Intelligence techniques, proven in fields such as defence intelligence, represent a significant missed opportunity for most businesses. There are huge untapped benefits from the types of actionable insight to be gained from OSINT (Open-Source Intelligence) techniques. Most lack the expertise, experience, and tools to harness the power of the world’s information.
In this blog, we’ll cover the meaning of OSINT, how it is used in intelligence settings, and how it can be leveraged to unlock business value.
Intelligence, but not as we know it
For many, the most obvious windows into the world of intelligence come from James Bond films, episodes of Spooks and John le Carré novels with romantic tales of clandestine secret service operations in exotic locations across the world.
Like many things in life, the reality is rather less glamorous; much more painstaking and formulaic; and, in today’s intelligence operation, significantly more data-led than would hold the attention of the average cinema audience.
In the intelligence world, the various types of intelligence sources have monikers which include the suffix “INT”.
HUMINT stands for Human Intelligence which relates to information gained from human interactions such as interviews, informers and interrogations.
SIGINT stands for Signals & Electronics Intelligence which includes information gained (or intercepted) from radio signals, RADAR signals and other electronically transmitted signals or data packets.
OSINT stands for Open-Source Intelligence and relates to information derived from publicly or commercially available sources via non-clandestine methods.
OSINT is used in a wide range of settings including defence intelligence, crime intelligence, cyber threat intelligence and investigative journalism.
For example, police forces routinely use data from social media platforms to locate and incriminate suspects; and Bellingcat famously used OSINT techniques to uncover the truth related to the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH-17 over Ukraine in 2014.
Business use-cases for OSINT
Deltabase has been fortunate to benefit from the advice of a serving member of the UK Ministry of Defence Strategic Command (Defence Intelligence) community. This has allowed us to leverage OSINT techniques to deliver actionable intelligence and benchmarking to our customers.
With the sheer volume of data that exists on people and businesses across the world’s information sources, our experience has shown us that OSINT techniques can unlock huge amounts of business value across a range of use cases.
1. M&A Due Diligence:
During acquisitions, due diligence advisors have the unenviable challenge of advising their clients (often private equity or trade investors) on the risks and opportunities related to a given acquisition target based upon limited information selectively shared by the company’s management team and uploaded to a virtual data room.
Data acquired from a wide range of sources using OSINT techniques can bring a valuable ‘outside-in’ perspective to supplement information provided by the target company, uncovering otherwise hidden risks and opportunities.
With due diligence windows being extremely time-pressured, it can be a challenge to tap into the sheer scale of information available in public sources and commercial datasets so accelerating OSINT processes via modern data engineering techniques and artificial intelligence is critical.
2. B2B Sales Intelligence:
B2B sales used to be a relationship game. To a large degree, it still is, but client expectations of B2B service providers are changing and in key sectors such as consulting and advisory sectors, clients expect their partners to bring a wealth of insight on competitors, markets and what best practice looks like.
OSINT can be deployed to great effect to unlock deep insight on a client’s business across a range of factors and benchmark a business against its key competitors during the sales process.
Service providers who are taking a more data-led approach and adding value via unique competitor insight during the sales cycle are winning more work with their clients than competitors who continue to rely solely upon traditional relationship management.
3. Competitor Intelligence:
The current generation of business leaders and decision-makers is more data-led than their predecessors and the appetite for objective datapoints to feed into key strategic decisions is rapidly increasing.
OSINT has the power to unlock like-for-like benchmarking of a company versus its competitors to feed into key strategy development including corporate strategy, commercial strategy, people strategy and digital / technology strategy.
Our consulting customers report that clients are becoming more and more interested in competitor intelligence and benchmarking as an input into key strategic choices.
How Deltabase leverages OSINT
Whether the sources are annual reports, investor presentations, social media channels, employee and customer review sites, company websites, B2B sales intelligence databases or general news flow, the potential use cases for OSINT are only really limited by the availability of quality information.
At Deltabase, we have designed an intelligence menu that our customers use to create a tailored brief for each engagement. This gives full flexibility to select the right number of competitors and the right intelligence scope based upon the scenario and the reasons why actionable insight and benchmarking is sought.
Our intelligence products span 3 key intelligence themes:
- Commercial Intelligence:
Intelligence and data relating to a company’s: market position; its products and services; its performance online and on social media channels; its customer base; and the sentiment of customers.
- People Intelligence:
Intelligence and data relating to a company’s: headcount; geographic distribution; skills & recruitment; culture; employee experience; diversity & inclusion.
- Digital & Technology Intelligence:
Intelligence and data relating to a company’s: technology landscape (software and infrastructure); technology skills; digital products such as apps and software; and key investments made in a company’s digital transformation journey.
The volume of publicly available information on companies and individuals is expanding rapidly and the hunger of key business decision-makers for actionable data is also growing.
This creates the perfect context for progressive and data-led consulting and advisory professionals to win more work with their clients and deliver even more client value through the skilful combination of OSINT, data engineering and AI.
If you are interested in our in-depth intelligence and benchmarking services to uncover specific and actionable value creation opportunities for companies as part of a due diligence engagement, during the consulting sales cycle or on a strategy engagement – please get in touch.