Closing the Gap Between Analysts and Operators

As a large proportion of what’s left of America’s workforce (latest data suggests 1:4 Americans have filed for unemployment benefits) enters another month of working from home, it’s become even more apparent how vital internal communication is to the continuity of business operations. Security teams are no exception—effectively executing off-site operations while various department heads are calling the shots from their living rooms and improvised offices means that emails, text messages, and phone calls need to be as digestible and straight forward as ever.

Though at some point the quarantine will end, and COVID-19 will become more manageable, it’s important to take the lessons we’ve learned from the pandemic back into our offices, operations centers, and desktops. Whether it’s remote work or field work, physical and social distance between intelligence analysts and security operators can create gaps in teamwork, information sharing, and overall efficiency. No security organization is immune to the possibility that a global pandemic, or a particularly heavy workload, can cause strain on the analyst/operator relationship, resulting in errors and redundancies. In circumstances where information sharing has slowed to a trickle, or only flows one way, the stakeholders, the mission, and your team’s reputation face the brunt of the consequences. To avoid these pitfalls, ensure your team is following these guidelines: communicate more than you think you should, collaborate often, and empower your experts.

Communication styles, as we all know, are as varied as the communicators themselves. For this reason, it is imperative to communicate as frequently and thoroughly as possible, particularly when partnered with individuals for the first time. Why? Because operators and analysts are symbiotic, designed to provide mutually beneficial service to the other, and to cover as wide of a berth as possible. Neither are intended to work independently of the other, though unfortunately, this is likely to occur more often than any busy organization would like to admit. To break the analyst/operator silo, check in with your teammates at the start of an operation rather than in the middle, end, or worse, not at all. At this time, operators can inform analysts of needed intelligence to be prioritized and delivered as soon as possible, as opposed to waiting until a final report or deliverable. With this information in mind, analysts can consider the most effective course of action to support their partners and meet each case’s unique needs. 

Second, analysts and operators should continue to work collaboratively throughout the case, frequently updating each other on discoveries and problem-solving issues. Generally, both analysts and operators run into unforeseen obstacles once the investigation has begun. To prevent an unexpected issue from sidelining a case, problems and errors should be immediately shared amongst team members. For example, does the operator know their analyst can create a historical heat map of crimes committed within 1,000 feet of the client’s home? If communication between departments is siloed, perhaps not. Alternately, does an analyst with limited insight into an office building or property grounds know the operator has access to floor plans? The point is—never let an opportunity to provide value to the client or the case pass due to inadequate information sharing. 

Now that information is flowing freely between teammates, we shouldn’t hesitate to include each other in client talks and case strategy. Too often, cases are held close to the chest and client management is spearheaded by only one individual or department. Why is this a bad strategy, case managers everywhere ask? Put simply, much detail is at risk of becoming lost or mismanaged when one individual or group acts as the lone knowledge holder. You wouldn’t want your analyst in the field representing operational capabilities, nor would you want an operator characterizing intelligence competencies— so why would only one department represent the expertise of both? An effective organization empowers their employees to represent their area of expertise and speak to their contributions. Furthermore, details discussed in client and strategy conversations can mean little to one department and a great deal to the other. The full (and properly spelled) name of a subject may mean something to an operator conducting executive protection and everything to the agency’s protective intelligence analyst. Meanwhile, the meaning of the username “peacemaker45” may be overlooked by an analyst and immediately recognized by an operator.

In the end, a well-oiled security team that openly shares information, collaborates internally, and shows faith in their employees is likely to produce a higher quality product or service and impress clients. Sure, you could get away with less, but why would you want to? Incorporate open lines of communication between departments and reap the rewards of customer satisfaction, employee growth, and team retention.

About the Author: Jacqueline Walsh is a Lead Global Risk Intelligence Analyst at AT-RISK International and a licensed Private Investigator. Her specialties include background investigations, risk assessment, and protective intelligence. She is a member of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP), the Southeast Analysts’ Roundtable (SEAR), the International Association of Crime Analysts (IACA), and the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC). She is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in business management and a certification in risk management & insurance.