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Do military intelligence techniques work in the private sector?

Applying military theories and doctrine to the private sector is nothing new, and is often an effective way to mitigate against the ever-changing threats that businesses face today. When applied to the security industry, this takes the form of using militaristic analytical tools adapted and applied to meet the needs of clients, rather than military commanders. The question is – how useful are they? The clearest benefit of using these analytical concepts and models in a private sector context is that they can be adapted to any political, legal and financial constraint. Indeed, even the simplest of principles can be rolled out on a large scale and at a pace. When combined with risk appetite that is wholly owned by clients, this makes for an agile and innovative process.

Added to this, these processes are forged in the fire (recently, at least) of a risk averse culture of accountability – this has meant that the quantitative audit process that underpins intelligence assessment is stronger than ever. Military principles of analysis are adaptable, provide accountability and provide a clear view of the intelligence cycle, as discussed in previous articles. When in expert hands and with the intelligence cycle as a handrail, military principles of analysis can be highly effective, useful tools. Military intelligence gathering practices can be applied to more established forms of business analysis to help provide more bespoke intelligence outputs. Well-established business tools such as SWOT analyses and Critical Path Analysis can be further strengthened when doctrinal principles are applied. Through the use of inductive predictive analysis, we can go further than simply forecasting outcomes of events, but forecast possible outcomes, quantified using tools such as the Cone of Plausibility or by creating a Probability Yardstick that can give as clear a picture as possible of what the most likely/favourable outcome(s) might be. Both of these models provide tangible, quantifiable information so our clients have a clearer picture of what the intelligence we’re giving them actually means to them. So what? Why apply doctrine to civilian sector intelligence gathering? Ultimately, it provides a far more complete intelligence package to our clients than using simple, ready-made collection and dissemination techniques. Military doctrine has been refined continually for decades, as intelligence becomes more and more crucial in gaining an edge in asymmetric conflicts. In the private sector, increased digital threats have created much the same issue, where in order to protect against both economic threats and their competition, companies need more than just a traditional intelligence product. As with any form of intelligence work, it is crucial that clients put their trust in the processes and methods used, and the people using them. Much the same way that military intelligence practitioners need to generate confidence in their commanders, we need to generate confidence in our clients. Adapting analytical tools used by militaries allows us to strike a balance between providing an honest assessment in which nothing is ever certain, but also covering for a range of different outcomes, allowing both us and our clients to prepare contingencies. Viewing the private sector as a battlefield has become an ever more fashionable way of working, but when it comes to forming creative, comprehensive intelligence, it has some distinct benefits, particularly when used alongside other ways of thinking.


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