During my Intelligence Training we were taught a whole bunch of different analytical techniques.
Here are my four ‘go-to’ techniques I continue to use and apply to problems on a daily basis.
I hope you can learn how to use and apply these simple (yet effective) techniques to increase your own analytical ability, and ultimately, to become a better intelligence professional.
Here they are (in no particular order)
Technique 1 – SWOT Analysis
SWOT analysis is used to identify the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of a Person, Group, or Organisation. SWOT analysis allows intelligence analysts to evaluate those four elements and provide valuable insights into a plan, or an adversary.
How Does SWOT Analysis work?
SWOT analysis provides different ‘lenses’ intelligence analysts and highlights factors that we could exploit as well as consideration for our own vulnerabilities also.
SWOT analysis allows us to examine potential opportunities and helps to identify risk factors that could negatively affect us also.
How Do I Use The SWOT Technique?
The first step to using the SWOT method is to identify what you, as the intelligence analyst want to evaluate.
Is it a person, a place, a group or perhaps an organisation?
Once you’re clear on the focus of your analysis, list and evaluate each of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats you can think of. Here are some prompts to get you started:
- What are the factors that make it stronger, more dangerous, or more capable than its peers?
- What skills or equipment does it possesses and use to achieve its objectives?
- What has it done well previously and what are the examples of their performance?
- What is the type of leadership or decision making used, and how does this benefit it / them?
- What tangible assets, such as weapons, equipment, cash, capital, and valuable resources do they possess?
- What are the areas perceived as limits of capability, i.e. what can’t they do?
- Are there any examples of poor performance or failure?
- What obstacles exist in the path to achieving their goals and objectives?
- What puts them in an inferior position relative to the competition?
- Do they lack expertise in some areas or situations?
- Do they have a poor level of technology or limited resources?
- What might provide a favourable impact for their future?
- What advantages could they potentially capitalise on or use their advantage?
- How could that enhance their capability, ability or position?
- How long would it take them to increase their ability, regroup, reequip or redevelop their plan or strategy?
- Is there currently a window of opportunity being exploited?
- What could conceivably have or cause a deleterious impact?
- How could they lose their competitive edge?
- How can they be targeted effectively?
- How could they be mitigated or undermined?
- Are there external factors such as supply, weather, economy or regulations that could impact their activities / operations?
- How likely are these factors to cause a negative impact on them, and a positive one for you?
When To Use SWOT Analysis?
- BLUE FORCE Analysis – That is, evaluating yourself (looking at your own internal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats)
- RED FORCE Analysis, evaluate an Enemy.
- Exploring new solutions to problems, evaluating the effectiveness of a plan for example.
- Identifying barriers that will limit goals / objectives
- Reveal possibilities and limitations (perhaps not previously considered)
Example SWOT Analysis: Afghanistan Taliban
Technique 2: OCOKA
What is OCOKA Analysis?
OCOKA is an acronym that stands for;
- Cover and Concealment,
- Key and Decisive Terrain, and
- Avenues of approach.
OCOKA analysis is used almost exclusively in the application of Military Intelligence – when conducting terrain analysis or operational preparation.
OCOKA provides intelligence analysts with a framework for conducting analysis on a piece of ground or terrain.
How does OCOKA Analysis work?
OCOKA provides a framework for analysing the battlespace. In a military context the battle ground offers advantages and disadvantages to both sides. As such, its important military commanders have an understanding of environment in which they’re operating.
When should I use the OCOKA Analysis?
When evaluating a Battlespace (aka operational environment).
Observation & Fields of Fire –
Observation is the ability to see or view targets within the operating environment. Including the distance at which targets can be identified (and acquired) based on the terrain.
Fields of Fire refers the area or distance a weapon can cover effectively from a given point. Knowing your ability to utilise different weapon systems based on terrain factors is a key factor for a Military Intelligence Analyst.
Cover and Concealment –
Cover and Concealment refers to the ability to remain protected (cover) or undetected (concealment).
