Strategic Intelligence Gap

What is strategic advantage?

When an organization has a strategic advantage, it has a particular characteristic or way of doing things that makes it more successful than its peers or adversaries. This advantage enables the organization to stay abreast of others, mitigate risk and navigate uncertainties. One means to achieve a strategic advantage derives from comprehensive risk mitigation and the ability to surprise the operation environment and other players with moves and activities they did not preview.

Strategic advantage vs competitive advantage

A competitive advantage refers to something an organization does better than others in day-to-day operations such as cost advantage, brand reputation, productivity, or customer satisfaction. Strategic advantage is a broader and longer-term concept than competitive advantage. It is the result of effective strategic planning and execution combined with sound risk mitigation and information security. Key elements in managing a strategic advantage are Offensive Intelligence and Protective Intelligence.

So, to keep and even improve a strategic advantage, an organization must understand the larger business environment in detail while at the same time preventing others from learning about the organization's own intentions and capabilities. This builds the strategic intelligence gap contributing to a significant and sustainable strategic advantage. The ability to surprise and an improved security status (see below) are key values gained on top.

Components of the Strategic Intelligence Gap
Two components are key to creating the Strategic Intelligence Gap and maintaining a strategic advantage: Offensive Intelligence and Protective Intelligence. Offensive Intelligence comprises ethical and legal activities to gather data on the competition, on adversaries of all kinds, and the market environment and then, by analysis, turning that data into intelligence for decision-makers to rely on in decision-making and strategy development. Offensive Intelligence results in the pro-active, diligent understanding of an organization's area of activity to wisely navigate challenges and uncertainties. Protective Intelligence is a set of activities that on the one hand controls the outflow of information from an organization and on the other hand uses adversaries’ own intelligence collection activities to manipulate their perception of the findings. Protective Intelligence is a defense that builds on existing security systems and works best with any new strategic initiative and activity. In short, it aims at
  • keeping adversaries at bay by misleading and surprising them
  • rendering adversaries’ intelligence efforts non-productive

I have worked with Udo and INFO + DATEN for several years now. My experience has been extremely positive; Udo and his company have provided high quality work across the board, something which is rare to find. Udo is a very smart person, and I strongly recommend his services because of the tremendous expertise and work ethic. Udo is honest, reliable and very results-oriented.“ (Fortune 1000 company in the High Tech arena)


Offensive Intelligence

Understanding the operation environment

Understanding the operation environment is essential to acting with confidence in any context. All actors have competitors or adversaries, and based on reliable, unique insights it is possible to create winning strategies built on the others' weaknesses and shortcomings. Offensive Intelligence as provided by INFO + DATEN is a set of activities and methods to actively develop intelligence in an ethical and legal manner.

It is often said that Offensive Intelligence is about predicting the future, but this is actually not accurate. There is no reliable prediction of the future in today‘s fast changing operating environments. One task of intelligence is to enable anticipation of what may be. The time span covered runs from two years in the past to five years in the future. The past provides insights to evaluate what went well and what went less well for the competitors and for one’s own company. This is useful in weighing options for the future. Looking at the future provides a view of one’s comprehensive operation environment: technological, regulatory and political. It is a radar showing warnings of impending problems and alerting to upcoming opportunities, always in time to let decision-makers take needed action.

Specialty methodologies and techniques of INFO + DATEN to better understand the operation environment beyond the generally accepted structured analysis techniques are ...

Lockwood Analytical Method for Prediction (LAMP), a systematic technique for predicting short-term, one-off behaviors. Using primarily qualitative empirical data, LAMP enables predictions of the most likely outcomes for specific questions across a broad spectrum of intelligence problems in the areas of risk management, security, market movements, and more.

Intelligence Profiling - Profiling an individual remotely using secondary sources, keys to accomplishments, political awareness, problem-solving skills, and conversations with confidants of the target. Profiling enables predictions about decision-making behavior by revealing the intentions and potential of (leadership) personalities.

INFO + DATEN offers these Offensive Intelligence services

Within the area of Offensive Intelligence customers may choose from three services: Due Diligence Investigation and Analysis, Intelligence Monitoring, and B2B Mystery Shopping

Due Diligence Investigation and Analysis – A due diligence effort investigates and analyses any relevant topic, e.g. a company, a market, a technology, etc., in depth. It provides answers beyond the publicly available information.

Intelligence Monitoring – This is the process of managing the continuous collection of intelligence from various sources (HUMINT, OSINT, IMINT, SOCMINT, …) via primary and secondary research. It is the basis for Intelligence Analysis and thus for understanding changes and trends in one’s operation environment. Check out os:MON(TM) a monitoring service by INFO + DATEN.

