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The Analysis Process

A Look at How a Number of Strategic Intelligence Professionals View or Define the Analysis Process
                                                                       
by Information Uncover



Introduction

A few years back, we sent a message to a number of our Strategic Intelligence colleagues requesting that they give us their opinions on what the “analysis” process is. In the message, we stated that since the “911” terrorists act, there has been a lot of discussion concerning the importance of analysis. We indicated that analysis is important to our government and to people, like us, who create intelligence. We further stated that we view analysis as a process where one engages in many of the following activities, in any order: observe, classify, count, compare, ask questions, role play (engage in war games, do scenarios, use simulation technology, etc.), and take action. We emphasized that we consider role playing to be very important in arriving at the intelligence that's so important to the intelligence user. We then requested that our colleagues give us their opinions on the "analysis" process.


A Discussion of the Responses

We sent out approximately 1000 requests for an opinion. We received almost 150 responses. Most of the respondents are, or were, involved in some facet of business information analysis for strategic purposes. About forty-one percent of the respondents indicated that our definition was fine, or they told us, or implied, that our definition was fine, but needs some modification.

About thirty-eight percent said or implied that analysis is the use of some methodology or technique to, first, find relationships between different pieces of information, and then draw inferences from the relationships. Some fifteen percent of the respondents said or implied that analysis is a process where one converts information into actionable intelligence. And approximately six percent said or implied that analysis is a process where one asks, or answers, the “So What?” question.

Some of the your-definition-is-fine-but respondents said that “take action” shouldn't be part of the analysis process. They said that “take action” should come after the analysis is completed. Some of the your-definition-is-fine-but respondents indicated that drawing inferences is an important part of analysis. And some of these respondents felt that synthesizing is an important addition to my definition.

Other respondents felt that drawing conclusions and making recommendations were important elements in the analysis process. Some of the respondents indicated that “purpose” should be added to my definition. Below are samples from the your-definition-is-fine-but responses. (Many of the sample responses in  the different categories below are paraphrased.)



Sample Responses for "Your Definition is Fine, But"

Your definition is fine, but “take action” should be replaced with “predicts,” “recommends,” etc.

Your definition is fine, but analysis also includes: forecasting, visioning, planning, strategizing, challenging data, communicating and taking action.

Your definition is fine, but it should include, synthesis, determining usefulness and looking at a competitor’s profiles.

Your definition is fine, but you should add “intuition.”

Your definition is fine, but you should add things like “interpret” “organize” and “document.” And “take action” should become “recommendations” or “next steps.”

Your definition is fine, except doing things in a “linear and nonlinear” way is important. And the activities should give you some insight into the future.

Your definition is fine, except, establishing objectives is the first thing one should do.

Your definition is fine. However, pattern recognition should be added. It helps one find early warnings.

Your definition is fine. Analysis is more of an art than a science. Analysis is like math. The more you do it, the better you become.



As we indicated above, there are approximately thirty-eight percent of the respondents who said or implied that analysis is the use of some methodology or technique to find relationships between different pieces of information and draw inferences. Below are samples of the comments.


Sample Responses for Analysis is “The Use of Some Methodology or Technique”

Analysis is the use of some methodology to dissolve information to find trends and patterns.

Analysis is the use of some methodology to identify gaps and “inconsistencies to find synergies and trends.”

Analysis is the use of some methodology to synthesize quantitative and qualitative information to find the truth.

Analysis is the use of some methodology to uncover “insights, implications, and intelligence.”

Analysis is the use of some methodology to decompose a situation or problem into its components.

Analysis is the use of some methodology to do “pattern recognition.”

Analysis is customer driven, all source, collegial, and actionable.

Analysis is like “doing a jigsaw puzzle.” As you put the pieces together, you begin to see the big picture, and what's missing.

Analysis is like art. It is “the ability to correlate information within [a mental] database and come up with tentative conclusions.”



As we stated above, some fifteen percent of the respondents said or implied that analysis is a process where one “converts information into actionable intelligence.” Below  are some samples.


Sample Responses for “Converts Information into Actionable Intelligence”

Analysis is converting data into information.

Analysis is deriving some meaning from data.

Analysis is “The process of taking seemingly unconnected pieces of information and turning them into intelligence.”

Analysis is turning information into intelligence.



Approximately six percent of the respondents said or implied that analysis is a process where one asks, or answers, the “So What?” question. Below are some examples of these responses.


Sample Responses for “So What?”

The analysis process is asking the question: “So What?”

Analysis is answering the “So What?” question.

Analysis is looking at information and determining what it means and what should be done about it.


Conclusion

We hope the above discussion gives you some idea of how Strategic Intelligence professionals view the analysis process. While there were responses that could fit into more than one category, our goal was to put each opinion into one category. We attempted to extract the essence of an opinion, then categorize the opinion. In general, the examples we show above do not represent the full text of a given comment.

Although some of the opinions on analysis differed at some level, we found that, for the most part, there was commonality among the different opinions. Most business analysis professionals believe that the goal of business analysis is to come up with intelligence that can help a company better meet its strategic objectives.