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What Business Intelligence Should Learn

from Military Intelligence 1
by John Kelleher

Oxymorons are the playthings of comedians and pundits alike. From jumbo shrimp to civil war to
deafening silence, these phrases are always good for an audience chuckle. The king of all
oxymorons, of course, is the ubiquitous military intelligence. Laugh if you will, but there's a
newcomer on the horizon; the latest contradiction in terms must certainly be our own field of
business intelligence.

The laughter about military intelligence is based in part on a widely perceived history of military
intelligence failures. From the Trojan horse and the attack on Pearl Harbor through more recent
tragedies of a global scale, military intelligence has all too often looked the part of the fool. Failures
are painfully visible.

But it is also true that many battles have been won, or avoided altogether, based on accurate and
timely intelligence. Indeed, every military intelligence failure on one side has come as the result of
a military intelligence success on the other. This fact is often ignored or unknown.

Corporate executives, before joining in the mirth, might want to consider their own level of success
and failure. Businesses do not compete with weapons, but they plainly face off in the world of
finance. Victories are measured in profits and market share; defeats can be detected by an
examination of the balance sheet.

The startling number of corporate bankruptcies is as much a failure of business intelligence as it is
of business operations. While some failures have been the result of criminal activity, others have
come about because of the inability of leaders to make the correct decisions in the face of changing
economic conditions. To at least some extent it is not a question of management ability; it is the lack
of a coherent intelligence structure to provide guidance to decision-makers.

You may note that in the definition and description of business intelligence shown here there is no
mention of data mining, warehousing, dashboards or a host of other items often touted as business
intelligence solutions. This model deals more with the practice of business intelligence on its own
terms rather than as a subset of what any given software or hardware provider is trying to claim is
"real" business intelligence.

It is time for business intelligence to define its role and the part it is to play in the modern corporate
environment. An excellent place to start would be to determine what lessons can be learned from
the lengthy experience of the military intelligence world.

What is Intelligence?

A review of the literature on the subject of business intelligence reveals the lack of a universal
understanding of the terminology. Most writers overlook a baseline definition. They make the
assumption that "everybody knows," and they're not about to waste words.

On the other hand, many providers of business intelligence solutions are inclined to define business
intelligence based on the products and services they provide. Does their expertise incorporate

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http://www.information-management.com/specialreports/20041012/1011770-1.html, accesat in 20 NOV 2016.
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of course. analysis. processing. development of appropriate intelligence architecture. This concise definition breaks the final intelligence product into its several component parts. data warehouses? Then you can imagine that business intelligence from their perspective requires geospatial functionality. however. According to the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military Terms. many of the sources that claim to provide a definition for business intelligence when what they are actually defining is the business intelligence Cycle or business intelligence process. so let us rephrase this to read: The business intelligence cycle is the process by which data is converted into information and intelligence and made available to users. To apply this definition to the business community. processing. 2 . few companies will.the definition of business intelligence . The military has had centuries to develop a working definition of intelligence. star schemas. Specifically. there are six phases in the cycle:  Planning and Direction: determination of intelligence requirements. evaluation and interpretation of available information concerning one or more companies or the general business environment. With this first step . The term cycle. evaluation and interpretation of available information concerning foreign countries or areas. You can be assured that once again the DOD offers guidance on what comprises the cycle's component parts. Intelligence is: the product resulting from the collection. Here we need make no distinction between the military and business definitions. But there is a step missing from the DOD definition which is generally accepted in the business intelligence community. then. With some slight modifications it stands as a good starting point for a definition of business intelligence. some minor changes must be made. integration. Returning to the Department of Defense (DOD). after all. stars and warehouses. Indeed.out of the way. we learn that the intelligence cycle is: the process by which information is converted into intelligence and made available to users. as published and maintained by the Defense Technical Information Center. admit to being out to take over the world! For business needs and as used in this article. implies a series of steps involved in this process. integration. The Business Intelligence Cycle The definition we derived here for business intelligence defines a product that results from an explicit process.geospatial tracking. If their engineers figure how to build Calvin and Hobbes's transmogrifier tomorrow. and issuance of orders and requests to information collection agencies. the definition reads: business intelligence (BI) is the product resulting from the collection. analysis. preparation of a collection plan. let us turn our attention to evaluating how intelligence is actually created and presented to the senior corporate decision makers. you can bet that by next week it will be a requirement of your business intelligence system.  Collection: acquisition of information and the provision of this information to processing elements.

