Skills of CI analysts and collectors

May 25, 2016

When talking about the different skills of CI analysts and data collectors, I often use the example of two fictional detectives: Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. For those who are not familiar with these two, let me give a brief summary:

Nero Wolfe was a large (1/7th of a ton) man who rarely left his New York residence. He usually sent a detective, Archie Goodwin, to collect evidence for him to analyze at his home, where he always solved the mystery.

So I point to Nero as the ultimate analyst and Archie as the ultimate collector. (BTW, my brief description does not do justice to a series of over 3 dozen wonderful detective novels.)

However, when assigning tasks, hiring staff, or evaluating your own skills, you need a little more guidance. Let me provide a working list of some key skills for analysts and for data collectors[1]. For you DIYers, use this to see where you are strong, and, more importantly, where you are not:


For CI Collectors For CI Analysts
Quickly identify and master relevant primary and secondary sources, their reliability, and validity Analyze creatively – be able to put yourself in someone else’s place
Know how to access and manage both internal (i.e., networks) and external resources Use both inductive and deductive reasoning
Recognize anomalies in data and work around them Have overview of basic analytical models and ability to apply them
Continuously develop and refine research skills Know when to use advanced analytical tools such as psychological profiling, patent mapping, etc.
Understand when and how to apply elicitation interviewing techniques Recognize and deal with inevitable existence of intelligence gaps and blind spots, both personal and of data sources
Know when to stop collecting data Know when to stop analyzing data
Adhere to ethics and policies associated with data gathering Develop and deliver actionable analyses and recommendations

[1] This list is heavily adapted from a working list I developed in conjunction with Dr. Ben Gilad several years ago.

2 Comments on “Skills of CI analysts and collectors”

  1. Avner Barnea says:

    A major challenge – how to teach analytics mainly qualititive!

  2. caldgargan says:

    What I have seen is many colleges and universities teaching hunting-gathering, few teach critical thinking anymore. Hence we got a lot of google ninjas but few Sherlock Holmes. You need data to do deductive/inductive reasoning and you can teach everyone to hunt, but true analysis like leadership is a skill that not everyone has. In this day and age of “I want it quickly” we get a lot of deductive reasoning without a lot of factual basis and no inductive reasoning. It takes time, effort and is hard work to be an analyst. The path of least resistance is always the easiest. Value comes from the hard work.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s