Analysis as a Component in the Intelligence Cycle
- “The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight.”
- —Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard
Analysis is arguably that portion of the larger intelligence process in which the greatest value is generated.9 Much organizational experience suggests it can also be more difficult to do than the resource-draining data and information collection efforts that most organizations have emphasized in recent years. Nevertheless, a long series of research and publications suggests that business and competitive analysis serves a variety of important, longstanding needs for organizations.10 Although we intend to explore this context in much greater detail in other parts of this section, here we will briefly describe how analysis fits within the intelligence process.
Analysis is just one step of a larger process for developing intelligence for an organization. Most depictions of the so-called “intelligence cycle” show a series of four to six steps in a stripped-down form. These steps describe the functions of an intelligence operation in an enterprise and are illustrated in Figure 1.1.
Figure 1.1 A generic intelligence cycle
The analysis step in this cycle involves its own set of sub-tasks that need to be conducted to generate effective outputs and outcomes. Analysis works interactively with all the subprocesses of data classification and synthesis to produce a finished product such as a chart, graph, table, text, summary, visual, or other communicative aids appropriate for dissemination.
Analysis involves the skillful application of a variety of techniques. We are sharing many good ones in the upcoming chapters of this book. All of these will help decision makers make sense of intelligence.
Intelligence analysis is always context-specific in that it does not occur within a vacuum, a static condition, or under experimental conditions. Because analysis is performed by practitioners in active organizational and competitive conditions, identifying the nature of competition that analysts examine as a part of their work task is important.