The Intelligence Cycle

The steps you should take to gather intelligence effectively for your organization.

The steps you should take to gather intelligence effectively for your organization.

Professional intelligence analysts follow a standard cycle to reach their conclusions, but any organization in any industry can do the same. Jenny Johnstone, a tactical analyst with the Federal and Serious Organized Crime Unit of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and president of the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts, outlines the steps:

  1. Identify the problem and available resources. If you’re the boss, be clear about what information you want—especially the question you’re trying to answer—and when you need it. Indicate if money can be spent getting the answer, such as using commercial databases or temporary research help.
  2. Collect data. Identify where you would collect the required information, then go get it.
  3. Collate the information. “It’s one thing to amass all this information, but you have to be able to give it some context and find it later,” Johnstone says. “Luckily, today you have all sorts of computer programs to help with collation.”
  4. Analyze the data. “That’s where we’re looking at all the information pieces we have and turning it into something that’s actionable, something meaningful. We’re answering the question as best we can based on all the data in front of us,” she says.
  5. Disseminate the results. “You can create this absolutely fabulous report that’s extensive and clear, but unless you give it to the right people as fast as possible, it’s useless.”
  6. Debrief. Look back to ensure no one missed any sources, that the question is answered, and that no personal biases influenced the analysis.


Kristin Clarke, CAE

By Kristin Clarke, CAE

Kristin Clarke, CAE, is books editor for Associations Now and president of Clarke Association Content. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!