Intelligence cycle, the success for Decision Making processes

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Intelligence cycle, the success for Decision Making processes

Blog » Intelligence cycle, the success for Decision Making processes

For centuries, intelligence has been one of the fundamental resources of the military institution: an unquenchable thirst for knowledge of enemy conditions, terrain and weather.

To have an idea of these three decisive factors in a conflict, it has been necessary to search for a valuable resource: information. 

However, from the military field, intelligence has taken a leap and now covers not only the military branch; companies and many areas of knowledge also need intelligent information to feed their work systems.

How to feed these work systems with valuable and verified data? Simple: by applying an intelligence cycle!

The fact that we have at our disposal a large amount of information in our time makes the processes for its verification, approval or discarding increasingly complex.

Therefore, it is necessary to use efficient tools or processes that simplify this task and speed up the decision making of many processes. The intelligence cycle is a valuable tool that has been refined, perfected, and made more flexible to be applied to any organizational environment. 

So, if you are interested in learning more about this essential decision-making cycle in any organization, you will want to stay with our material to the end. 

Table of Content

Understanding the intelligence cycle – what is it?

Defining what an intelligence cycle is, it is a model of analyzing and structuring information in an intelligent way. For pedagogical experts, the intelligence cycle is the process by which intelligence is created.

In terms of application, this model is represented as a research-action cycle, which has as its fundamental objective the collection, structuring and analysis of any type of information.

Once the information has been processed and converted into intelligent or useful information, data can be obtained from it to be used in an investigation, with the purpose of making decisions.

Who can apply this cycle?

The first organizations that designed and applied this cycle were intelligence agencies or military entities of each nation, for strategic military purposes. 

Such is the case of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency of the United States) or the CNI (National Intelligence Center) which is the Spanish intelligence service. The USAICoE or U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence can also be mentioned as the most relevant.

Some experts of the area establish that the origin of this concept (in a formal way) arose in the middle of the 20th century, in a book called Intelligence is for Commanders (1948).

Now, this methodological cycle permeated from military entities and is now applied in a large number of areas of knowledge, by various professionals, especially those who must create content day after day.

Even in the educational field, it is one of the most important processes for both teachers and students, which allows them to improve their decision making.

What is the purpose of this cycle?

The intelligence cycle has 3 specific objectives:

  • It simplifies the process of gaining intelligence. 
  • It separates functions and competencies in the generation of intelligence.
  • It establishes the necessary steps before making an intelligent decision, which reduces uncertainty regarding certain factors of the organization: incomplete information, complexity of processes, intentions or future perspectives.

What the intelligence cycle is for

Why define it as a cycle?

Instead of being a linear process, with a beginning and an end, the intelligence cycle is a cyclic process, in which the evaluation phase generates an investigation process as many times as necessary. 

In companies, maintaining the generation of useful information through the intelligence cycle is fundamental for the efficient operation of all processes over time.

Difference between information and intelligence

This is a good question about this cycle. 

Why not call it information cycle, instead of intelligence cycle? Well, at this point, and taking as a reference the Spanish Intelligence and Security Manual, 2012 version, we can give an approach to this dilemma.

It is necessary to define that information is the collection of data that is transformed with the addition of having context, purpose and meaning; that is, they are no longer random data. Moreover, information acts as the raw material of intelligence.

Then, the structuring of data into useful information, begins to form the cognitive process of the same, where structuring theories and explanations of the reality provided by the information, they begin to make sense.

Knowledge generates added value for organizations, since it produces a competitive advantage when combined with tangible resources (human capital and the external network of relationships).

By relating information with knowledge, intelligence and its interpretation cycle is generated, which produces results that guide the organizations’ decision making.

Benefits of the intelligence cycle for companies

The intelligence cycle is a beneficial process for all organizations, where the coordination of team work is important. In fact, it is arguably the most beneficial process when it comes to decision making.

If you want to know which are its most important benefits, we summarize them here:

  • Thanks to being a cyclical process, the intelligence cycle favors continuous improvement. By applying this cycle to various processes, errors can be easily identified and corrected, making previous decision-making more functional.
  • The decisions that come from the application of an intelligence cycle are more precise, because they work with useful, refined, accurate data and are recorded in various reports. 
  • The intelligence cycle, in the processes that require it, allows to identify opportunities and threats more clearly. In other words, it is a model that makes it possible to anticipate failures and improve constantly over time.
  • It is a work process that is more productive when it is carried out in a team, with each member defining a particular role, whether in collection, research, analysis and discussion of results, so that the work becomes much more enjoyable.

