Production - Part 6

By Lisa Krizan

Ed note: This is Part 6 of a paper written in June 1999 by Lisa Krizan of the Joint Military Intelligence College. It is reprinted here by permission. Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 were published as complete documents, as chapters in a book (thus the odd footnote and figure numbering) and also as a general overview of the intelligence process on the Society for Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP) website. This article discusses production, which results in the creation of intelligence, that is, value-added actionable information tailored to a specific customer.

Creating Intelligence
The previously-described steps of the intelligence process are necessary precursors to production, but it is only in this final step that functionality of the whole process is achieved. Production results in the creation of intelligence, that is, value-added actionable information tailored to a specific customer. In practical terms, production refers to the creation, in any medium, of either interim or finished briefings or reports for other analysts, or for decisionmakers or policy officials. As with elements of analysis developed in Part V, production principles described and explained here may apply to both government and private sector intelligence operations.

In government parlance, the term "finished" intelligence is reserved for products issued by analysts responsible for synthesizing all available sources of intelligence, resulting in a comprehensive assessment of an issue or situation, for use by senior analysts or decisionmakers. Creating finished intelligence for national and military customers is the role of CIA and DIA analysts, respectively. Analysts within an intelligence sub-discipline may also speak of a "finished" product from their point of view, meaning that intelligence from a single source, such as SIGINT, was interpreted as fully as possible in light of all other available intelligence from that source, plus any relevant published intelligence from other sources, and open source information. Analysts within the single-source intelligence agencies consider any information or intelligence not issued by their own organization to be "collateral."

Similar designations for finished intelligence products may apply in the business world. Particularly in large corporations with multidisciplinary intelligence units, or in business intelligence consulting firms, some production personnel may specialize in the creation of intelligence from a single source, while others specialize in finished reporting. For example, there may be specialists in library and on-line research, "HUMINT" experts who conduct interviews and attend conferences and trade shows, or scientists who per-form experiments on products or materials. The reports generated by such personnel may be considered finished intelligence by their intended customers within subdivisions of the larger company. The marketing, product development, or public relations department of a corporation may consume single-source intelligence products designed to meet their individual needs. Such a large corporation may also have an intelligence synthesis unit that merges the reports from the specialized units into finished intelligence for use in strategic planning by senior decisionmakers. Similarly, in the intelligence consulting firm, each of the specialized production units may contribute their reports to a centralized finished intelligence unit which generates a synthesized product for the client.

Emphasizing the Customer's Bottom Line
The intelligence report or presentation must focus on the results of the analysis and make evident their significance through sound arguments geared to the customer's interests. In short, intelligence producers must BLUF their way through the presentation - that is, they must keep the "Bottom Line Up Front." This axiom applies not only to written expression, but also to oral briefings, or any other medium of expression used in the intelligence environment of government or business.

It is often difficult for intelligence [producers] to avoid the temptation to succumb to the Agatha Christie Syndrome. Like the great mystery writer, we want to keep our readers in suspense until we can deliver that "punch line." After we have worked hard on this analysis... we want the reader to know all the wonderful facts and analytical methods that have gone into our conclusions. Most readers really will not care about all those bells and whistles that went into the analysis. They want the bottom line, and that is what intelligence professionals are paid to deliver.70

Knowing the customer enables the producer to generate intelligence that highlights the bottom line. Some customers are "big picture" thinkers, seeking a general overview of the issue, and guidance on the implications for their own position and responsibilities. An appropriate intelligence product for such a customer will be clear, concise, conclusive, and free of jargon or distracting detail.71 Conversely, some customers are detail-oriented, seeing themselves as the ultimate expert on the subject area. This type of customer needs highly detailed and specialized intelligence to supplement and amplify known information. The broad-brush approach to intelligence will not only miss the mark with this customer, but may actually be perceived as an insult, lessening the chances that future products by the offending producer will be accepted or used.72 Producers should therefore tailor both the content and delivery of the intelligence to the customer. The following section provides guidelines for creating intelligence products that meet customer needs.73

Anatomy of an Intelligence Product
Whether it is produced within the government, or in the business setting, the basic nature of the intelligence product remains the same. The analyst creates a product to document ongoing research, give the customer an update on a current issue or situation, or provide an estimate of expected target activity. In general terms, the product's function is to cover one or more subject areas, or to be used by the customer for a particular application. Along with these aspects, additional dimensions of the intelligence product are summarized in the table below. They are more fully described in the following paragraphs.