 We use exchange the term decision-maker for commander. some managers can be tough enough to work for without giving them airs! Phases of the Intelligence Cycle Now that the phases have been described in general. the resources the company is willing to commit to the project set aside. new sources. these iterations will lead to a more cohesive and responsive intelligence organization. Subsequent phases are intended to filter this mass of data. At the beginning there may be a limited number of questions in need of answers. and interpretation of all source data and the preparation of intelligence products in support of known or anticipated user requirements.  Dissemination and Integration: delivery of intelligence to users in a suitable form and the application of the intelligence to appropriate missions.  Evaluation and Feedback: continuous assessment of intelligence operations during each phase of the intelligence cycle to ensure that the commander's intelligence requirements are being met. but this should scale up in time. But over time. collected data is evaluated and converted to actual information. and functions. Collection Sources of data abound. the initial and long-term goals defined and the corporate sponsor . With only minor changes.introduced.  Analysis and Production: conversion of processed information into intelligence through the integration. and a host of other changes that cannot legitimately be planned for at the outset. it can be helpful to understand them and their relationship to one another in greater detail. we can accept these phases of the intelligence cycle directly into business. Because business intelligence is a cycle.the executive who will shepherd the process along .  Processing and Exploitation: conversion of collected information into forms suitable to the production of intelligence. evaluation. The collection phase of the intelligence cycle spreads a broad net to capture all of the data that has potential utility for the business questions. new personnel. tasks. analysis. The purpose of business intelligence at a company must be plainly identified. Planning and Direction This is the initial phase that is so critical toward the successful implementation of a business intelligence infrastructure at any business.  During the processing and exploitation phase. Processing and Exploitation 3 . The key changes to be made include:  Collection actually refers to the acquisition of raw data which in turn is provided to the next stage. but identifying useful sources can become as difficult as identifying a single snowflake in the midst of a blizzard. but collection should have little in the way of constraints other than the physical capacity of an organization to store the data. this stage will be reiterated numerous times. There will be new demands.

is part of the original planning phase. Processing ensures that the data is appropriately staged and modified for use in later work. Analysis and Production This might be considered the most intensive phase of the intelligence cycle. this phase ensures that it will be available when needed the analysts. Feedback. While not all of the resulting information will be pertinent to the business questions. so carefully and expensively prepared. is a user-initiated action that brings to the attention of the intelligence management team both the good and bad aspects of both the intelligence product and cycle. on the other hand. while still more will be hand written or computer encoded. quality intelligence allows for a better informed decision. Analysis generally leads to decisions regarding the pertinence of the information. outdated or inappropriate data can be discarded. other in computer text. can easily gather dust and be of little use to any user unless a comprehensive publishing plan is in place. and the resulting presentation to decision-makers must take those perspectives into consideration. Information will likely arrive from several sources. Lacking any small piece of information could have a catastrophic effect on the resulting intelligence product. and may require that those decisions be explained. Incorporating intelligence into business operations should enhance the likelihood of success. New demands will undoubtedly be generated and old ones either dropped or modified. Educated users can then assess how best to use the intelligence products to respond to given situations. Evaluation suggests an active participation by the planners to ensure that the results are what were envisioned from the outset. Implementation of those plans takes place here. Some aspects of the information will be examined from different perspectives. Exploitation then works to extract meaningful intelligence from the data. Evaluation and Feedback Once the intelligence has been shared and decision makers prompted to fulfill their role in the company. while the remainder can be passed along.Data will arrive at a company in any number of formats. Useless. Some may appear as large databases. Success in a business intelligence organization is often measured by the increased demand on the system by both current and new customers. An intelligence product. Dissemination and Integration Often overlooked is the issue of getting intelligence to the people who need it. Whether the intelligence will be pushed out to users or made available to be pulled by the users - and which users will have access at all . It is critical for a successful business intelligence implementation that the individuals working on the analysis and fusion stages have complete access to the company's information. The information will then be individually reviewed and the results merged or fused into a single result set or intelligence product. The results of evaluation and feedback are returned to 4 . At a minimum. and decisions must be made to identify the sources that are essential to the business question or questions to be answered. people will determine whether or not the intelligence was adequate for the decisions being made.

in short.the planning and direction stage and. The restaurateur makes an intelligent business decision about how many chefs to schedule based on the outside weather. instead. Understanding the fundamentals of business intelligence based on lessons learned from centuries of military intelligence experience can better prepare the business intelligence professional for the real world. Notes on the Business /Military Intelligence Model Intelligence is not new nor is it a slave to any given level of technology. let businesses retire the "transmogrifier" and. It can. where appropriate. scrubbed and analyzed historical data identifies today as traditionally hot and warm pales in comparison to the unexpected cold front and pouring rain falling outside the kitchen window. It can reduce the practice of impulse buying expensive "solutions" that often end up being left on the shelf. propping open the door to the IT department or requiring the influx of an army of consultants. incorporated into the next iteration of the intelligence cycle. look up into the sky to learn if the sun is shining. 5 . The fact that highly reliable. This understanding can lead individuals to realize that business intelligence is the result of carefully designed and implemented thinking.