Meredith Wilson is the CEO and Founder of Emergent Risk International LLC
Risk intelligence is a fast growing private sector profession, aided by growing complexity in the economic, social, and geo-political environment. As organizations struggle to wade through increased threat and risk information and still stay focused on their mission, more are utilizing intelligence providers or building in-house research and analysis functions. Here are three ways this can drive value and increase an organization’s success.
Targeted, relevant intelligence analysis promotes informed decision-making.
Not all information is intelligence. Not even all high quality information from vetted sources is intelligence. What makes it intelligence is its relevance for the consumer and its ability to further the mission of the organization. A quality intelligence consultant or in-house organization can develop analysis that provides crucial insights for decision-makers by ensuring it is directly relevant to the needs of the decision maker and organization. This can range from tactical information that allows incident management teams to extract employees during a crisis, to management decisions to enter into a business partnership agreement with a foreign business partner. In both cases, and many others, having the correct, most relevant intelligence can be the difference between a negative and positive outcome.
Forward-looking intelligence analysis drives effective strategic planning.
When organizations build a strategy, whether for growing business in a new country or constructing a plan for protection of assets, a lack of understanding about the political, social, and security context can render those strategies inefficient at best and a failure at worst. Targeted intelligence, based on the company’s specific goals and footprint, can help decision makers understand the environmental context by providing ground truth and hard data about the area of interest. This information and analysis will help justify a budget decision, orient new market strategy to the appropriate cultural context, and promote cost savings by avoiding mistakes based on erroneous assumptions about the operating environment. Intelligence can also be utilized to help decision makers understand business and government leaders they will work with in a new market, and provide context about relevant political and security issues that will shape the business environment down the road.
High quality intelligence creates competitive advantage by empowering organizations to identify mitigation measures in environments where competitors can’t or don’t.
Organizations that truly understand ground truth in challenging environments are often able to work safely and effectively in these environments through careful information gathering and mitigation strategies. This intelligence and analysis will help organizations reach beyond the headlines, to understand what their true priorities should be in country. For example, while terrorism has dominated headlines as a top concern for business in France this year, the biggest problem for business in France has actually been almost daily labor protests and work stoppages that have delayed supply chains, shut down businesses, and made business travel in, out, and throughout the country difficult. This distinction earned the country the number 16 spot on a list of the top countries with themost civil unrest – a higher rating that Afghanistan. While both issues require a degree of planning and mitigation strategy, the chances of harm caused by a terror attack in France remain statistically low and disruption is generally minimal except in the immediate vicinity of an incident. Utilizing intelligence to pinpoint key disruption points, build resilient supply chains and plan for delivery of enough product to withstand significant labor and strike disruptions, however, could be crucial to cost savings and remaining competitive in the French market.
Intelligence adds value.
Simplified, intelligence analysis is really the provision of research and analysis that utilizes robust methodology to ensure integrity, credibility and better outcomes in decision making. While its increasing inclusion in good business practices is a sign that business leaders are starting to understand how powerful a tool intelligence can be, many companies have yet to move away from utilizing gut instinct to guide decision making. As we face increasing global uncertainty, this type of strategy will imperil not only revenue and operations, but most importantly, human lives. Given the relatively modest investment required to acquire high quality research and analysis, or even better, build an intelligence function within the organization; we expect the trend towards intelligence driven decision-making will only continue to grow in the coming years.