By Alan Blaney, Managing Director of Focus Training

When it comes to analyzing different forms of intelligence, using a detailed and coherent process is crucial in order to determine the most accurate results possible. The intelligence cycle is a step by step process used by analysts to create intelligence and answer specific intelligence requirements. The cycle consists of collecting relevant information, analyzing the information, interpreting it than providing an assessment and recommendations. The aim of using the cycle is it acts as a tool that informs the decisions and planning of policymakers and commanders.

Phase One: Direction 

The first phase of the cycle is ‘direction’. This initial particular phase is highly important as it gives the intelligence a starting point and provides the potential ways in which you can resolve or deal with any form of fraud or criminal activity, helping you to come up with a clear solution.

Things to consider:

Why? – Provide a clear background of the situation and why the intelligence is required.

When? – You need to establish when the intelligence is required by.

Importance – What level of urgency and importance does the situation hold? How much of a priority is intelligence?

How? How is intelligence to be provided? For example, oral briefing, written, etc.

Phase Two: Collection 

Once you have clearly identified the intelligence required in the ‘direction’ phase and considered the potential ways in which you can address the situation at hand, you then need to move on to the ‘collection’ phase. This stage of the cycle is focused on establishing the priorities and collecting the intelligence required in order to achieve your desired outcome. Once you have set clear objectives in the direction phase, you can then focus on how you plan to collect your data and sources to support you in achieving the results needed.

Steps to focus on in the collection phase are:

  • Research – The first step to take is to research what data already exists that may be able to assist with your investigation. This data must be readily available and come with minimal cost. These are classed as your sources.
  • Identify – After identifying what data already exists, you should then search for any gaps or missing data.
  • Formulate – Based on the data you have already collected so far, and depending on what else you will require, you should then formulate a collection plan.

The first data you should search for is your ‘sources’ which are readily available pieces of data/information that are free, quick and easy to access. If you are unable to formulate data from your sources, then you need to utilise resources. What resources can you use to help you gather the evidence you require?

Bear in mind that resources are likely to cost money un like your ‘sources’. At this point, you should as yourself; what have you achieved with the knowledge and data you have so far? Provide a summary of the information and see where the data can be corroborated. Try to steer clear of obvious sources when looking for data as this information could easily be false. If you can’t corroborate the information, then you need to use a different strategy.

The Triangulation of Intelligence Data 

Another process to consider during the collection phase, when it comes to analysing your data and sources is the triangulation of intelligence data.

  1. Someone provides you with brief information such as their name, job role etc.
  2. You can then go to the company’s registrations, verify that information. Where else can you get data to support and verify that this information is true?
  3. Follow this data footprint and search elsewhere to see if all of the information provided matches up.

Phase Three: Evaluation 

Once you have collected the relevant data in the second phase of the intelligence cycle, you then need to obtain a measure of confidence in the data that you have collected. It’s important that you analyse how truthful, valid and reliable the source (person or system providing the information) to be, and how reliable the information being provided by that source is.

The following stages are significant to through in the evaluation phase:

  1. Source evaluation – you need to evaluate the source to see whether they are reliable.
  2. Information evaluation – you need to then evaluate the information provided by the source, using a grading matrix.
  3. Data dissemination – you should then consider the handling and sharing of data once the previous two steps have been taken.

Using ‘A,B,C,D,E’ you can put the source into different gradings to measure how reliable it is. Then go on to the information the source is supplying and follow a numbered scale to further test the validity of the data. As a result, you should then have two measures of how you can qualify/validate the source and data.

Measure of source: A, B, C, D, E

Measure of Information: 1,2,3,4,5

Data dissemination is the next area to focus on. You need to consider the potential risks of sharing the data you now have that can be validated, quantified or qualified.

Phase Four: Analysis 

Sometimes referred to as the ‘processing phase’; the analysis phase consists of the evaluation of the information you have collected, in order to understand it. This is when you should query the raw data and information you have collected in the previous steps, in order to come to a conclusion that fulfils the information requirement. In order to do so, analysts must understand the problem in detail and know exactly why the information is required, and how it will be used.

This phase is focal to problem solving, as the more available information you have gathered, the stronger your understanding will be of the situation. During this phase, you need to spend time looking at all of the information available to help determine its meaning, and then analyse it applying different lenses to derive the meaning. This phase draws to a close by concluding assessments from the data you have collected, often in the form of recommendations or advice.

Phase Five: Dissemination 

The final phase of the intelligence cycle is the ‘dissemination phase’. This phase is important as it focuses on the presentation and delivery of the intelligence, and allows you to form the intelligence and assessment together to answer your initial information requirement. Your main focus during the dissemination phase should be the one that gets the information across the most effectively. The intelligence is best disseminated in either:

  •  An oral briefing – this enables the analyst to provide a more in-depth overview of the intelligence and findings providing much more detail through questions. It also means the information can be broken down in a more understandable way.
  • Written form – this form allows the intelligence can be disseminated to the client/customer to digest at their own discretion.

Once all of these phases have been completed, you have covered every aspect of the intelligence cycle and should have come to a conclusion that matches up to the aims you set out in the initial direction phase. If you feel you haven’t achieved the objectives you set out, you need to figure out which phase needs to potentially be revisited to help you gain the result or information you require.

About the Author

Alan Blaney is the managing director of Focus Training and specializes in providing businesses worldwide with fraud prevention, intelligence and cyber security training. With over 20 years of experience within the cyber security industry, Focus Training have established themselves as the UK’s leading providers of fraud, theft and security training courses.

Alan can be reached online at and at our company website

You can also view our infographic series on the Intelligence Cycle here –