Strategic intelligence has been a point of concern to policymakers in many developed countries, and different researchers have attempted to describe its utility in the decision-making process. According to Johnson (2007, 84), strategic intelligence entails the use of intelligence in making strategic management decisions and planning. Strategic intelligence also involves the collection, analysis, and distribution of relevant information for strategic management (Yates and Akhgar 2013, 138).
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Johnson (2007, 97) adds that intelligence is an important component in rational decision-making for organizations, individuals, and national governments. Governments are important users of strategic intelligence with policymakers, in particular, being involved in the utility of the model. The importance of strategic intelligence has increased over time due to economic, political, social, and security concerns that define the 21st century.
The use of strategic intelligence to policymakers
Strategic intelligence is “important to decision-makers and in making national policies” (Johnson and Wirtz 2004, 169). The primary use of strategic intelligence in any country across the world is to develop an adequate security strategy to counter any threats to the safety of the nation. The 21st century has been marked by several sources of security threats from all over the world, where the traditional, predictable security risks have been replaced by more advanced and unpredictable ones.
Johnson and Wirtz (2004, 173) posit that in a bid to prevent “harm to any nation or citizens, policymakers need strategic intelligence to make strategic decisions.” Policymakers are involved in developing laws and policies that protect the privacy, rights, and civil liberties of their citizens (Johnson and Wirtz 2004, 180). For them to be able to produce effective laws and policies, they need to be informed by strategic intelligence, which is gathered through reliable methods.
In most parts of the world, policymakers are the main determinants of actions to be taken in the engagement between the government and the issues affecting the nation. Therefore, these individuals need to have strategic intelligence to support their decisions on key issues affecting the nation (Fleisher and Bensoussan 2007, 93). Policymakers often face complex issues in the course of their decision-making, which is often associated with uncertainty. According to Johnson (2007, 114), strategic intelligence can be an important tool to reduce uncertainty, and thus policymakers can use it to gather insight on these complex issues.
Traditionally, the world entailed special states that could control their internal affairs independently without external influence. However, the 21st century is characterized by nations that can be regarded as major powers, but they are highly dependent on other nations across the world courtesy of globalization. Every nation has to control what happens within its borders and take care of the external influences (Fleisher and Bensoussan 2007, 99). Therefore, policymakers should utilize strategic intelligence in the interaction between the external forces and their nation. The formulation of strategic intelligence by the organs charged with this role leads to the development of a report on the same. This report is often presented to the policymakers that proceed to use the information in the document to make relevant changes.
The institutions of executive government are the main consumers of intelligence (Johnson and Wirtz 2004, 189). They are responsible for the performance of special sectors of the country, including security, economy, education, and law enforcement. In a bid to carry out these functions, these special bodies need policies that are informed by strategic intelligence. Policymakers also have a role in influencing the decisions that are made by individuals, companies, and organizations to the benefit of the citizens. Using strategic intelligence, these individuals are in a position to advise the private institutions adequately in matters relating to the rights and privileges of citizens.
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Strategic intelligence has become a significant part of any decision-making process in the global economy. The performance of a nation’s economy is affected by the performance of the global economy, and the factors affecting this relationship are complex for the ordinary policymakers (Fleisher and Bensoussan 2007, 108). Therefore, they must have an expert team to develop a strategy that is crucial to the influence on decisions that will positively affect the country. Strategic intelligence has also highlighted the importance of security in decision making. Some of the security threats that exist in this century are unpredictable. Terrorism counties threaten the stability of many nations across the world, and countermeasures have been developed to predict and avoid any risks. The development of security countermeasures is heavily dependent on the strategic intelligence that a government is in a position to obtain (Johnson and Wirtz 2004, 190).
The five basic components of strategic intelligence have been applied in the policy-making and business environments. The five processes include “planning, collection and processing, analyzing, disseminating intelligence and evaluation, and control” (Fleisher and Bensoussan 2007, 117). The cycle must proceed in this order for it to produce the best results. This part looks at the individual components of the cycle and the importance of having an integrated study rather than separating them.
This stage entails the determination of policy needs in a country or the specific area that strategic intelligence is to be applied. The individuals involved in making strategic intelligence policies need to be aware of the prevailing conditions in the country and internationally and use such knowledge to improve and enhance the policy-making process. Adequate structures must be put in place to ensure that the process of gathering strategic intelligence is swift and accurate. The bodies charged with the development of adequate strategic intelligence policies must be to ensure that they plan adequately before the start of the process. The planning process contributes to the development of informed strategic decisions (Fleisher and Bensoussan, 2007, 121). The initial step involves the determination of the needs of a region or a country, evaluating the requirements of this region, and putting in place a plan that is to be followed in the process of gathering strategic intelligence. Individuals involved in the planning of strategic intelligence should be well-informed on these basic requirements, as this step is crucial in the decision-making process.
