“Intelligence analysts inspire the future and define reality for decision makers—whose actions could alter it.”
RECONVERGE:G2 attendees continued Tuesday’s gathering with Dr. Craig Fleisher’s two-part session: an examination of “6tools Analytical Tools You Really Really Want.”
In part one, participants considered Dr. Fleisher’s thought provoking inquiry: Are you ready to take the next steps in doing business, competitive and market analysis at demonstrated to-flight levels? How has analysis evolved? Where is your operation on the spectrum of evolution? What methods and processes do you need to employ to keep up with the times? What endures, and where do you need to innovate?
In part two, attendees learned to put all the pieces together and how to apply six analytical tools to guide the process.
What is Analysis?
- Insights that answer what? Now what? So what?
- An application of art, science, and craft
- Deliberate conversations
- Focus on meeting client needs
- Mission driven
- Uses data, evidence, facts
- Human judgement and technology
- Exists in the realm of probability, relatives, options and justifications
It is NOT:
- Banalities and regurgitated answers
- Dark science or “gut instinct”
- Forwarded raw data
- Focused on “looking busy”
- Data driven, shallow, single-looped
- Genius at a desk
- Reporting history—static examination
- Based on speculation
- Leaning toward human judgement or technology
- Existing in certainty, absolutes, or one answer assertions
The CI process is as follows: Information gained in primary research combines with secondary sources, enters an “analytic cloud’ and analysis ultimately delivers insights to result in reduced uncertainty.
Analytic fitness is a focus on closing the gap of knowledge: We are unsure of which actions to take, nor are we aware of reactions to steps taken. Business solutions will link information to action, and this is where the effective analyst will add value.
Three big shifts have occurred in the evolution of analysis:
- Classical Analysis
- Second Generation Analysis
- Analysis 3.0
Analysis 3.0 is much more integrated than previous iterations of the analysis process as current analysis technique uses manual and technological approaches.
Another important change of thought is that we now realize analysis is not about providing answers, but rather, about asking better questions. We need to know what we are trying to determine at the outset by asking critical, relevant questions that help guide us to the best potential solutions.
Consider that our end-users “don’t know what they don’t know,” or, that they may not have awareness of variables in a situation that are impactful. To counteract this real possibility, the best analyst will ask questions with intent to provoke thought. They will boldly ask the questions that others may not want to confront.
A challenge is that the 3.0 analytical approach is highly collaborative, and others within the organization may not want to share information under their purview; corporate culture is a very important component as a success factor in the implementation of Analysis 3.0.
Consider where your organization exists within Analysis 3.0, suggested Dr. Fleisher. Networking, crowdsourcing, real-time visualization, and corporate culture are all relevant. It is also important to recognize that cultural shifts take time to occur and further, to gain acceptance.
Given these evolutionary circumstances, the systematic development of analysts is critical. The work of CI analysts can equate to the life or death of the organization, according to Dr. Fleisher, and this career path is one of high risk and high reward.
Applying effective analysis technique requires that CI professionals have awareness of their company’s abilities, capabilities, and processes such that they may help the company progress and thus provide greater value to the organization. Therefore, it is important to know where an organization exists on the scale of analytical evolution.
Participants asked themselves about their company’s status level (and assigned a numerical value) on 10 factors to determine where the organization sits on the evolutionary analysis scale.
This self-diagnose further reveals where plans to improve may be implemented; and strategies must be deliberately managed over time.
Part Two: The Six Essential Analytical Tools
- Four corners analysis
- A better (actionable) SWOT analysis
- Industry fusion analysis
- Scenario analysis
- Wargaming/Competitive simulations
- Win/Loss analysis
Dr. Fleisher presented pros and cons of these methods, and indicated that variances of each technique can be applied. The art, science, and craft of analysis come into play as practitioners choose which approach works best in given circumstances.
Each method considers particular KITS that will help determine which method provides best solutions for your particular business objective.
