The Journal of AGSI
Global Intelligence Networking:
Technological Opportunities and Human Challenges
David J. Skyrme
The following is a short synopsis of this article which appeared in The Journal of AGSI - The Association for Global Strategic Information (ISSN 0965 4380). Volume 4 - Issue 3, pp. 106-115
(November 1995). It is reproduced with permission of the publishers, Infonortics Limited. There is also a full text copy of this
article and an appendix listing some business intelligence sources.
For many years computers have proved to be valuable tools for intelligence gathering and processing. In the recent past we have witnessed the growing power of personal computers and the extending
reach of networks, such that information from many sources can be rapidly delivered to people's desks. Now we are on the threshold of a further leap forward in capabilities, adding a new form of
intelligence processing that I call global intelligence networking. This is the capability to access and process information from unknown sources around the world, combined with human interaction and
collaboration on a scope and scale not previously achievable. Global intelligence networking is, I believe, likely to challenge many of our commonly held notions about the processes and management of
This article examines the foundations of global intelligence networking from technological, process and organisational perspectives and identifies the resultant opportunities and challenges. It
starts by reviewing technology developments, including the capabilities and impacts of electronic networking, and in particular the Internet. It then explores how these can enhance intelligence
processes. Frameworks and guidelines for integrating these intelligence processes are then proposed. Finally, the organisational challenges of embracing global intelligence networks in an effective
way are discussed.
Relentless advance of technology
This section dicusses the ongoing price-performance improvement of 20-30% per year (more than any other major technology), the growth of networking and the Internet. The changing role of the
computer and its impact is examined in terms of fucntions and usage.
More powerful information processing
Examples of developments in processing text-based information and databases are given, inlcudinginformation retrieval software, CD-ROMs, and 'intelligent software agents'. While such developments
have made information much more accessible, it requires additional sophistication to overcome the accompanying the problems of information overload. This require greater attention to proper
information management, (and information resources management) a topic of great importance, but outside the scope of this article.
In retrospect, we can now see that the advent of electronic mail (email) was the start of a widespread move towards using electronic networks for more informal information exchange, rather than
simply database or programme access. Computer networks are increasingly used to enrich human-to-human interaction, and as a result offers a new dimension for improving intelligence processes.
Examples are given.
One long-evolving development, that epitomises many of these capabilities, is that of the Internet. Only in the last year or so has it become the subject of much attention from business, but its
significant rate of commercial development means that it worthy of closer study by business strategists.
The Internet - A Network of Networks
The most widely used facility on the Internet is that of electronic mail. However, it has certain facilities that are also highly relevant to the business intelligence community. The Internet
illustrates both the advantages and drawbacks of a highly informal and heavily connected world of information resources, that are dicussed in the full paper. The real significance of the Internet,
though, is not so much its information capabilities, but the capabilities it offers to move beyond information to intelligence.
From Information to Intelligence
Intelligence has many definitions and interpretations. It requires the integration of various processes, including information refining as perfected by Trend Monitor, such that an organisation senses its environment and responds accordingly, behaving like a 'learning
organisation'. A framework is offered as an aid to those responsible for intelligence gathering and management.
Importance of Networking
Studies of successful organisations and especially those good at innovation reveal the importance of strong human networking, especially externally, such as with customers, market influences,
peers. Such organisations are also likely to have excellent intelligence systems exhibiting certain characteristics, inlcuding a strong external orientation, good sensing mechanisms and well
An illustrative case
A case is described of the conducting of a very rapid market assessment, using a dispersed networked team using various computer assisted information and knowledge techniques mentioned earlier.
The features illustrated by this example are the use of several modes of computing in an integrated way - information refining, information access, interaction between contributors, development and
refinement of intelligence through computer enhanced human interaction.
It is the capabilities of networks such as the Internet to link experts to each other that I believe will have a more profound impact on business intelligence than all of the sophisticated tools
that seek and find information from the thousands of resources scattered around the world. Intelligence processes can be made more effective from the proper management and the enhancement of human
interaction. Building these into a global intelligence network is therefore about shifting the focus of current practices in business intelligence.
Although sometimes derided today, in time, and with proper focus and serious intent, "surfers" of the Internet will become valued "intelligence seekers". The opportunities created by the many
advances in information technology mentioned earlier in this article are too important not to integrate into business intelligence systems.
This article has identified how developments in information technology have helped both basic levels of information handling, and also the more complex processes of creating valued intelligence
for decision making. In particular the use of electronic networking and the Internet have a major contribution to play in enhancing the essential human-to-human interactions necessary for effective
intelligence gathering and interpretation.
Learning to use and exploit such capabilities is a key task that must be grasped by business intelligence professionals and their business colleagues alike.
The Appendix lists some business intelligence sources.
Author Profile - Dr. David J. Skyrme