Structured Analytical Techniques (SATs) are necessary methods for analysts to create better insights that combat inherent biases. The RAND Corporation describes SATs as “methods of organizing and stimulating thinking about intelligence. ” The added rigor and structure of SATs challenges biases such as confirmation bias, mirror imaging, anchoring, and groupthink. While the business world is accustomed to some of these techniques, the world of Intelligence and Security can offer more that the business world can learn from. IBM and many other global corporations have noted the importance of these tools: Up to 60% of US Executives use SWOT as their primary strategic management tool.
The Intelligence Community (IC) has strongly emphasized the need for SATs to promote more in-depth analysis, lessen the risks off intelligence failure, and make reasoning more transparent. There are three broad categories of SATs: diagnostic techniques, contrarian techniques, and imaginative thinking techniques. These categories cover all the steps of the intelligence cycle which the Canadian Security Intelligence Service describes as: Direction, Planning, Collection, Analysis, Dissemination, and Feedback. This cycle is not a one-way road and going back and forth between steps of the cycle occurs often. At HelloInfo the steps of the intelligence cycle reflect the process of creating deliverables. By using SATs HelloInfo creates tailored products for our clients. The following is how SATs can translate from security environments to business environments:
Structured Analytical Techniques (SATs) for Business
SWOT: A SWOT analysis is a simple tool used when exploring a business option or resource. It provides a framework to look at four key areas related to the topic: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This tool is used to gather information for users to assist with other SATs that allow for more analytical perspectives. For this reason, a SWOT analysis is recommended for early stages of research and intelligence production. However, a SWOT table can also be updated and can be used throughout the intelligence cycle.
TOWS: TOWS (Threats, Opportunities, Weaknesses, Strengths) is the upgraded older brother of the SWOT analysis. A TOWS analysis examines the intersects between categories of a SWOT analysis. These intersects create a series of “So what” statements that give analysts more direction in research. “So what” statements enable analysts to give more insight to their clients than simply facts. As TOWS is based on SWOT, it can be updated throughout the intelligence cycle and allows the user to apply it in dynamic terms as conditions change. This tool also enables more efficient research as TOWS uses a more targeted approach and gives greater detail. Targeted research is a key aspect of HelloInfo’s business intelligence creation and enables us to create more tailored answers to client questions.
Key Assumptions Check: Conducting a Key Assumptions Check forces analysts to list out the underlying assumptions behind their analysis. This approach challenges the thinking behind the research and analysis, making it more transparent and open to critique. It is critical to challenge assumptions as analysts are often interpreting data that is not fully complete or comes from various sources. Analysts need to structure interpretation based not only on what we know but sometimes on what we don’t. A Key Assumptions check is used when analysis has started and should be reviewed periodically throughout the intelligence cycle for focus and integrity.
AIMS: Like SWOT the AIMS tool seeks to give prompts to the analyst to conduct further and more targeted research. AIMS stands for Audience, Issue, Message, and Storyline, allowing the user to better understand for whom and for what purpose is research being conducted. The AIMS tool helps create concise products by understanding what questions should be addressed and what the key messages of the report should be. By focusing on the elements of AIMS, clients immediately benefit from the analysis.
How HelloInfo Uses SATs
At HelloInfo, we use targeted research to better answer our clients’ questions. We ensure constant communication with clients to understand what our clients want and need. Deploying the AIMS tool when client needs are identified, ensures the research can be more targeted and efficient. By continually recognizing the aspects of AIMS analysts can create actionable insights for our clients.
Individual members of the team then begin to collect information and input it into SWOT and TOWS analysis. Using SWOT and TOWS is critical in knowing what information matters most to our clients and delivering not only raw data but also analysis. The “so what” and “therefore they” questions are answered with HelloInfo’s use of SWOT and TOWS. When finishing a deliverable and entering the review step the HelloInfo team collaborates and challenges each other on our analysis. This is when Key Assumption Checks take place. Allowing analysts to understand our underlying assumptions that act as a base for our analysis. Further communication and critique occur within the team, ensuring that biases and assumptions are put into check. All these aspects are embraced by our use of analytical techniques and the pursuit of objective analysis.
Interested in applying SATs to your business landscape? Schedule a call to learn more about how we can support you in making sure that your company is generating better insights to support your business goals.