An obstacle is any natural or man-made terrain feature that stops, slows, impedes, or diverts movement. In conducting battlespace analysis, intelligence analysts must identify what obstacles exist and how they are likely to affect you and the enemy.
There are different ‘types’ of obstacles, which affect units differently. For example, a river might impede vehicle movement or a mine field could slow dismounted troops.
Key and Decisive Terrain –
Key Terrain is some terrain feature (natural or manmade) which, if controlled, will provide a marked advantage to those who control it.
Decisive Terrain is that which affords ‘mission success’.
Avenues of Approach –
Avenues of Approach require the Intelligence Analyst to assess how an adversary is likely to access the terrain, and consider which routes, avenues and locations they will use.
Terrain Analysis often requires analysts to identify ‘movement corridors’ to identify the different paths a force could take. Restrictions in the terrain, obstacles and relief may affect how and where the enemy can approach.
OCOKA Analysis is used to assess the terrain and environment, and how it affects both friendly and enemy capabilities, vulnerabilities and courses of action.
Technique 3 – Mind Mapping / Brain Storming
This is my personal favourite, and a technique I use almost every day.
‘Brainstorming’ is the perfect way to quickly deconstruct the different elements of a problem or subject so you can understand them better.
We’ve all probably used mind maps before – so I won’t labour on ‘how they work too much’, I just want to highlight why I think they’re an effective tool for Intelligence Analysts.
Mind Maps are ‘thinking tools’, and they reflect the way we think. What I mean is our brains don’t follow a logical ‘lineal’ thought pattern, when we’re thinking about something we tend to jump all over the place – bouncing around different ideas all at once.
Mind Maps allow you to capture all your thoughts and ideas as they happen.
Quickly, here’s how it works;
- Start with a central idea / question or focus.
- Draw a branch or connect an aspect,
- Then connect supporting 2nd and 3rd level branches to the first.
- If it’s a new thought start a new branch then let your mind explore it fully.
It’s pretty easy.
- Remember to let yourself explore all branches (thoughts) and sub-branches (sub-thoughts)
- Don’t limit your-self; just get your thoughts down on paper. Put EVERYTHING down you can go through it later.
Tips. Use different colours and to associate the branches and if you’re creative, draw corresponding images to build the associations.
Technique 4 – Crime Mapping
Crime mapping (also known as ‘heat mapping’) is an analytical process to map, visualize and analyse crime patterns. Basically it is a process to visually represent trends and patterns on a map.
How Does Crime Mapping Work?
Crime mapping is one of my favourite intelligence tools. It works by plotting specific incidents on a geographical map to identify criminal ‘hot spots’ ‘trouble areas’ trends or patters. (see image above).
Crime mapping helps Intelligence Analysts to identify high-incident, high volume areas, and provides a visual representation to inform the assessment.
I like to get a large size physical map and place it close to my desk on a wall. I take some time populating the most recent incidents in the area of operations on the map using different colours for different incidents. Each time a new incident is reported or recorded it’s added to the map making it easy to quickly identify areas of higher than average crime by location or incident.
Crime mapping allows assumptions about the type of incidents they are likely to see in the same area into the future and make recommendations about the type of intervention or prevention required. Such as;
- Location of incident, area, suburb, or street.
- Different types of ‘crime’ or incidents (theft, assault, burglary, kid-napping)
- Time of the incidents
- Timeline (from when to when)
When Should I Use Crime Mapping?
Crime mapping should be in every analyst’s tool kit. Start by learning how to manipulate software like Google Earth, or something like ArcGIS to get images and add different ‘layers’. It’s pretty easy.
Crime mapping can be used to overlay various other data sets also.
- such as demographics,
- income distribution,
- education, and
- population statistics
In essence, using this information, analysts can effectively guide action when production of the maps is guided by crime theories (place, victim, street, or neighbourhood).
**Here’s where you come in – what’s your favourite Intelligence Method or Technique? Do you have a got to tool you like to use that you can share with the community here? If so, post in the comments below and the best one will get featured in an upcoming newsletter!**
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