Pathways to a Strategic Intelligence Program

A strategic intelligence program, bolstered by data analytics, can help businesses more rapidly understand the risks they face -- and therefore become more resilient. Here are ways to approach this.

Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer

June 24, 2022

6 Min Read
female IT worker reviewing data dashboards
Dmytro Sidelnikov via Alamy Stock

Traditional, siloed approaches to risk management are no longer adequate to meet the rapidly evolving and interconnected challenges currently facing organizations. Strategic intelligence programs bring a more holistic, and dynamic approach to addressing these challenges -- one that continuously assimilates and analyzes a wide variety of information and adapts to a changing risk environment.

It’s important for strategic intelligence and tech-enablement to be focused on risk management and organizational resiliency. Since risks are often highly interconnected across organizations, it can be difficult to discern their origins.

Keri Calagna, principal with Deloitte & Touche and the strategic risk advisory leader for the risk and financial advisory practice, explains that as organizations and industries advance, higher levels of complexity and uncertainty often follow.

“Implementing strategic intelligence programs can help equip leadership with more and more timely information to support decision-making around risk management and other strategic areas, helping organizations become more agile, resilient and competitive,” she says.

She adds cognitive technologies and external risk-sensing solutions can be invaluable in analyzing large volumes of data and help to generate actionable insights.

Risk Dashboards

Calagna notes that another tool some organizations use is called a strategic intelligence dashboard or dynamic risk dashboard.

“This can offer leadership a consolidated view of strategic topics, the data points from which can be connected to show impacts across disparate areas of an organization,” she says.

For example, a dynamic executive-level dashboard may track the organization’s most significant existing and emerging risks to strategic goals, as well as key metrics or measures used to monitor these risks.

Mark Giuliano, senior managing director and chief administrative officer for Invesco, says it’s also important to realize that risks to the organization can come not only from malicious actors like cybercriminals but also from more general sources like geopolitical instability, activism, environmental disasters, or health crises.

“Understanding the interplay among all of these risks using what we call a ‘convergence model’ for risk management is crucial to building and maintaining the resiliency of your organization,” he says.

Avoid Building on Specific Tool/Platform

Because the technologies -- and the needs from an intelligence gathering and analysis standpoint -- are always evolving, there is an acute need to be careful about building the program around any tool or technology platform.

“It may be useful to think first about the various types of threats your organization, be they cybercrime and cyber-attacks, geopolitical instability, environmental threats, misappropriation of your corporate brand, and so on, and then focus on technologies available to gather, analyze and communicate the related data,” Giuliano explains.

For example, technologies that can scour the dark web for information relating to your company can be helpful in preventing or detecting cybercrime and social media platforms can provide early notice of potential reputation risk issues.

“I’d also note that AI and machine learning tools continue to develop rapidly, and they offer huge potential to increase the and robustness of strategic intelligence programs,” he adds.

Visualization Capabilities

Strong data visualization capabilities can also be a huge boost to the effectiveness of a strategic intelligence program because they help executive leadership, including the board, quickly understand and evaluate risk information.

“There’s an overwhelming amount of data out there and so it’s crucial to be able to separate the signal from the noise,” he says. “Good data visualization tools allow you to do that in a very efficient, impactful and cost-effective manner, and to communicate information to busy senior leaders in a way that is most useful for them.”

Calagna agrees that data visualization tools play an important role in bringing a strategic intelligence to life for leaders across functions within any organization, helping them to understand complex scenarios and insights more easily than narrative and other report forms may permit.

“By quickly turning high data volumes into complex analyses, data visualization tools can enable organizations to relay near real-time insights and intelligence that support better informed decision-making,” she says.

Data visualization tools can help monitor trends and assumptions that impact strategic plans and market forces and shifts that will inform strategic choices. These tools can also help with gathering threat intelligence, sensing emerging risks and opportunities to seize, and gathering competitive intelligence.

Calagna adds that for a strategic intelligence program to succeed, the full C-suite and other executives need to be fully supportive and engaged.

“Further, the strategic intelligence team needs to be highly communicative and connected with executives to build and evolve the program as organizational strategy and mission-critical issues change,” she explains.

Get Buy-In at Exec Level

From Giuliano’s perspective, buy-in at the executive level is crucial to success in building a strategic intelligence program. “The good news is that once they’ve understood the power and utility of such a program, leaders across virtually all areas of an organization are usually eager to embrace it,” he says.

The risk management functions, including legal, compliance and audit, are at the top of that list, with IT and security also critical stakeholders. “It’s important to solicit input from management and the board since they will be among the primary beneficiaries of the insights generated by the strategic intelligence group,” Giuliano adds.

The important thing to realize is that this is all a two-way street: Each of those other groups will be contributing their own specific expertise to the strategic intelligence team who, in turn, provides the broader organization with more holistic and comprehensive risk information.

“I think of our global strategic intelligence team as the ‘connective tissue’ that links together the many other parts of our firm that have a role to play in maintaining a strong risk management environment,” he says. “As always, open, and regular communication the key.”

Giuliano adds a critical -- and often misunderstood -- point for organizations is to leverage tools they already use for strategic planning or sales purposes. From his perspective, building a robust strategic intelligence program is much more about leveraging and connecting the people, technology, and information that already exist within your organization than it is about hiring a whole new group of individuals.

“Resources that you’re already deploying to gather information in connection with strategic planning and sales activities are a great example of that,” he notes.

That information can also be used to help identify potential risks or business implications for the firm -- for example, if your future plans include a major sales initiative in a part of the world that may be facing instability.

What to Read Next:

Protecting From the Threat Within: How To Manage Insider Risk

The Power of Decision Intelligence: Strategies for Success

How Corporate Risk Management is Changing

About the Author(s)

Nathan Eddy

Freelance Writer

Nathan Eddy is a freelance writer for InformationWeek. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin.

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