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Procurement Perspectives: Gathering intelligence in advanced technology sectors

Stephen Bauld
Procurement Perspectives: Gathering intelligence in advanced technology sectors

Within the business community, especially its most advanced technology sectors, so many different methods are employed in procurement related to the gathering and analysis of intelligence that the field has become highly competitive.

Since the intelligence requirements of any given organization are likely to differ from those of another, business leaders must deal with the subject of intelligence gathering on a case-by-case basis. With so many supply chain shortages with committee goods, procurement needs to find alternative sources of supply during these difficult times.

There are, however, some points that are almost universally applicable.

In particular:

  • To maximize benefit, intelligence gathering must be linked into the strategic and tactical planning process;
  • care must be taken to ensure that any information that is gathered is reliable;
  • procurement decision-makers need clear guidance as to the degree of reliability that information must possess before it can be relied upon;
  • a process for assessing reliability must be developed as early as possible in the intelligence gathering process; and
  • the intelligence gathering procedures employed must be in accordance with the moral standards of the organization.

The primary goal of intelligence operations is to keep in touch. Organizations succeed or fail for many reasons, but very often where an organization fails it can be tracked back to a growing lack of understanding concerning what is taking place within its environment and how those changes will affect its situation, business and affairs.

  • An effective approach to intelligence has at least three and sometimes four aspects, namely;
  • The collection and assembly of information;
  • the analysis of the information assembled;
  • factoring the insight obtained through that analysis into decision-making and behaviour; and
  • counter-intelligence.

Intelligence systems must often deal with an avalanche of information. The ability to make effective use of that information confers a major advantage over competitors. To that end, it is necessary to ensure that necessary information is obtained and that irrelevant or trivial information is filtered out.

To do so, an organization must possess some form of systematic method of providing a digest of intelligence information to decision-makers in a timely manner and in a format that enables them to make decisions proactively.

The first step in the process is to identify the type of information concerning events or developments that are likely to have a significant impact on an organization or its environment. The focus must be placed on gathering information that is strategically important, such as product, marketing or competitor-specific information.

The second step is to identify the best sources of that information. The goals of intelligence gathering are to make the organization more competitive and to protect it against the risk of outside interference.

Conceptually, there must be a link between intelligence operations and the overall strategic thrust of the organization.

Consider, for instance, the situation of a manufacturing concern. It will clearly be more competitive if it is able to secure notice of regulatory policy changes, of new products that are likely to be brought to market, of new technologies that will influence the process of production or distribution (e.g., advances in miniaturization) and the like.

Gathering information for its own sake is of very little use to anyone, unless it helps determine some kind of action or response, if necessary.

The term “intelligence” describes actionable information, that is, information of a sort and form that it can actually be used by an organization in some positive way to respond to changes that are taking place.

So, for instance, the U.S National Security Agency defines “intelligence” to mean “knowledge and foreknowledge of the world…[that is] the prelude to…decision and action.”

The term “foreknowledge” refers to knowledge concerning what is likely to happen in the future.

Stephen Bauld is a government procurement expert and can be reached at swbauld@purchasingci.com. Some of his columns may contain excerpts from The Municipal Procurement Handbook published by Butterworths.

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