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Determination of product content is done in close cooperation with the customer, sometimes at the initiative of one or the other, often in a cycle of give-and-take of ideas. Formal intelligence requirements, agreed upon by both producer and customer in advance, do drive the production process, but the converse is also true. The intelligence unit's own self-concept and procedures influence its choice of which topics to cover, and which aspects to emphasize. As a result, the customer comes to expect a certain type of product from that unit, and adjusts requirement statements accordingly. In addition, the intelligence process may bring to light aspects of the target that neither the producer nor customer anticipated. When the parties involved have a close working relationship, either one may receive inspiration from interim products, and take the lead in pursuing new ways to exploit the target.74

Often, this dialogue centers around the pursuit of new sources associated with known lucrative sources. Examples from government include HUMINT targeting of persons identified in SIGINT as having access to foreign leaders, and SIGINT targeting of communications equipment revealed in IMINT of a foreign military installation. Parallel business examples might include intelligence personnel following leads to new sources revealed in original research or a published report: A pharmaceutical industry analyst who reads a business intelligence report about current breast cancer treatments may then investigate how to access human and documentary sources mentioned in the report, for further information on new drug therapy options for the disease.

The basic orientation of the intelligence product toward a particular subject or application is also determined by the producer-customer relationship. Frequently, the intelligence service will organize the production process and its output to mirror the customer organization. Government production by the single-source intelligence agencies is largely organized geographically or topically, to meet the needs of all-source country, region, or topic analysts in the finished-intelligence producing agencies, such as DIA or the National Counterintelligence Center. In the private sector, some intelligence consultant firms are specializing in one subject area, and gearing all production to one customer set, such as the petroleum industry.

In terms of intended use by the customer, both business and government producers may generate intelligence to be applied in the current, estimative, operational, research, science and technology, or warning context. Serendipity plays a role here, because the collected and analyzed information may meet any or all of these criteria. A good example is warning intelligence. Military and political analysts are always alert for target indications that an emergency, such as outbreak of war, or a political coup, is imminent. Standing procedures dictate that routine operations switch to warning mode in this case, so that time-sensitive intelligence on the situation can be issued to all relevant customers. Business intelligence analysts may also find themselves in the warning role unexpectedly, when they make discoveries that have significant time-sensitive implications for customer decisions and actions.

Three key features of the intelligence product are timeliness, scope, and periodicity. Timeliness includes not only the amount of time required to deliver the product, but also the usefulness of the product to the customer at a given moment. Scope involves the level of detail or comprehensiveness of the material contained in the product. Periodicity describes the schedule of product initiation and generation.

In intelligence production, the adage "timing is everything" is particularly apt. When a customer requests specific support, and when actionable information is discovered through collection and analysis, the resultant intelligence product is irrelevant unless the customer receives it in time to take action - by adapting to or influencing the target entity. Timeliness therefore encompasses the short-term or long-term duration of the production process, and the degree to which the intelligence itself proves opportune for the customer. In addition, the relative priority of the intelligence contained in the product affects the timeliness calculus. For example, a business intelligence analyst conducting research for a consumer electronics corporation may produce short-term routine reports as new information becomes available. A long-term routine summary report may be the final output from this project. However, a short-term priority report may result at any time, if time-sensitive information on competitor capabilities or intentions comes to light.

The scope of an intelligence product describes both the amount of material it contains and the depth of coverage it provides on the topic. Its focus may be narrow or broad, and the content may be detailed or in summary form. The level of coverage may be basic or exhaustive. All of these aspects are determined by the customer's needs, and by the amount and extent of the source material available.

The amount of detail distributed will depend on the circumstances and the requirements of the user. Time constraints often will determine how much detail is given. There may be such a wealth of detail on a particular subject that an analyst might spend a month or more making a detailed analysis, but the urgency of the need for the intelligence may be such as to make a brief survey, produced in two days, much more valuable. It is important to remember that many users of intelligence have neither the time nor the patience to read through a voluminous study, however excellent it may be, and would much prefer to have the essential elements of the analysis set down in a few succinct paragraphs. Some users, however, do require detail, and when that is the case it should be provided in a usable form.75

Periodicity is also linked to validated customer requirements. Intelligence products correspond to requirements that specify responsiveness criteria, thus production may occur on an ad hoc basis or on a schedule. Analysts may proactively generate products to meet known needs of specific customers, or they may respond to spontaneous customer requests for tailored intelligence. Furthermore, "analysts, as experts in their fields, are expected to initiate studies that address questions yet unformulated by [customers]." 76 By selecting from available source material, and determining when to issue an intelligence product, analysts have the potential to influence how their customers use intelligence to make policy decisions.77 In the government, topic experts may become close advisors to National Intelligence Officers or directly to senior policymakers. In the business world, a sharp intelligence analyst might be responsible for a dramatic change in a retail company's focus, by identifying emerging consumer trends and sensitizing management for the need to reorient the company. To effect this change, the company would become dependent on intelligence about competitors in the same industry. For example, an analyst's assessment of consumer interest in buying natural pet foods might stimulate requirements for further studies, and might lead a manufacturer to change its products to meet consumer demand, before another company captures that market.


