Smart Companies Choose Intelligence Analysts

February 25, 2015 - By Ray O’Hara, CPP

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This blog takes a close look at intelligence analysis as it applies to corporate security and executive protection. Just what is intelligence analysis? How does it support executive protection efforts? And why do security departments at some of our Fortune 500 clients choose to embed external intelligence analysts within their own organizations?

What is intelligence analysis, and why do companies need it?

Intelligence analysts gather various types of data from a wide variety of sources. They then transform that data into actionable information that management can use as part of their decision-making processes.

In the context of executive protection (EP), intelligence analysis is concerned with risks and threats to a company’s people, assets, operations and reputation. These risks and threats can be related to geopolitical developments, terrorism, civil unrest, national or local politics. They can also be related to individuals or groups that target, or might target, the company or its more prominent principals.

The objective of corporate intelligence analysis is not to offer recommendations as such, but to monitor and analyze the ever-changing security situation in which the international corporation operates.

What do intelligence analysts actually do? What does their day look like?

The work of intelligence analysts includes gathering many types of data in many ways, and creating a variety of reports that turn that data into actionable intelligence.

There are at least four ways in which they do this.

1. They monitor news

Along with their morning coffee, intelligence analysts ingest heavy quantities of news and current events from a wide variety of sources every day. Analysts are constantly on the lookout for events and incidents that could impact a client’s business as well as the vertical markets in which they operate.

In addition to knowing what’s happening worldwide, they keep a close eye on their specific region (for example, Asia/Pacific), and on any national or local news that could affect the security of the client’s business or people.

Analysts don’t simply report the news—they filter it and analyze it for their clients. They use a variety of public and proprietary news sources, alerts, social media platforms and even deep web data.

Analysts look for changes in normal patterns. They attempt to identify emerging patterns that could make a difference to the client’s security situation. And they try to detect anomalies that may turn out to be significant.

The output of this intensive news monitoring is a daily report for management.

2. They create “travel intelligence assessments” and “event intelligence assessments”

When a company’s principals travel to a city, or the company is involved in an event in that city, intelligence analysts makes their focus more local.

They use all the news sources mentioned above, but they also draw on a network of people on the ground. This can include the client’s regional security advisors and local employees; if the analyst is embedded by an EP provider, his network will also include all of the EP provider’s people in the region or city.

International news agencies don’t necessarily report on everything that can disrupt a major city for the foreign visitor. Such disruptions can be anything from a water main bursting on a busy road to a strike or demonstration. By drawing on local intel rather than wire reports, the analyst gains critical, up-to-the-minute understanding of the situation even in remote locations – and despite linguistic differences.

3. They create ad hoc or proactive reports on emerging risks and threats

If you do business in Nigeria, you’ll no doubt want to know all you can about Boko Haram, and how this movement can affect your company and personnel both now and in the future. Similarly, if operations take some of your staff to or near areas where the Ebola epidemic was reported, having up to date information on the risk is critical.

Intelligence analysts prepare reports on regional trends as they emerge, so that management is in the know before the news hits the major media. They are also tasked with writing ad hoc analyses of specific issues that could impact the corporation regionally, nationally or locally.

4. They provide immediate responses and updates during major incidents

Whether it’s an earthquake, typhoon or terrorist attack that disrupts business as usual, corporations need reliable information and analyses that enable management to assess the situation and act accordingly.

If you’ve got people on the ground when a catastrophic incident takes place, you want facts fast in order to ensure their wellbeing.

Immediate updates and analyses can be made as soon as a major incident takes places. For example, timely reporting immediately after the recent attacks in Paris and Copenhagen can be crucial to both expats and regional management. And as the dust settles, intelligence analysts might also examine the wider implications of such attacks for the client and the region.

How does intelligence analysis support the EP effort? And how can EP support intelligence analysis?

When the EP team is preparing a detail in a specific region or locale, they rely on intelligence analysts for informative briefs that help them create optimal plans for client safety.

Unlike third-party intel that provides standardized, one-size-fits-all information on a country or city, dedicated intelligence analysts filter data according to their client’s specific needs. Such intelligence briefs can be as comprehensive or specific as necessary. They can assess the risks and threats from local individuals, groups or events. They can also be used to help plan the ideal route from airport to meeting venues to hotel.

In a similar fashion, localized external EP resources can also contribute to a client’s intelligence analysis efforts. Internationally oriented EP teams typically have extensive contacts and knowhow both on the ground and as part of their management team, and can help with:

  • Real-time intel from many regions, countries and cities worldwide
  • Specific information regarding specific locations (for example, the best route to take from airport to hotel in Kathmandu on a specific day at a specific time)
  • Insight from experts within the EP management team into key security issues that affect the location

Why some of our major clients choose to establish embedded intelligence analysis services

Rather than setting up their own intelligence analysis department or simply subscribing to 3rd party intelligence analysis service, a number of our clients have asked us to help set up programs in which our intelligence analysts are embedded into their organization.

These embedded programs have a number of advantages:

  • Dedicated to client needs: Rather than serving up “standard” intelligence for many companies, the embedded intelligence analyst views the world through a client filter. The focus is on client-specific intelligence and other data relevant to the client’s industry or verticals. The analysts adapt to the client’s changing needs, for example by monitoring activities in a specific location when client principals are there.
  • Integrated with the client’s organization and system: The embedded analyst is an integrated part of the client’s security organization. He works at the client’s office, has a well-defined role within the client’s overall security setup, and maintains relevant networks throughout the corporation. And let’s not forget that intelligence analysis can support and enhance the client’s business intelligence efforts, too.
  • Integrated with the external EP organization: The embedded analyst is also part of the external EP provider’s organization. As the EP organization employs a number of people around the world in similar positions, analysts are able to work together across clients and regions to solve specific intel challenges. They are also able to share information and competencies that make everyone smarter. Intelligence gathered by the EP team in one location gets added to the overall intel input, and is available throughout the EP and client organizations.
  • Quick to set up and run: Because we’ve done it before and can draw on an extensive network of experts, implementation is reduced to days and weeks rather than months.
  • Predictable costs: The program can be scaled precisely to client needs, and can easily be scaled up or down as needs change.

Three ecosystems are better than one

Embedded analysts work in three ecosystems that all overlap:

  • The client’s worldwide organization
  • The external EP company’s worldwide organization
  • The individual security analyst’s personal network, which is independent of either organization. This includes people who work in other organizations that he can contact in order to source or check information.

Embedded intelligence analysts are, admittedly, not for everyone. Small or medium sized companies do not typically have the scale to make embedded programs work for them.

AS Solution currently has embedded intelligence analysts at several of our Fortune 500 clients, and we continue to add new positions.

See more information about our approche to intelligence analysis services here

Ray O’Hara, CPP

Executive Vice President

Prior to entering the corporate security sector in the late 1970s, Ray was a supervising detective for the Los Angeles Police Department. He led corporate security for Weyerhaeuser and GTE, and headed Garda World Security Corporation’s (formerly Vance) security consulting and investigations projects worldwide.

Ray has served ASIS in numerous capacities: Chairman of the Board and President of the International Board of Directors; President of the Professional Certification Board; and Chair of the ASIS International Investigations Council. Board certified in security management by ASIS International, Ray is considered a risk and vulnerability expert, and is a sought-after consultant in business vulnerabilities, homeland security initiatives, terrorism and political threats.