Dissecting the Value of Web Intelligence

October 15, 2013 • John Sullivan

Editor’s Note

The following interview is with John Sullivan and is from our Web Intelligence Perspectives Series. John is the Global Director of Corporate Security for Dunkin’ Brands.

What is it about web intelligence that is so important opportunity to you?

90% of all of the world’s data was created in the last two years. All of this information is eminently searchable and subject to analysis. With the advent of social media, people all over the world have become increasingly more comfortable living their lives online leaving robust data artifacts that can be curated, searched, and analyzed.

As mobile technology platforms continue to proliferate and as the Generation Z cohort matures and enters the workspace, we’ll see even more information recorded digitally. There are all sorts of possibilities as to how a security and competitive intelligence professional could mine those artifacts to drive strategic and tactical benefit for their organizations.

What drives the interest in web intelligence in your community? What hole in your world does it fill?

Despite the ubiquity of web data, it still remains largely untapped by private sector security organizations as a source of OSINT primarily due to highly iterative and dilatory search methods. To this point, we have generally relied on ad hoc searches on specific topics rather than the broad ranging analytics now possible through web intelligence tools.

Optimizing the take from web intelligence can transform how the C-suite views their CSO. We can transcend the traditional guns, gates and guards role into a true purveyor of information to guide corporate strategies.

What does a critical insight from web intelligence look like?

Critical insights are limited only by the question you ask of the data. Here are a few examples of the possibilities:

  • Buy forward on wheat, sugar and proteins as commodity prices will rise soon.
  • Create a map and timeline of where competitors are opening locations over the next three months.
  • Identifying a large scale demonstration will fall during the same week my CEO is attending a conference in Bangkok.

We can go deeper than just knowing there will be a demonstration in Bangkok to see the invisible connections between the actors involved in organizing the demonstration. Determining it’s time to invest in advertising in Vietnam (for example) as we are seeing more predictability in emerging market customer buying patterns—thereby beating our competition to that market.

Delaying signing the lease for our new factory in Shanghai as we see a commercial real estate glut coming next year that will provide better opportunity. Demonstrating my key competitor’s CEO is traveling frequently to country X; does that signal a new market entry for them and what can we do to blunt that entry now that it is no longer a surprise?

We can then look back and see past store openings and plot those out over time or by location to make some sense out of their development strategies. We can see how a particular country responded to a natural disaster in the past to give us an idea of how they’ll respond in the future so we can better plan our disaster recovery plan.

What is your vision for how web intelligence could be used?

Web intelligence makes me much more valuable to my organization. Beyond the pure intrinsic value of my security role, I can now be a source of all manner of information, (and maybe the best source of information), to the entire enterprise.

What’s particularly compelling is the visualization of this analysis as it tells a great story. There are often a-ha moments when I see web intelligence analysis in a visual format. With robust web intel tools, the search, aggregation, distillation, analysis and visual depiction of the analysis are all done instantly.

There is a real opportunity here for CSOs to vastly increase their analytical yield per man hour more than traditional methods. We can better target our security spend as well as we can base our security decisions on intelligence rather than hunch or habit. We can step out from only being a security leader to being a significant strategy partner.

Looking ahead, will web intelligence become a standard piece of tradecraft in your community? Will it “go viral”?

There is no doubt there will be an inexorable rise of web intelligence in the security trade. It will be a standard piece in every CSO’s cache of information weapons that will be used to make our enterprises safer and more profitable. If you could look ahead two years into the future you’d see every leading security organization with analysts working on web intel.

It will be as much a part of an organization’s security posture as access cards and CCTV.

John Sullivan

John Sullivan is the Global Director of Corporate Security for Dunkin’ Brands. Over 20+ years in security and investigations, John has built a very broad perspective ranging across consultative enterprise risk management, human asset protection, crisis response, executive protection, due diligence investigations and the use of threat analysis solutions to create opportunities for increased revenue and improved company reputation. John has been profiled by Chief Security Officer and Security for strategic leadership in aligning security and business goals, and has been named by Security as one of the top 20 security leaders in his field in each of the last five years. His professional roles include membership in the International Security Management Association, the CSO Roundtable of the American Society for Industrial Security, and the Homeland Security Committee for the National Retail Federation.