Data Collection and processing
The second stage of strategic intelligence is data collection and processing, which is guided by the planning undertaken in the first step. The process of data collection should be undertaken in accordance with the issues established as important to the nation in the policymaking process (Fleisher and Bensoussan 2007, 119). If strategic intelligence is to be applied in the formulation of security strategies, then the data collection should be focused on the security issues in the country and internationally. Data collection should thus be from the local and international sources since the policymakers will use the report generated to influence local and international events. The data collection methods should be classified at this stage and the individuals concerned with the collection of data should use methods that have been shown to be effective in the past (Liebowitz 2006, 200). The data collection and processing stage should also involve the reduction of the data, which may result in the collection of useful information in regard to intelligence. Processing of data obtained for strategic intelligence involves classifying it into the required categories for easier analysis. This step is followed by the analysis of the data collected.
Data analysis is the third stage of strategic intelligence activities, and in this process, the data collected is analyzed through the methods that are deemed as appropriate. The analysis seeks to identify a logical relationship amongst the various data collected and its presentation in a logical manner. The analysis part of strategic intelligence prioritizes the obtained data for each of the departments or according to the functions in policymaking. The activity of analyzing data from what is collected should be the work of highly qualified individuals that are in a position to categorize it into important and useful forms. The stage that follows the analysis stage is the dissemination stage (Liebowitz 2006, 207).
When the intelligence gathering teams are through with the collection of intelligence and its analysis, the responsible bodies have to hand over this information to the departments and other organs within the government for implementation and consideration. In countries where strategic intelligence activities are carried out with accuracy, the organs charged with the formulation of strategies collect the intelligence reports and find ways of utilizing them.
A proper structure for the dissemination of the intelligence should be available for governments, which use this information to inform about the relevant policies to be implemented. In addition, for the right information to be applied to the respective sectors of any country, the individuals charged with the formulation of strategies should be approachable (Liebowitz 2006, 214). They should also consider the use of intelligence in the decision-making process before they initiate the process of strategic intelligence gathering and dissemination if the intelligence information is followed by the evaluation and control process
Evaluation and Control
The evaluation and control stage of a strategic intelligence process entails verification of the effectiveness of the entire process. The adequacy of strategic intelligence in satisfying the needs of the concerned organizations or departments is evaluated as per recommendations provided to the policymakers. The best way of carrying out this process is gathering the feedback on the entire process and using information collected to improve future decision-making (Montgomery and Weinberg 1979, 44). Lawmakers, which are the main users of the strategic intelligence, should be responsible for the provision of feedback on the effectiveness of strategies brought about by the strategic intelligence.
The Importance of Integration
The five pillars of strategic intelligence are effective if applied in a systemic order and if used together. The process of planning does not stop after the initiation of the strategic information activities, and those charged with the implementation of these stages should install the important parts as they carry out the activities comprising the cycle. The planning should continue throughout the process of implementation of strategic intelligence, with alterations made to the original plans.
Data collection is also dependent on the other processes, and thus the individuals charged with the collection of data for implementation in the strategic intelligence should continue with the process at all the affected levels (Fleisher and Bensoussan 2007, 78). Intelligence changes from time to time can occur in the process of analysis, which means that the data collected become irrelevant. The intelligence gathering process should thus be continuous. Policymakers should also use the latest information from strategic activities in their policy formulation. This assertion means that the availability of strategic intelligence occurs only if the intelligence is relevant to the present time.
Analysis is one of the processes in the cycle that is not always continuous. The analysis of intelligence gathered for use in policy formulation should be regular where policymakers need to use it to make changes to policies. Analysis should be intertwined with the four other processes and should be continuous where resources are available. The dissemination of the information gathered from the activities should be accurate, and changes need to be consistent to the prevailing national and global conditions (Chainey and Chapman 2013, 475). The different methods used to disseminate the information gathered to the policymakers should allow for changes with respect to the available capacity.
For governments that can only implement some sections of the strategic intelligence, the determination of these sections should occur via the prevailing economic, social, and political conditions (Fleisher and Bensoussan 2007, 129). The evaluation and control phase starts with evaluation of previous use of strategic intelligence, which allows for effective planning of future strategies (Fleisher and Bensoussan 2007, 186). The team gathering strategic intelligence should constantly evaluate the process they are using (Chainey and Chapman 2013, 478). This assertion means that there is a need for regular feedback at all the points in the intelligence gathering.
All the five pillars of strategic intelligence are interdependent, and thus they should be covered in an integrated manner for belter efficiency (Chainey and Chapman 2013, 480). Separation into the different components leads to the poor performance of the process, and the resultant information is not as efficient as expected (Johnson 2007, 138). Separation of the basic components also means that the process of intelligence gathering takes longer than when they have already been integrated. In the evaluation of the effectiveness of developing policies, the integration of the various processes is one of the major considerations (Chainey and Chapman 2013, 484).
The interrelationship of the five pillars of strategic intelligence is also important to the development of policies addressing the most relevant problems in society. The above argument demonstrates that the processes of strategic intelligence should involve the consideration of all the pillars instead of their separation in their study.
Strategic intelligence is an important guide for policymakers especially in the 21st century. The modern societies are interdependent, hence the need for internal and external strategic intelligence gathering. To some extent, the decision-making process in any country is informed by the strategic intelligence available. The five established pillars of strategic intelligence include the planning stage, data collection and processing, analysis of the data, dissemination and control, and evaluation. These processes have been explored in this paper and should be considered as integrated and interdependent elements.
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