Every intelligence job is different. As an Intelligence Analyst in one organization, your roles, capability, and tasks will be vastly different to another.
When I tell people what I ‘actually’ do, they usually say something like “Oh wow that sounds really interesting’…. Often however, the second question I get is, “so…what exactly do you do then?”
I’ve written this article to provide you with understanding of a day in the life of a (typical) Intelligence Analyst.
Intelligence Analysts Arrive At Work Before Anyone Else
It’s important Intelligence Analysts get into the office early. Our job is to know information first, so we early to get a jump on any overnight reporting.
“A good Intelligence Analyst will be one of first people in the office every morning.”
The most frustrating thing for an Intelligence Analyst is to arrive at work after something has happened, and then need to play catch-up. This is especially true if wheels are already in motion. It’s best to be in early otherwise the analyst may find themselves on the back foot.
Trust me when I say it reflects badly on an Intelligence Analyst when they arrive late and hear things from their supervisor.
0750hrs: A quick scan of the email inbox then onto the overnight reporting.
0755hrs: Reading in. Most (if not all) Intelligence Analysts begin their day reading the overnight reporting.
Analysts will typically spend the first 1-2 hours each morning reading the overnight reporting. I like to read through the information, and then assign anything I deem important or relevant for follow up later.
The ‘reading-in’ process is significant to being a good analyst. I feel this process informs the analysts’ understanding of current issues and provides an opportunity to identify any significant reporting which may be required for further analysis.
0850hrs: Open Source Reporting. I like to read the open-source news and skim major newspaper websites to get an understanding of any issues or incidents which have occurred overnight.
Tip: I set ‘Google Alerts’ for my key-words, topics or particular reporting of interest. I have these automatically divert to a sub-folder in my email inbox.
I tend to browse a list of open source websites I’ve bookmarked in my internet browser. I don’t spend too long reading the news, just a quick skim to get an understanding of what’s going on.
0915hrs: Second Coffee.
0921hrs: Add any relevant reporting for the Weekly Intelligence Summary.
In every intelligence organization that I’ve ever worked in, there’s always a requirement to compile and disseminate a Weekly Intelligence Summary (or something similar).
As the analyst reads through their overnight reporting, they’re identifying any information that may be of relevance for the Weekly Intelligence Summary.
The Weekly Intelligence Summary is populated with information deemed relevant for our key customer(s).
Usually the Weekly Intelligence Summary is pitched to the executive, and often verbally briefed in a presentation format (probably using power point). Other times the Intelligence Summary may be a written product, disseminated to the heads of various departments.
The real ‘work’ part of the day begins after the analyst completed their ‘reading in’ – typically around mid-morning. This period should be reserved for ‘getting work done’.
Intelligence Analysts should typically be working on a brief, or assessment piece day-to-day. This should be in line with the information requirements of your organization, and designed to contribute to the understanding of a significant trend or issue.
After I complete my ‘reading-in’, I like to close my emails and bury my head in my project.
A good intelligence analyst will spend the latter part of their morning (before lunch) researching, reading and compiling their intelligence products.
1210hrs: Good Intelligence Analysts eat lunch at their desk.
You will be surprised… a lot of Intelligence Analysts will take 15-20 to go and get something to eat around lunch time, only to return and eat their lunch at their desk.
Customer Engagement and Relationship Management
1245hrs: After lunch I usually check my emails, and get on with those ‘annoying tasks’ that crop up throughout each day. In every intelligence organization I’ve ever worked, there’s always a requirement to deal with a daily issue or task.
I typically keep these reserved until after lunch however, as I prefer to keep my mornings distraction free. This allows time for reading in, and the ‘real’ intelligence work to get done.
After lunch is a good time to also engage with any liaison patterns, customers or collection partners. Throughout my morning, I take time read the daily reporting and then I make questions to follow up on, or ask about when I get around to it in the afternoon.
1450hrs: Depending on your organization, there’s may be a requirement to complete ‘post operational reporting’, or intelligence reports which are generated from activities or incidents which occur throughout the day. I use the latter part of the afternoon to conduct any interviews, debriefs or collate this information for intelligence products.
Of course, not every analyst will need to conduct interviews, or complete operational debriefs – but I suggest using the afternoon to conduct your own intelligence collection, whether seeking feedback from colleagues or engaging with your collection assets directly, I use this time test theories to request further information as required.
New Intelligence Reporting
1635hrs: I use the last part of the afternoon to look and see if there’s any new intelligence reporting which has been submitted throughout the day.
While I’ve already completed my reading in for the day – I usually check again in the afternoon to see if there is any intelligence reporting that might be time sensitive, or inform my assessment for the following day.
The 1 Percent’ers
1655hrs: Day is almost over. Finally, the 1%’ers, as I like to call them – refers to those things that get thrown your way on a day-to-day basis. I like to finalize everything before finishing for the day, rather than come into work the following morning, knowing I have small jobs that are not yet complete.
My recommendation is that you start and finish these the day you get them. Taking time the afternoon to clear any backlog of these tasks is important. This will free up your morning the following day and allow you to better dedicate time to getting your other work done without distraction.