Steps or phases to execute the intelligence cycle

The best thing about the intelligence cycle is that it is a process that can be adapted to any organization, thanks to its flexibility. 

In this case, to define the steps, we will take as an example the process proposed by the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, which includes up to 6 distinct stages.

Although there are some specific differences among intelligence agencies regarding the number of phases, all of them are harmoniously related, having as final result an intelligent decision making.

1. Planning or direction phase

The first phase of the intelligence cycle is the planning of what is to be achieved with this investigative cycle.

In the direction or planning phase, the macro objectives are established and, as a primary hypothesis, what is desired or intended to be achieved with this study. That is to say, the idea is specifically expressed before starting with the subsequent phases.

In general, the people in charge of the most strategic projects are not experts in certain work or process areas; that is why they need to plan an intelligence cycle to obtain expert results and make the right decisions.

2. Data collection phase

Once the objectives of the intelligence cycle have been defined by planning or management, it is time to collect or obtain the data.

But what data to collect? Only data that is relevant or important to the research or intelligence production being carried out, i.e., data that supports the main objectives set out in the planning.

The means for data collection may vary: they may be taken from the web, or a well elaborated statistic of the results of past processes. 

This phase must have a previously defined research methodology and is one of the longest of the whole intelligence cycle.

3. Data processing or exploitation phase

The third phase is the processing or exploitation of the data obtained, another of the longest phases of this cycle. 

At this stage, patience is one of the keys, because it is necessary to review and filter all the information collected in the previous phase, to select with a high criterion, which are the most important data. 

It is important to make this step in the cycle because there is a risk of infoxication (saturation of databases with unnecessary information), as well as difficulties in data integration.

4. Analysis and results production phase

Once the data has been processed efficiently and with a high level of patience, the time has come to analyze and produce the results required to meet the macro objectives in the planning phase.

In this case, once the data are processed and classified according to their relevance, the analysis method(s) that are efficiently adapted to the needs or requirements of the results must be chosen. 

The result of this phase is a well-organized information analysis document, which will be the basis for the next phase.

5. Dissemination and integration phase

The fifth phase, called the dissemination phase, is used to share the partial or final results of the intelligence process with the work team or, failing that, with the company’s management for approval. 

In some cases, this phase can be skipped to the evaluation or feedback phase. 

It should be emphasized that this phase must be confidential. That is, the results of the application of the previous phases of the cycle and the results report should not be shared with third parties (wrong hands).

6. Evaluation or feedback phase

Finally, the results evaluation phase, which needs to be reviewed periodically to maintain the validity of the research.

Due to the current times, information is constantly being updated, which may cause the research to become obsolete.

In addition, in this phase, feedback is provided on the results obtained, a fundamental tool for continuous improvement processes. Steps or phases to execute the intelligence cycle


Necessity of intelligence in companies and enterprises

Is the application of intelligence processes necessary in companies or societies? Of course it is!

A fundamental effect of intelligence is what is called “mastery”. Those companies or companies that keep control of the best information or accurate data, the most interesting and that add value to the processes, will be able to have an advantage over their competitors.

In the past, companies wanted to have dominance in the physical environment of their audience’s preference; now, with the use of intelligence, this dominance has also expanded from the physical to the digital environment and beyond, touching human sensibility.

It is something that has been termed the “cognitive domain,” where intelligence has also allowed it to dominate the minds, feelings and hearts of the marketplace. 

Situations in which this cycle can be used

When is it convenient to use the intelligence cycle? Well, we tell you that this cycle can be applied to different situations in everyday life or in an organizational environment.

Moreover, it is such an interesting cycle that it allows one to carry out an academic research work with impressive results. 

In conclusion, the intelligence cycle is a key data organization method, especially in marketing environments. 

By following this process systematically, you can make better, more informed decisions, optimize your strategies and maintain a competitive advantage in a constantly evolving marketplace.

Are you ready to be smart? Then let us know in the comment box your thoughts on this cycle, which will not only make you creative, but smarter than the competition.


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