Intelligence in some form is in use today across a broad spectrum. No longer just the purview of Government entities, business intelligence is a common term and practice amongst corporations. Today, in the internet age, there is an abundance of readily accessible information about any given topic or person. The immense growth of social networking in the last few years has added to a rich information bank that is readily accessible to anyone with an internet connection. The challenge today is to sift through immense quantities of information to uncover and piece together the information you require into an intelligence picture that supports your operations. The value of your own information can increase exponentially when combined with open source research and other entities with whom you are willing to share some information.
Why Have an Intelligence Hub?
An intelligence hub is a central repository for intelligence gleaned from different entities. These entities can be different departments within one entity or they can be a cooperative venture between different entities. Before setting up an intelligence hub it is essential to ask the question why? The answer to this question will help determine the purpose of your intelligence hub. An intelligence hub without a clearly defined purpose will generate lots of activity and few results. An intelligence hub can be created to fill a singular need, such as sharing information about a single cross-jurisdictional investigation or to address a multitude of related issues such as sharing threat information and lessons learned about a country or region where cooperating
entities are operating. Once you have determined the need and purpose it is important to follow a structured process to ensure your hub meets the purpose for which it was created.
Setting up an Intelligence Hub
Identify the Participants
Who are the participants that should be included? As an example, the borderless nature of crime and terrorism has seen many intelligence hubs or fusion centres created to allow law enforcement and intelligence agencies to share information in support of a common goal. There must be trust and common ground between the participants. Ideally, each participant will have information to contribute and something to gain through their participation.
Agree on Governance
A board of directors or steering committee from each participating organization should be formed to agree on how the hub will be governed and to strategically direct the activities of the intelligence hub. Crucial to success is determining what information will be shared and what will not be shared. Corporations, in particular, have valid concerns about proprietary information that must be protected. Determining up front what information will go into the hub and how it will be shared will make sure that expectations are clear from the start. Once the information is in the hub how will it be protected? What level of security do you need to meet all participants’ risk tolerance level? Once the hub is up and running how will decisions on priority and activity be made and by whom? Ideally, Directors should be committed enough to attend steering meetings and senior enough that they can make decisions on behalf of their organization.
Set Primary Intelligence Requirements
Once the participants are chosen and the governance has been set it is time to set the primary intelligence requirements. These are the main topics that the participants agree should be the focus of the intelligence hub’s efforts. Primary intelligence requirements should be reviewed continually and updated regularly to ensure that they are still meeting the needs of the participants. Normally these topics will be areas where a gap exists in the information required by the participants to enable their operations.
Create a Collection Plan
Once the requirements are defined a formal collection plan should be developed to determine sources of information available to meet the requirements and how to obtain information from these sources. There are many legitimate source of information that, combined with the information the participants already have, can provide valuable intelligence that can mitigate threats, improve operations keep employees safe. Potential sources include Government agencies, open-source searches, and interviews of knowledgeable persons or partner companies. A formal collection plan will keep activity focused toward results that flow from the primary intelligence requirements. It will ensure time is not wasted on broad and general fishing
expeditions and instead focused on what is vital to the participating organizations.
Create and Maintain an Analysis Capability
Get the tools and training required to analyze your intelligence. Depending on the volume and complexity of your intelligence needs this may range from rudimentary training and systems to complex training and technical tools. There are excellent tools to assist in analyzing vast quantities of information to produce focused intelligence. A common mistake; however, is to purchase tools such as intelligence software without establishing the framework for your intelligence hub. Properly used tools are powerful enablers but without strategy, they have nothing to enable. Your intelligence framework and products required will dictate the extent and complexity of the tools and training you will need.
Intelligence that is not distributed outside the Hub to people who will use it is of no value. What products are expected to meet the needs of the participating organizations? Products can range from simple briefings and written updates to complex reports with link analysis diagrams that show the reader important links amongst vast quantities of information. How often will they be distributed and who specifically will get them? Briefings on time sensitive information may be required immediately whereas monthly reports may be sufficient for longer term issues.
Continued success of an intelligence hub requires a feedback system to make sure that the intelligence program is continually focused on the needs of participating organizations. Are the primary intelligence requirements up to date? Are the products useful and timely? Are changes required? In addition to these questions communicating success stories resulting from the intelligence hub’s efforts reinforces the value of the hub and the efforts of those doing the analysis.
Intelligence, like any other activity provides best value within a strategically planned framework linked to the needs of the organizations it supports. The quantity of information available through open sources today requires a formal approach to sift through it and identify what is important. Linkages between pieces of information held by different entities can increase the value of one’s own information immensely. An intelligence hub concept offers immense value to partners willing to share with each other and that take the time to build an agreement and intelligence strategy that will meet their needs.