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Building the Intelligence Function: 7 Potholes on the Road to Success
With proper vision, capable teams, and intentional systems, the intelligence function can empower an organisation by illuminating risks and opportunities. However, many leaders underestimate the diligent planning and sustained commitment needed to build a successful one from scratch.
After consulting for numerous security teams over the years, we’ve seen chief security officers and their intelligence partners make the same preventable mistakes. Here are 7 of them:
1. Failure to Align 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘯 Define.
Without a shared understanding of what intelligence means and its purpose, you invite disillusionment. Get alignment early on key terms like “threat”, “risk” and “resilience”, then ensure your stakeholders are all on the same page regarding the function’s purpose and scope. If you put in the work up front to get all eyes on the same vision, it will prime the capability for growth.
2. Thinking in Silos.
With definitions in mind, chances are another business function is already performing intelligence in one form or another. Leave your ego at the door and tap into people across functions who hold relevant insights; whether in cyber, fraud, compliance, or competitive intelligence. Coordinate efforts to learn from each other, fill gaps, and inform requirements. It pays well to think outside the security bubble.
3. Inadequate Systems.
Attempting to build an intelligence function without proper infrastructure is like launching an app without code. Don't be lulled into taking shortcuts; you need rigorous systems for information collection, funneling data sources, doing analysis, and sharing insights. The more you sweat the details, the more resilient your function will be when things get hectic.
4. Innovation Avoidance.
Once you have those systems in place, don’t let them rot. Think of your intelligence team like a startup within the business. Embrace creativity, new ideas, and ingenuity at each stage of the intelligence cycle. There will be times when policies and bureaucracy stifle innovation, but this can also breed creative solutions if you allow the team to take calculated risks. On that note…
5. Betting on AI Too Early.
…AI holds promise but isn't a magic wand. Apply it deliberately for automatable tasks such as data collection and cleaning, but tread with caution on predictive modeling and risk forecasting. Good quality intelligence relies on human judgement, auditing, and contextualization of information to deliver the actionable insight your audience demands.
6. Obsessing About Pedigrees.
To keep up with change, you also need to ditch any preconceptions about must-have backgrounds. Some ex-military and law enforcement professionals transition seamlessly to corporate intelligence, many don't. Seek out balanced capabilities in analysis, data diving, critical thinking, investigating, and good judgement. Talent also takes time to cultivate, so develop your people relentlessly.
7. Not Securing Buy-In.
Finally, gaining leadership support is crucial but insufficient. Influencers across the organisation can stall progress if they don't see the value of intelligence. Tackle this by communicating benefits (in relatable language), addressing concerns transparently, and nurturing a culture that values foresight. Financial investment will only come with consistent, enterprise-wide support for your mission.
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