Four Corners Analysis
This method is useful in understanding the competition as it offers a “grounded approach” to analysis. It identifies the competition’s strategy and plans, predicts likely response to the initiatives of rivals, and assesses correlations between the competition’s strategy and its capabilities.
This approach knows the competition’s weaknesses, gaps, blind-spots, and vulnerabilities.
The four corners analysis includes considerations of motivations, management assumptions, current strategies, and capabilities; and is arguably the best tool for following the competition over time, according to Dr. Fleisher.
Secondary sources are helpful, but to provide updates, human intelligence will be imperative. Networks of collectors with access to the system will provide information to reduce potential for surprise and inhibit necessity to make decisions in “crisis mode.”
A Better SWOT Analysis
Surveys reveal, according to Dr. Fleisher, that SWOT is the most frequently used tool in CI. However, the problem is that it does not drive action. It is commonly used for planning purposes and to determine fits between strategy, capability, and external possibility.
Better SWOT analysis will take this favorite tool one step further. It will become a social exercise, and not occur just annually. It will become collaborative, and go beyond four groups of lists to prioritize and match these individual components such that decision makers will consequently glean actionable insights.
This method forces us to think systematically, determine confidence levels in threats, and moves the process into “real time.” Regular updates will detect shifts and help this method become more dynamic; recommendations analysts make will result from closer gaps due to this dynamic.
Industry Fusion Analysis
This approach is a combination of STEEP analysis and industry analysis; Porter’s 5 forces was provided as an example. Methods are never applied in isolation, according to Dr. Fleisher, and will vary by industry.
Questions answered in this approach allow decision supported analysis. Trends over time are tracked relative to key factors like barriers to entry, power of buyers, technology, substitutes, international influences, power of suppliers, government influence, competitors, and social influences.
Various considerations examined allow practitioners to evaluate and bring quantification to an analytical process that is often rather a qualitative one. Here, key events and trends are combined with processes.
This is another example of a third generation analytical model.
Another favorite technique, scenario analysis has existed for at least 100 years. Scenario analysis is a detailed look of the future based upon assumptions critical for evolution. It works best in high VUCA contexts. It is structured such that multiple scenarios address two common errors in decision making; under-prediction of impact and over-prediction of pace of change.
The overall purpose is to construct a shared baseline for strategic thinking and early warning.
Questions asked: How do we get started? Where are we now? Where do we go from here? What could the future look like? What impacts will the scenarios have on our company? How will we achieve our desired future?
Ideally, scenario analysis will drive action based on highly probable manifestations of the future, according to Dr. Fleisher.
This approach will benefit from ability to generate real-time data. Further, it gathers perspectives from a variety of sources.
This method assists organizations in avoiding the problems of repeating history in conducting business. This is another highly social, collaborative analytic technique that allows for a faster generation of responses. The challenge is it is time consuming, and requires the efforts and time of many valuable people; a resource-intensive analytical approach.
Wargaming will allow experimentation without the incurring of real-world costs.
This is a strategy-development model that allows iterative, culture-changing, live interaction. This occurs in real-time as multiple moves and responses are examined. Eventually, the goal is to generate new courses of action informed by the iteration of the activities discovered during the course of the process.
Typically courses of action are more robust than those determined in other techniques.
Deliverables of this analytical approach include forging a team mentality, understanding of the commander’s intent, an appreciation for the dynamics of the battlefield, identification of the best options to achieve CEO intent, and it generates tools and templates to carry out the process.
Win Loss Analysis
This technique is a good way to determine why an organization wins or loses customers. It identifies customer perceptions and provides information about your performance and that of the competition–consequently this information may be used to motivate sales staff and to prompt the research and development of products.
This can be another third-generation technique with capability to utilize real-time data.
Although each of these methods may be effective in their own right, it was impressed upon conference attendees that variances of each model as well as their implementation in combination will prove advantageous as CI practitioners hone both the science and art of their craft.
Find the methods that meet your KITs, says Dr. Fleisher. Use those that are dynamic, and make analysis an integral part of other CI processes. When you follow these guidelines, the time to insight will consequently be shorter, and improved outcomes and performance will result.