Cybersecurity, Emergency Preparedness, Policies and Training

Relevance: The Watchword for Security Intelligence

The intelligence industry, like so many industries, has had to evolve in response to today’s hyper-connected world. Intelligence has long played an important role in helping organizations manage risk. But there is an evolution in the value placed on intelligence beyond risk management. In this fast-moving and often unpredictable world, intelligence is not only growing in importance but becoming increasingly essential to strategic decision-making. And to be of value to decision-makers, it needs to meet a critical requirement—it must be relevant.

Defining Strategic Intelligence

At companies across various sectors and geographies, intelligence is increasingly moving into the heart of strategic decision-making. The intelligence being gathered to support organizations is no longer taking the form of a side mention in siloed departmental discussions, but rather becoming core to the strategic decisions facing the C-suite and board-level decision-makers.  

Intelligence and cybersecurity providers should expand their risk offerings to reflect this quiet evolution underway. While “strategic intelligence” means different things to different organizations, we at S-RM think of it as “the timely, relevant, accurate, and actionable insights organizations use to identify, respond to, or even anticipate external risks and opportunities pertinent to their sector and jurisdictions.”

The COVID-19 pandemic is perhaps one of the most apt examples of the need for strategic intelligence as a tool for organizational decision-makers. As the external operating environment shifted so quickly, sifting through and analyzing the associated information—for business relevance and actionability—became key to informing company responses. How do we protect our people? How do we steer our business through this? What lies ahead? Strategic insights were sought out like never before.

The Growth of Strategic Intelligence

In our recent Intelligent Business: 2022 Strategic Intelligence Report, we tested our hypothesis that change was underway in the intelligence world by surveying over 200 creators and consumers of strategic intelligence. Sixty-five percent said that strategic intelligence had grown in importance over the past five years. The top four reasons behind that growth were increased cybersecurity risks; new or increased data privacy regulation; new or increased other regulations; and the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, 88% identified strategic intelligence as an important factor in the overall success of their company. This recognition of the power of strategic intelligence and the cited growth in its use is evidence of the evolution.

And in a recent Harvard Business Review article, How Corporate Intelligence Teams Help Businesses Manage Risk, the argument is made and evidenced that intelligence offers much more than security—it should be used to support strategic decision-making.

Relevance Is the Key Quality

If strategic intelligence is an approach that organizations value, then what aspects of it will drive value? We asked survey respondents to tell us which quality of strategic intelligence was the most important— accuracy, timeliness, relevance, predictiveness, or actionability. And while all have their place, relevance was the quality that came out on top.

Interestingly, 59% of survey participants also said intelligence “takes too much time to digest.” To us, if an intelligence report is taking too much time to digest, it is not fit for purpose and points to a lack of tailored and relevant content.

Open-source intelligence, in particular, is both an opportunity and a challenge to intelligence providers. While its widely available, it can also be overwhelming and easily irrelevant. Without asking the right questions, and then finding the most appropriate information to answer them, relevant intelligence will not be forthcoming.

And how do you ask those questions that will result in the type of tailored strategic intelligence that large organizations represented in our survey recognize as growing in importance? We believe it’s through close partnerships. Both internally—the inhouse intelligence professionals truly partnering across the business and gaining a deep understanding of the organization’s strategy and goals—and externally— partnering with intelligence providers in a meaningful way so they too understand the strategy and objectives sitting behind that specific intelligence need.

Gala Riani is Head of Strategic Intelligence at S-RM, a global intelligence and cybersecurity consultancy. Gala started her career working for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) as a political advisor to the KRG’s Nordic representative in Stockholm and as an advisor to the Minister of Sports and Youth in Erbil. She later joined IHS Global Insight (now IHS Markit) as a Middle East and North Africa (MENA) analyst, and later managed the MENA team. Gala also spent five years with Control Risks, leaving as a Director on the Global Risk Analysis Department. She has a BA from the University of Cambridge and an MSc from the London School of Economics.