The Big Difference Between Knowledge and Intelligence

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Our World Travel Protection Security and Intelligence Lead, Paul Trotter, shares his expert insight into the difference between knowledge and intelligence – and how businesses can benefit from intelligence support.

Today, information is at our fingertips. In mere minutes we can become familiar with just about any topic. As a business, it’s important to not confuse this power of information with actionable intelligence.

Paul Trotter – our World Travel Protection Security and Intelligence Lead – shares how security and risk intelligence contributes to a robust travel risk management program.

Here, Trotter explains what security intelligence is, the difference between knowledge vs intelligence, and how that supports your organisation in safe operations worldwide.

Female looking at security intelligence computer screens

What is security intelligence?

Intelligence is the collection, collation and analysis of information intended to provide a predictive assessment. Intelligence work is conducted in order to answer a specific question and further understanding of a specific given subject. Put simply, intelligence is refined information.

In a world dominated by 24-hour news cycles, search engines and social media, it is easy to mistake information for intelligence. Simply collecting and aggregating information is insufficient in developing a detailed understanding of not only what has already happened, but also what happens next. Effective intelligence methodologies take in huge volumes of information and provide specific and detailed analysis to answer one key question – so what?

By understanding how external factors impact on you, your business and your daily operations, you are better equipped to make effective and timely decisions. These decisions may relate to the protection of people and assets, reduce risk to productivity, or aid in capitalising on an opportunity.

Regardless of the desired outcome, effective intelligence can enable you to proactively plan and remain ahead of both competition and risks.

Business intelligence case study

In mid-2019 a series of anti-government protests swept across Iraq. Various driving factors such as economic inequality and poor essential services drove a popular uprising, resulting in weeks of instability and violent demonstrations. After repeated calls from protesters to do so, the Prime Minister dissolved his cabinet and resigned.

International companies operating in the country, particularly in the oil and gas sector, faced significant uncertainty. Complexities were compounded not only by the added threat to movement during protest activity, but also an opaque selection process for a successor government and how any future government would interact with international companies moving forward.

One company was able to successfully leverage intelligence support to determine who the subsequent Prime Minister would be more than 6-months before he was announced. This provided the opportunity to plan to account for his particular motivations and values – placing the company in a strong position once the selection was made.

This was a major victory for the company – particularly in the face of massive downturns in the sector in 2020 during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How can I use intelligence support?

The best intelligence products are driven by the customer and their specific needs. By clearly defining what you hope to achieve, tailored intelligence support is best enabled to facilitate your decision-making process and aid you in achieving your desired outcomes.

There are many forms of intelligence support for the corporate market – perhaps you wish to understand your market segment better or how your competition is operating. Maybe you operate in a complex environment and need to understand the political and security landscape. Whatever your need, by clearly defining what it is that you hope to achieve, a service provider is best positioned to help you get there.

It is important to understand that whilst intelligence aims to be predictive, nothing is ever certain. Intelligence reporting is not a crystal ball and cannot provide you with absolutes; however, through effective analysis of both past and current events, skilled intelligence professionals are able to predict likely outcomes with a high degree of confidence – aiding you in understanding what comes next and how it affects you.

Security business meeting woman speaker

What should I look for in a provider?

In a complex world, it pays to be informed. Beginning in the mid-2000s, public sector organisations moved towards intelligence-led operations models – a move which was quickly mirrored by the corporate world and private sector.

As a result of this influx, many service providers now offer intelligence functions or support. With this rise in prevalence comes a rise in confusion surrounding selection of a suitable provider.

Huge volumes of information alone are not sufficient in understanding risks or opportunities. It requires specific and detailed analysis and assessment performed by a suitably qualified provider in order to assess future possible events.

Intelligence reporting must be actionable. Information without assessment is just that – information. By providing actionable assessment of information and what it means for you, intelligence assessments are able to drive informed decision-making processes.

As well as actionable, intelligence must also be relevant – to you, your operations and your location. There is little point in understanding how the weather affects the environment in winter when you’ll only be there during summer months. For intelligence to be both actionable and useful, it needs to correspond meaningfully to your specific needs, as well as relevant vulnerabilities or opportunities.

Whilst it’s true that we’ve never had as much access to information as we currently do, it takes an experienced intelligence professional to collect relevant information, collate it together and analyse it in concert to produce an effective assessment.

If you are provided information that does not clearly articulate how it affects you or your operations, it may be time to question the credibility of the provider.

How can I access intelligence information?

Many service providers offer easily accessible platforms for broad intelligence reporting. This can include country reports, cultural or economic products – and is general in nature only.

Direct briefing or bespoke reports are the best means to access detailed intelligence support that is specifically tailored to you – but this may not always be the most economical or suitable option.

Another aspect to consider is that situations are often continuously evolving and remain fluid – you may need to consider whether your service provider is able to provide live or near-real-time updates on developing situations. Alternatively you may find that periodic updates are best suited to your budget and needs.

Regardless of your specific requirements, professionals and reputable service providers are able to provide you with a clear understanding of how best to meet your objectives and ensure that you remain forewarned and forearmed.

Discover how we can help with security intelligence

At World Travel Protection, we can help you or your business manage international travel and operations by helping you assess risks and stay ahead of potential issues.

For more information, get in touch with our team of travel risk management experts by filling out the form below. You’ll discover how our tools help provide business travellers and organisations responsible for travellers with all the support they need pre- and during travel via our portal, app, and in-house experts.