3 Basic Elements of Organizational Intelligence Frameworks

Photo by: Ian Battaglia

In today’s information age, there is an endless amount of data available to everyone. The difficulty lies in deciding when to call upon it, efficiently retrieving it, and even verifying its authenticity. Therefore, the ability to acquire, process, synthesize, and ultimately utilize information is a top priority for high-performance organizations.

Here are three foundational elements every organization can build upon when creating their own intelligence frameworks:

1) The Intelligence Cycle

The intelligence cycle is the continuous process of turning data into information that is useful for decision-making.  The process breaks down as follows:

Planning and direction: Laying out the end-user’s objective and create a roadmap to achieve them.

Collection: Assemble the necessary data from available sources.

Processing and exploitation: Convert the data points into comprehensible and valuable information.

Analysis and Production: Evaluate, synthesize, and transform information into the desired final format (report, presentation, etc.).

Dissemination: Present the final format to the end-user.  If it is agreed that the objective has been met, then case closed.  If not, the cycle starts again.

Evaluation: Constantly acquire and evaluate feedback on each step, as well as the overall cycle. This is critical to identify opportunities for improvement and adjustment to meet end-user objectives.

2) Types of Intelligence

The intelligence community produces multiple types of products that serve different purposes. Each one can be applied to your organization’s intelligence strategy. At a high level, three broad categories will be a part of every robust intelligence framework: current intelligence, trend analysis, and long-term assessments.

Current intelligence is your day-to-day analysis of the present landscape in your market, industry, country, etc.  This is essentially ‘breaking news’ prioritized by potential impact and consequences on the organization.  This can also be a source of early warning signals for future developments. 

A trend analysis report provides deeper insights on single or multiple events and is far more extensive than current intelligence.  This is vetted and cross-referenced across numerous sources over an extended period (weeks to months) to ensure the accuracy and credibility of reports.  This helps analyze the impacts of new competitor products, consumer response to marketing campaigns, and more.

Building on trend analysis, long-term assessments are intelligence reports on an ongoing issue that often take months to produce.  Whether it be a changing social landscape, evolving consumer interests, or even internal culture trends, long-term assessments can provide a detailed analysis and project future developments that will aid an organization’s strategic response.

3) Intelligence Objectives

Each year, the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) produces a report on its National Intelligence Strategy (NIS).  This report contains several business and organizational applications, but the one most applicable is the mission objectives.  The ODNI describes these objectives as “the activities and outcomes necessary for the IC to deliver timely, insightful, objective, and relevant intelligence and support to its customers.”  In the 2019 NIS, the first three mission objectives were broad and foundational by nature (such as current intelligence). The remaining four addressed specific areas (such as cyber threats).  When building your organizational intelligence framework, your mission objectives should follow a similar breakdown. 

Here is an example from a business perspective.

Given all the information available today, it is imperative that organizations develop their intelligence framework through a better understanding of the intelligence process, the different types of intelligence, and setting clear objectives.  Those who do so will filter through the noise, strategize accordingly, and give themselves a better chance to attain (or maintain) sustained high performance.