USAA Tips: How military intelligence builds business intelligence

Content provided courtesy of USAA | By Chad Storlie

Military intelligence excels at gathering, assessing and analyzing information into actionable data (intelligence) and distributing it to key individuals and teams. The purpose of business intelligence is to understand customers, competitors, and markets to design, create, and deliver better products and service to new and existing customers. Military intelligence specifically focuses on the definition, identification, tracking, and systematic analysis of threats to the military force's primary and secondary objectives.

Combining the discipline and methodology of military intelligence with the needs of the business creates a solid foundation for business intelligence.

Business Intelligence Must Be Universally Distributed and Used to Focus an Organization.

Ask any of the top ten or so executives in a company what their top three threats are, and you may get a similar top threat from everyone. However, the remaining threats will be scattered and different. For a business to effectively plan and act against the competition, everyone needs to know what the same top threats are. Military intelligence excels in distributing a common threat picture to an entire organization. The same relative perspective on what the threat is, what the threat is working on, and what the threat plans to do is invaluable to coordinating an organization's activity. How many businesses give the same reports on the competition to the same groups in a regular fashion? The combination of the military intelligence process looking at external threats combined with the existing business intelligence process looking at key internal success measures is a powerful combination.

How to Create A Personal Business Intelligence Process – Start with Google Search.

The use of a simple web search tool such as Google News and Google Alerts helps collect key information on the competition, customer trends, and market influences from public news sources, the web, and social media. Using competitor names, product names, key customers, and associated technology are great starting points for regular Google Alerts. The Google Alerts can then be placed into a Business Intelligence Report which can then be pushed in an email to the company's leadership, sales, new product development, and operations. This process gives everyone in the organization the same view of what is happening, builds a news database on the competition, and is a great time saver for key leaders.

Adapt A Common Set of Themes & Regular Distribution.

Once you have a consistent delivery of information, then create an email or document format so the Business Intelligence Report is consistent every time in format and delivery schedule. Consistency in the format is critical so people can browse and read it consistently. Delivery timeliness is critical, so people can incorporate the Business Intelligence Report into their daily / weekly / monthly business process.

Ethics Must Guide the Business Intelligence Process.

A highly ethical focus must be your most important guide as you implement a business intelligence process. It is vital that as you collect information on the competition you follow good business ethics, complete adherence to the law, and a focus on never acting in any way that would embarrass the company. In addition, legal review and coordination with your company's corporate relations department is a must.

The key to building a competitive intelligence process is to start small, build success and consensus, and then expand the process to the entire organization. Improved products and services that “wow” customers are the greatest success from a solid company business intelligence process.