Friday, February 24, 2017

Free Google Spreadsheet ACH Template!

Mercyhurst grad student, Sam Rosenthal, recently accepted my challenge to build a tool that had all (or most) of the features of the famous PARC 2.0.5 desktop software for doing Analysis Of Competing Hypotheses in a Google spreadsheet.  You can see what it looks like below and make a copy of the template for yourself by clicking on the picture.

Richards Heuer's method is widely taught but, despite several attempts, no one (to my knowledge) has ever succeeded in creating an ACH tool that made collaboration easy ("Easy" being the operative word here).  The Google suite of tools, including Google Docs and Sheets, has solved much of the collaboration problem, though.  Up to 50 people (!) can work on a single document simultaneously.

Having done this with as many 20 people, I can tell you that it is a pretty trippy experience.  Documents don't so much "get written" as "grow" when you have this many people writing and editing and formatting at once.  Everyone who participates in one of these massively multi-writer online experiences (MMOEs?) comes away amazed at how fast the process is and how analytically solid the final products turn out to be.

As good as this tool is, there are still some limitations.  First, it is a Google product and comes with all the usual baggage, caveats and idiosyncrasies of any Google product.  Second, to add more evidence or hypotheses you will have to cut and paste empty rows or columns.  Also, while many people can work on the spreadsheet at once, there is no way (yet!) to capture, aggregate and display the level of consistency or inconsistency with any given piece of evidence based on input from multiple users (other than using an analytic modifier such as Nominal Group Technique to come up with a collective answer for each piece of evidence).  Sam is working on integrating Google Forms into the spreadsheet such that this becomes a possibility.  He hasn't yet figured out how to make days last 28 hours, though, so I don't know when we can expect this update.

Instructions for saving a copy of the spreadsheet: 
Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people will be looking at this spreadsheet over the next few days. DON'T start playing around with it until you make a copy! Click on the picture or link above and, when the spreadsheet opens up, go to the "File" tab on the spreadsheet (top left) and click on it. Then click on the "Make a Copy" link. This will let you make a copy to your personal account so you can play with it as much as you want.

Finally, don't hesitate to share but just give Sam credit for the good work!

Monday, February 13, 2017

2017 Entry-level Analyst Hiring Report For US Intel Community Is Out!

(Ed. Note:  This majority of this report is based on a survey of individuals within the US National Security Intel Community that have direct or significant indirect knowledge of hiring plans for the next year with regard to entry-level analysts (only!).  We took the survey after the election but before the hiring freeze.  Right now, we are hearing a lot of confusion regarding the freeze but we think it is likely that it will end or, at least, be better defined before the end of 2017.)

Executive Summary
Despite the recent presidential election and concerns over a federal hiring freeze, it is likely that overall hiring of entry-level intelligence analysts within the US Intelligence Community (IC) will increase over the next 12 months. Cyber intelligence hiring is highly likely to significantly increase, while other specific positions are likely to either increase or remain the same. Results of a survey of hiring professionals within the intelligence community taken after the election but before the freeze varied on if the election of President Trump will positively influence hiring, providing no definitive conclusion. Finally, results disaggregated by only respondents with direct hiring knowledge show slightly more caution, but support the estimate of increased hiring

Superstar grad student Ross Hagan compiled the report.  For all of his findings with all the charts and data, go here!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Intelligence In Business Is Booming! Afraid Of Missing Out? Here Is The Conference For You!

Intelligence In Business (as opposed to Business Intelligence...) is growing in virtually all sectors.   From competitor to security to supply chain to regulatory/compliance to strategic analysis, the need for more analysts is obvious everywhere you look.

It is with this in mind - and the changing skill set it implies - that Mercyhurst will hold a one day virtual symposium called Issues And Opportunities Across Industries on 21 MAR 2017 beginning at 0800 EST.  Conducted in coordination with the association of Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals, the symposium will feature speakers from companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Ernst and Young and Erie Insurance.

Professor Shelly Freyn, the Program Director for Business and Competitive Intelligence Studies at Mercyhurst University wants the conference to appeal to a broad range of interests and industries:
"This symposium is designed for any organization that is doing research and intelligence. We have tried to bring in speakers that could discuss the hot buttons that firms are facing from internal training of analysts to being secure in an interconnected world and the Internet of Things. We also will feature several strategists and their take on intelligence with insights applicable to any industry."
You can register here and the early bird cost is $50 (good until 1 MAR 2017).  The funds will go to support the symposium, of course, but is also a fundraiser for the Mercyhurst students to provide them an opportunity to attend the annual SCIP conference and continue to network and learn in the business community.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Another Color Of Hope: A "Choose Your Own Adventure" Intelligence Training Game

Click to play Chapter One of "Another Color Of Hope"
I have played around with "choose your own adventure" (known formally as "interactive fiction") gamebooks before but it is a real pain to do manually. 

Enter Twine.

Twine makes it dead easy to create interactive fiction.  It keeps track of virtually all of the administrivia that makes writing these type of books so difficult.

I recently used Twine to create the first chapter of a training game that I have been thinking about for the better part of a decade called Another Color Of Hope.  Without further ado, click on the picture to the right (or the link above) and it will take you to the game.

(Oh!  And in case you were wondering, I'm not going to tell you what I am trying to teach - 'cause that's part of the game!)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

How Many Entry-level Analysts Will The US IC Hire In 2017? (Survey)

Good question, right? 
If you have direct knowledge of information that might help answer the question in the title or you have indirect knowledge that is relevant to the answer to the question in the title, please take 2 minutes to complete this survey. 
What do I mean by direct and indirect knowledge?
Direct knowledge means that you know personally or have good information concerning the hiring plans of your agency or organization (or at least your section or division).  You might work in HR or be a manager with hiring responsibilities. 
Indirect knowledge is information that is relevant to the question that is not due to your direct responsibilities.  You might have spoken with an HR manager or have been involved in meetings where this issue was discussed. 
We are NOT looking for opinion based on purely circumstantial information.  If you are not involved in the hiring process either directly or indirectly, please DO NOT take this survey.  Please DO forward the survey to someone in your organization who IS involved in hiring.

Why are we interested?

Every year, other disciplines announce hiring projections for the year:  "This year's hot jobs are for engineers and chimney sweeps."  That sort of thing.  Entry level intelligence analysts who are searching for a job, on the other hand, receive no such guidance.

We hope to change that.  Working with one of our hot-shot grad students, Ross Hagan, we put together this survey to get a better feel for the the job market for entry level analysts for the year ahead.

Once we get enough survey data, Ross will compile it and combine it with the macro-level, mostly qualitative data that we already have and put together a "jobs report" for the year ahead.  I will publish it here once we are done.

We understand that there are some legitimate security concerns here so we have tried to frame the questions such that they are focused on broad developments and general trends.  We are not interested in the kind of deep details that might compromise security.

Finally, we intend to follow this study up with similar surveys of the law enforcement and business job markets for entry-level intelligence analysts as well.

Thanks for your participation!