Government intelligence products are typically packaged as highly structured written and oral presentations, including electrical messages, hardcopy reports, and briefings.78 Many organizations also generate video intelligence products, especially in the form of live daily "newscasts," or canned documentary presentations. However, the production landscape is being transformed by technology, and today, a wide range of options is avail-able to both business and government. Modern telecommunications and software make possible a whole new world of intelligence production, in which all the players, including customers, are in constant interaction. The Department of Defense, for example, has devised the Joint Intelligence Virtual Architecture (JIVA) concept to accelerate and streamline the entire intelligence process. Under JIVA, intelligence personnel will use advanced communication and analysis tools to electronically collaborate with each other and their customers, resulting in improved timeliness and customization of Defense intelligence products.79 Part of the JIVA concept is the use of on-line product modules that can stand alone as finished intelligence, or be synergistically combined with other modules for use by interim or ultimate customers.80 Similar collaborative production techniques may be successful in large business intelligence units with geographically dispersed personnel and customers. However, the benefits offered by modern intelligence practices such as JIVA also present significant challenges, including the financial and political investment in new infrastructure, and the legal implications of the required cooperation between the government and technology firms.81

The format of the intelligence product, regardless of the medium used to convey it, affects how well it is received by the customer. Even in a multimedia presentation, the personal touch can make a positive difference. Therefore, the degree of formality, and the mix of textual and graphical material should match the customer's preferences. Some customers want formal briefings, while others enjoy conversational give and take; some want a scheduled meeting, others want the analyst to be available at any time for impromptu consultation. Often, verbally oriented customers request one-on-one exchanges during official travel in automobiles or in airplanes. Conversely, the visually oriented customer may prefer video clips, graphs, charts, and photographs, accompanied by brief amplifying text. Many customers prefer written analyses, often in the form of concise executive sum-maries or point papers; some will ask for an in-depth study after consuming the initial or periodic assessment. However, producers should be aware of the potential pitfalls of relying on the executive summary to reach key customers. If the product does not appeal to the executive's staff members who read it first, it may never reach the intended recipient.82
In addition to understanding the customer's intelligence requirements, the producer may benefit from an awareness of the relationship between the customer organization and the intelligence service itself. Status issues between the two parties may influence the tone of the intelligence product. Aspects of the producer-customer relationship include whether the recipient is the intended or incidental customer, whether the customer is internal or external to the intelligence service, and whether the parties differ in their level of subject matter knowledge.

The intelligence producer selects the product content and format to suit a specific individual or customer set. However, the producer should beware of selecting material or phraseology that is too esoteric or personal for a potential wide audience. Intelligence products are official publications that become official records for use by all authorized personnel within the producer and customer organizations. They should focus on the primary customer's needs, yet address the interests of other legitimate players. Sometimes, when the producer is struggling with how to meet the needs of both internal and external customers, the solution is to create two different types of products, one for each type of customer. Internal products contain details about the sources and methods used to generate the intelligence, while external products emphasize actionable target information. Similarly, the producer adjusts the product content and tone to the customer's level of expertise. For example, a SIGINT producer may issue a highly technical and detailed product for fellow SIGINT service members, but for intelligence producers in a different agency, a less technical but still producer-oriented product may be appropriate. Similarly, the business intelligence producer within a marketing department may generate a highly specialized report for the head of the department, but may issue an executive summary for the company president.

Selection of the distribution method for the product is also closely tied to the relationship between producer and customer. The ability to deliver specific types of products to internal and external customers depends upon available infrastructure and resources (telecommunications lines, transportation, media equipment). Politics affect whether intelligence can be delivered by the individual analyst directly to the customer, or only through a chain of command. Finally, the number of designated recipients is often determined by the sensitivity of the intelligence issue covered in the product. If the intelligence is highly sensitive, such as a report on threats to the president's life, then only the few involved persons (the president and a few key security personnel) will receive the report. A routine report may be broadly distributed to a large customer set. Thus, the choice of distribution method is more a marketing decision than a mechanical exercise.83 Successful delivery of a truly useful intelligence product to a receptive customer is the result of communication and cooperation among all the players.

