The three pillars of Strategic Intelligence or Economic Intelligence: a must for any company!

Discover those pillars of strategic intelligence and the reasons why every company willing to stay in the race should make use of them.
The article dates back to a couple of years ago but remains more than ever on the agenda.
Thanks to Alison Tizard, associate partner at Ahead, for the interview – published in Headway in October 2013.

logo-Ahead The 3 pillars of Strategic/Economic Intelligence

Competition is raging and comes from everywhere

Data and its analysis and exploitation is not only the preoccupation of countries and large companies. Strategic Intelligence will help organisations of any size to acquire and analyse pertinent and reliable information to take better decisions in uncertain times. It is a continuous process.

Someone at the heart of Strategic Intelligence is Anne Wanielista, who started her mostly B2B career with Marben (now part of Atos Origin) before joining Neoceram and then Zetes, specialising in integrating identification solutions in the supply chain.

As Corporate Market Intelligence and Business Intelligence Director with Zetes, her target markets have been broad and many – from retail to logistics and from food to pharma. HEADWAY asked Anne how important it is to get under the skin of the diverse industries you serve …

Customer centricity ... and empathy

A commercial business without customers is not going to have a bright future.
The customer must remain centric and his needs, whether voiced or not, must be met. The art is to be reliable and attractive for your customer. If you help him add value to his own business, he will probably remain loyal … but to do that, you have to know what keeps him awake at night.
Empathy is key. Anticipation as well, since you will have to prepare the solutions for the future at different terms : short … and long! This is where strategy comes in.

How do you manage to do that given the pace of change in many sectors?

One of the very first pillars of Strategic and Economic Intelligence consists in scanning/monitoring the ecosystem.

The ecosystem at a large extent : market, customers, competitors, suppliers, partners, … are monitored as well as the political, economic, socio-cultural, technological, ecological and legal environment : the so-called “PESTEL”.

The sources are numerous, be they open (OSINT[1]) or human (HUMINT[2]). Information will be connected from publications, websites, social media (SOCMINT[3]), at trade-shows, during conferences, …

Search orientation, Sources Identification, Automation (different « intelligent agents » tools exist on the market), and Collaboration are keys not to be overflooded.

[1] Open Source Intelligence

[2] Human Intelligence

[3] Social Media Intelligence

Intelligence-pillars-Chart The 3 pillars of Strategic/Economic Intelligence

Some people might find number crunching rather dull. What in this field has made you leap out of bed in the morning over the years?

Passion, curiosity and a great interest in trends shaping the future !

In recent years the volume of available information has dramatically increased, the rank and file is a reader and a contributor; the intelligence is shared as well as the information, would it be true or false; so the world and the enterprise are social and digital and must be agile …

That’s why I leap out of bed in the morning !

So what’s a typical day for you?

Besides the scanning step, essentially dedicating time to other pillars:


A protection strategy is worked out at different levels:

  • internal data security to avoid breach in the system or leak via the staff; the new ways of working are challenging in this regard: BYOD[1], confusion between professional and private life on social network, … to name but a few
  • Intellectual property (brands, patents and domain names)
  • Anti-counterfeiting measures. The NTIC[2] offer the economical espionage a wider range of actors, challenges and methods
  • Activity: building scenarios for the future, to be prepared to change

Keeping an eye on e-reputation is essential too nowadays.


Influence will happen through different means: webmarketing, lobbying, networking, …

This approach is different from the business intelligence where the internal data is analyzed. Here we are taking a look at what is going on outside the company. Here internal collaboration is again key as every person in the company holds information which will confirm, or maybe infirm or complement rumours coming from the market for example.

This “outside” strategic intelligence approach combined with the “inside” business intelligence approach will give the full picture.

Sharing: the logical next step

I would add to these 3 pillars a fourth one : the put in place of a knowledge sharing platform has numerous advantages (Central repository, Company memory, Collaboration place, Accessibility, …).

[1] Bring Your Own Device

[2] New Technologies of Information and Communication

When it comes to implementing Strategic Intelligence what’s your top tip for HEADWAY readers?

Strategic Intelligence is considered differently according to the part of the world or to the country : from a must to a luxury that cannot be afforded.
Top management must be convinced about this approach and must back the function wholeheartedly.

You are currently studying a master class in Strategic Intelligence at HEC-ULg. How is this stretching you further?

This class allows us to widen our scope, take a step back, take a critical look at our way of working. It is a great experience on several levels :

  • from a content perspective : it’s an occasion to learn new theories and to review or revise some other ones
  • from a technique perspective : speakers explained techniques to build strategies and showed us tools
  • from a human perspective : it’s an exchange of views and experiences with people expert in their field and working together gives lessons of humility and sharing
  • from a network perspective : it is an opportunity to meet with people having a common interest I would not have come across in other circumstances

I would like to pinpoint two high points :

Firstly, the organisation of the Strategic and Economic Symposium 2013 with prestigious speakers : Alain Juillet[1], Alain Winants[2], Guy Rapaille[3] and Patrick Leroy[4]. The theme was the relationship between the «State intelligence services» and the enterprises.

Secondly taking part in a war room as the closing exercise of the programme and our final exam.

[1] « Président du club des directeurs de sécurité des entreprises » (France) and « Président de l’académie d’intelligence économique » (France)

[2] « Administrateur général de la Sûreté de l’Etat » (Belgium)

[3] « Président du Comité Permanent de contrôle des Services de renseignement » (Belgium), « Président du BISC » (Belgium)

[4] « Chef de l’analyse de la Division contre-ingérence du SGRS » (Belgium)

Interesting. How did the format work?

Well, there were 14 of us in 3 rival teams. We were given a specific theme, 32 hours, and one mission: to study the positions of the different stakeholders, their arguments, their presence in the media and come up with an action plan.

Essentially you have to live a real-time “issue”, firstly by detecting the signals to prevent it becoming a crisis. Then you develop scenarios for the specific sector. This involves collaborating with people often from very different backgrounds and points of view. All of this really tests you intellectually, emotionally and physically.

Talking of war rooms, I hear you have a relevant and fun hobby!

Yes, as a teacher of self-defense system (krav maga), I have developed a training programme underlining the parallel between strategic intelligence and defence sport. In case of a person’s aggression or of a competitor’s attack, a series of common factors will make the difference : that could be awareness, or anticipation, stress management, determination, speed of decision making, velocity of execution … that’s to name but a few.

And that leads me naturally to the wise words of George S. Patton:

« The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war … »