can be monitored for both loyalty and trust, tailored to the tailored and real-time needs of internal decision makers, managed for ethical execution. operations, and can be assessed against the internal context, strategy, risk appetite, business plans and intentions.
  • Analytical capacity supported by a professional and practiced profession and supported by the 3-legged stool of the right analysis: people, data and tools. This is the one that most businesses succeed in (although often deployed to a limited extent). A good team of intelligence analysts can leverage their deep technical expertise to help executives see beyond the “impressionists,” question their assumptions, and make unbiased decisions informed by data and qualitative expertise. in the matter. And a local analytical resource can interpret external events through the eyes of their business leaders better than any external resource because of the trust they have established with their client.
  • Dissemination is intentional and deliberate, and feedback becomes the motor that drives the cycle. When all work is motivated by real demands, it follows that the result of that work is provided to those who a) have to do something with it or b) have to advise others to do something with it. Wide dissemination creates generic feedback, which creates generic requirements and generic reports. You have become a cost center, which does not end well for Intel programs.

Read Part 2 of The Corporate Intelligence Playbook in The Cipher Brief

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