Customer Feedback and Production Evaluation

The production phase of the intelligence process does not end with delivering the product to the customer. Rather, it continues in the same manner in which it began: with dialogue between producer and customer.

If the product is really to be useful for policy-making and command, dissemination involves feedback, which is part of the marketing function.... Ideally, the "marketer" who delivers the product is the same individual who accepts and helps to refine the initial requirement.84

Intelligence producers need feedback from end-users. If producers do not learn what is useful and not useful to customers, they cannot create genuine intelligence. Internal review procedures that focus on the format and style of intelligence products are not sufficient for producers to judge their performance; they must hear from customers on the intelligence value of their work. Then producers can modify their practices to further develop those activities that served the customer well, and improve or eliminate those that did not.

Feedback procedures between producers and customers should include key questions, such as: Is the product usable? Is it timely? Was it in fact used? Did the product meet expectations? If not, why not? What next? The answers to these questions will lead to refined production, greater use of intelligence by decisionmakers, and further feedback sessions. Thus, production of intelligence actually generates more requirements in this iterative process.85 Producers and managers may use the framework developed by Brei and summarized below as an initial checklist for evaluating their own work, and as a basis for formal customer surveys to obtain constructive feedback.

Producers also need performance feedback from their own managers. Useful aspects of such an internal evaluation may include whether the output met the conditions set down by customers and producers in formal intelligence requirements, whether the intelligence was indeed used by customers, and whether the product resulted from a high standard of analytic quality.86 To establish a formal internal review process for monitoring the quality of analysis in intelligence products, managers could select experienced analysts to serve on a rotating basis as "mindset coaches" - reviewing assessments for issues of mindset, uncertainty, and policy utility, or consider pairing with another production division to swap personnel for this activity. As a rule, the less the critical reader knows about the substance of the paper the more he or she will concentrate on the quality of the argumentation. A reward for the best "mindset coaches" would be to make them branch chiefs.87

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Management's role extends beyond fostering quality production, to bearing responsibility for organizing and administering the complete intelligence process. Managers make key decisions that mirror the intelligence process and make production possible. In conjunction with customers, managers determine what customer set the intelligence unit will serve; what sources it will exploit; what types of intelligence it will produce; and what methods of collection, processing, analysis, production, customer feedback, and self-evaluation it will use. The following Part of this primer explores best practices in managing the intelligence process.

70 James S. Major, The Style Guide: Research and Writing at the Joint Military Intelligence College, (Washington DC: Joint Military Intelligence College, August 1994): 345.
71 Mathams, 88.
72 Davis, Analytic Tradecraft, 7.
73 The Central Intelligence Agency has published an unclassified collection of essays on techniques for producing finished national security intelligence. The purpose of the collection is to document best practices, and to reach out to academia and the public. Its title emphasizes the instrumentality of analysis to production. See Central Intelligence Agency, A Compendium of Analytic Tradecraft Notes, (Washington, DC, Directorate of Intelligence: February 1997).
74 Turner, 314-320.
75 Mathams, 92.
76 Turner, 319.
77 Turner, 320.
78 A guide to orally presenting intelligence is found in James S. Major, Briefing with Intelligence, (Washington DC: Joint Military Intelligence College, August 1997).
79 Defense Intelligence Agency, Vector 21, A Strategic Plan for the Defense Intelligence Agency
(Washington, DC: Programs and Operations Staff, undated), 20.
80 Louis E. Andre, "Intelligence Production: Towards a Knowledge-Based Future," Defense Intelligence Journal 6, no. 2 (Fall 1997): 41.
81 William O. Studeman, "Leading Intelligence Along the Byways of Our Future: Acquiring C4ISR
Architectures for the 21st Century," Defense Intelligence Journal 7, no. 1 (Spring 1998): 52.
82 Loch K. Johnson, America's Secret Power, The CIA in a Democratic Society, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989): 98.

83 Johnson, 97.
84 Dearth, "National Intelligence," 20.
85 Dearth, "National Intelligence," 20.
86 Arthur S. Hulnick, "Managing Intelligence Analysis," 338.
87 Davis, "Mindset," 17.

Published Thursday, December 7th, 2006

Written by Lisa Krizan

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