Information, Intelligence and Wikileaks

With the Wikileaks website hitting headlines around the world, Matthew Harrison this week ponders the true value of turning information into intelligence

Plumbing the murkiest depths of my mind in search of a topic that would put the ‘Insight’ into my Thursday Night, I decided to leaf through a couple of UK and US newspapers for inspiration. The modern news press offers a heady mix of current affairs, insightful analysis and entertainment, making it an invaluable last-chance saloon for the writer whose imagination has run dry.

My search for insight did not start promisingly, as I misguidedly began my search by clicking on the website of the Daily Mail, regarded as the crack cocaine of UK journalism for its Class A addictiveness and the ongoing despair of its readers. In an uncharacteristic display of optimism, the aforementioned rag misinformed me that the English Football Association would imminently ‘bring the World Cup Beck home’, before going on to declare – more accurately and no less intriguingly – that a Scottish dietician had been evicted from a jungle-based game show having refused to wrestle with a bear.

My strategic decision to head for the website of the Wall Street Journal was rather more successful, as the front page led with the ongoing outrage surrounding Wikileaks, without doubt the world’s most famous information provider at the time of writing. This website’s decision to release thousands of wires of classified information had provoked calls for its founder to be arrested and charged on terrorist offences. Intrigued by this, I clicked through to the Wikileaks website to see what all the fuss was about.

As a researcher and analyst of the views of businesses and industry experts, I was left agog at the quality of Wikileaks’ sources and the granularity of its information. Foreign diplomats and heads of state led the way on Wikileaks’ Who did we interview? list, making my pride at having once secured an interview with the regional manager of an industrial pump company seem no less than pitiful. And the (alleged) detail that followed this A-List of international diplomacy was something to behold – interview transcripts detailing Russian money laundering, American espionage plots and Asian nuclear secrets.

Quickly, however, my admiration turned to impatience. For every morsel of war-provoking intelligence there were another 100 paragraphs of inconsequential drivel, ranging from the blindingly obvious (Breitling-wearing, supermodel-marrying French president Nicolas Sarkozy is a little on the vain side) to the ridiculous (Prince Andrew once used a swear-word during a lunch in Kyrgyzstan).
Thinking about this later in the day, I was increasingly startled by two facts. First, how is it possible that such important and valuable information could be interspersed with such rubbish? Second, why is the owner of Wikileaks not a multi-millionaire?
Wikileaks faces a problem that is common to our information age – an ability to obtain valuable information, but a reliance on other organizations to extract any commercial or strategic value from it. Everywhere we look (particularly online), information is readily and freely available, and with little effort any of us can find out more about our rivals, customers and suppliers. What is less easy, however, is turning information into intelligence and then into actions.

We at B2B International recognise that obtaining good quality information is only the start of a long intelligence process. What distinguishes The Wall Street Journal from Wikileaks, and B2B International from many of its competitors, is the ability to sift through large amounts of information rapidly and thoroughly, before presenting and interpreting that data in a way that makes that information valuable to our clients.

In short, our focus is on delivering intelligence that enables our clients to deliver a strong return on investment by making more informed decisions. As the matrix below shows, this does make us more expensive than Wikileaks. But weigh that up against the benefits – improved decision making across the whole of your business. And, with the exception of this article, a guarantee that we will never regale you with anecdotes about Prince Andrew.

Estimated ROI Of Market Intelligence Projects

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