B2B Mystery Shopping – It may be desirable to obtain a specific item for product comparisons. But also for developing a better understanding of quality and engineering standards. B2B Mystery Shopping helps acquire the desired items.

 I hired INFO + DATEN to perform competitive and market intelligence for the global Intelligence team at SAP. A key area of focus was the SMB market and tracking of key vendors and related channels. Udo Hohlfeld was personally involved, and we worked together for three years. Our profound satisfaction with Udo’s services had us renewing the contract several times. Udo developed os:MON™ for my team; that tool was highly reliable and insightful with regard to the competition and to SAP and delivered very precise recommendations. Udo’s excellent interpersonal and multicultural skills enabled him to work productively with our international team. It was an excellent collaboration.“ (Fortune 1000 company in the software industry)


Sensitive information should be protected from being shared

Many players are interested in an actor’s sensitive if not confidential information. In a nutshell, Protective Intelligence is a process to develop and execute measures to counter intelligence gathering threats, to understand intelligence gathering activities, and to protect critical success factors from discovery. This includes setting up and executing sophisticated monitoring programs to acquire insights on adversaries’ intelligence gathering efforts.

Competitors and state actors are typically the main concern. Competitors can use intelligence, legally and ethically gathered by Offensive Intelligence, to inflict serious damage to a company’s business success. But other threats are to be considered as well: for example head hunters that penetrate companies to identify staff that can be lured away, activists looking for information that can be used to damage the company, journalists looking for a headline fed by information obtained from internal sources, consultants on the hunt for information they can use, and investment analysts. Finally, state actors seek to obtain confidential information for Industrial Espionage. Nevertheless, some tactics used in Industrial Espionage such as recruiting insiders, Social Engineering and OSINT build on publicly available information on companies.

Economic espionage is a real threat to the corporate world, and so is competitive intelligence. Operations security (OpSec) has caught the attention of executives, but it does not provide adequate protection. A precisely designed protective intelligence effort builds on existing OpSec and risk management policies and protects strategies, intellectual property, investments, and business outcomes in a sustainable manner. INFO + DATEN is experienced in setting up appropriate protective intelligence measures to reduce exposure to intelligence gathering activities of adversaries and other parties.

INFO + DATEN offers these Protective Intelligence services

Within the area of Protective Intelligence customers may choose from five services: Threat Landscape Assessment, Vulnerability Check, Employee Background Screening, Information Operations, and Investigative Intelligence

Threat Landscape Assessment – Who is interested in acquiring our know-how, legally or illegally? Who wants to understand our strategies and activities? When an entity understands its specific threat landscape, it is in a superior position to align its defensive measures with the identified actors and their intelligence gathering capacities. A competitor, a supplier or even a foreign government may have reasons to understand your best practices, and to learn about your processes and critical success factors to bolster their own efforts to succeed in your market and knowledge domain. The Threat Landscape Assessment will provide you with a clear overview of your opponents and their intelligence gathering capacities, their interests in you and how to best counter them.

Vulnerability Check (non-technical) – The Vulnerability Check is a carefully planned and executed intelligence gathering effort against your entity. The focus is set on your people, normally the weakest part of your defense strategy. The check is completely tailored and specific to your organization and its operation environment. The basis for the Vulnerability Check is the Threat Landscape Assessment as well as a specific threat identified to emulate an adversary’s intelligence gathering effort. The outcome of the check will show you how strong and reliable your current protective measures are.

Background Check (people and organizations) – A background check reviews confidential and public information to understand an individual’s or entity’s history. Background checks are normally conducted pre-engagement to ensure that one knows upfront with whom one will deal. Extensive background checks can be quite expensive, mainly because of the time and effort necessary to explore every item in an individual’s or entity’s history. The background check can also be executed routinely during an existing relationship to learn about any relevant changes.

Analog and Digital Information Operations / Deception – Information Operations are key Protective Intelligence activities as they show the ability to manage and safeguard the information that exists within a company. It is the art of controlling and using information outflow to protect one’s own plans and strategies. In other words, it is about managing the intelligence that adversaries gather about plans and activities in such a manner that they may draw incorrect conclusions.

Investigative Intelligence – Investigative Intelligence services are special purpose services that are highly tailored to task specific questions that cannot be answered by traditional means, e.g. who uses our knowledge to conduct business, or where is our internal knowledge traded to our disadvantage? In cases of actual security breaches, intelligence investigations may provide the insights to understand the breaches and the drivers behind them. These insights enable customers to actively counter the corresponding threat.

What makes all the difference when it comes down to intelligence performance? A global understanding of the real core intelligence procedure, a comprehensive skill set, proven first hand experience, an international network, and last but not least a forceful personality. Indeed, this is my subjective view - but simply put: Udo is all that." (International medium-sized company in Manufacturing)