Chapter 5: Customer Support
To provide our consumers with the best, custom-tailored intelligence whenever and wherever they need it, to develop more rational business processes that will help us better distribute the production burden, and to enhance our ability to evaluate our performance against standards of analytic tradecraft and the needs of our consumers.
- Improvements in web-based technologies, development of communities of interest, and advances in security lead to better tasking, tracking, and dissemination of product.
- Common methodologies adopted for evaluating product/customer satisfaction; ADCI/AP producing annual report that evaluates our performance on key analytic issues.
- Coordination on current production increases through use of digital production.
- A seamless production environment means customer requests are easily tracked; on-line communication with customer is interactive; multiple security domains and communities of interest working smoothly.
- Community evaluation program well-established; common methodologies provide useful trend data.
- Joint Program of Community Analysis results in better distribution of labor.
The Intelligence Community’s number one priority is to provide its customers with the best possible custom-tailored intelligence whenever and wherever they need it. Our ability to do so depends, in large part, on how well we under stand and respond to their needs and on how much our products help them do their jobs. Therefore, our investment strategy for maximizing customer support must:
- Enhance direct linkages between analysts and consumers to encourage a continuous dialogue and sustained feedback, which will permit us to improve service and adjust priorities as necessary.
- Manage expectations so that our customers are realistic in their taskings and better appreciate what we can bring to the table, and, conversely, focus our analytic efforts on priority issues rather than stretch resources to meet every request.
- Develop common metrics and methods of assessing customer satisfaction to evaluate our performance and more effectively argue for analytic resources, when needed.
- Eliminate needless duplication among Community components and actively encourage collaboration in production and marketing of each other’s product.
Our Changing Customer
customers have more information at their finger tips than at any time in
history. They are better informed, more focused
in their tasking, and more exacting in what they expect from intelligence. More often than not, they want tailored
support for their own specific, narrowly-defined agendas. Consumers are more
critical of what we deliver, and paradoxically, more demanding as our response
times improve with technology. Also available
to them, in an abundance their predecessors could not imagine, is an array of
easily accessed alternative sources of information from beyond the Intelligence
Changing customer needs and expectations, as well as the transformed information environment, make it imperative that the analytic community restructure its business practices and production processes, reexamine its relation ship with customers, and look for ways to reduce duplication and more effectively use information that already exists within the Community.
Managing and Measuring Customer Demand
Today, most agencies use a combination of people and technology-based methods to help identify
and respond to customer demands. Anecdotal evidence and rudimentary statistics indicate
that most agencies are relatively successful in both areas. Nevertheless, the analytic agencies continue
to wrestle with how to better measure and manage customer demand, and all are
aggressively refining mechanisms already in place.
The national intelligence agencies and smaller single-customer intelligence units within the analytic community tend to be heavily people oriented on the front end of the request and-response chain, while relying on technology at the back end to capture statistics on customer demand and analytic production. The larger military intelligence producers, in contrast, are automating their request, tasking, and response systems—at both the front and back ends—to serve a scattered and diverse constituency.
Much of the current focus—especially in the larger national and military organizations—is directed toward the long-term goal of creating an integrated electronic production environment. The large organizations, for example, are making strides, albeit somewhat uneven, in tracking customer requests and in recording and capturing production flow, an effort that will become increasingly critical if we are to develop common “knowledge warehouses” that are easily accessible to our customers and to each other.
Although the relatively unsophisticated mechanisms used within our Community to manage and measure customer support have been adequate to date, they do not meet the needs of the Community as the workload expands. In addition, we are being asked more frequently to justify our expenditures and activities. We must be able to demonstrate the connection between demand and production in much the same way as the commercial world currently does. We must also show that we are working cooperatively to realize cost efficiencies and develop interoperable systems. Despite different missions and customer bases, technology is driving us down similar paths, and we can capitalize on one another’s efforts and better justify resources if we tackle these problems together.
Disseminating our “Product”The manner in which we disseminate our prod uct is undergoing a rapid transformation. Indeed, improvements in dissemination technology have led us to expand what we mean by the term “product.” Although we could not do so just five years ago, most of us can now conceive of an intelligence environment in which consumers and producers are electronically and securely connected at different levels of classification and access, the flow of information between and among us is continuous, the for mat and type of media are tailored to customer preferences, and products are continuously updated and added to knowledge warehouses. In such an environment, customers would be able to access information at any time from any location, and “products” might be defined as traditional analytic assessments, multimedia presentations, or simply bits of data and information.
At present, we are in a transitional stage, trying to adjust to these new and still evolving technologies while dealing with customers who are demanding more timely delivery of more relevant intelligence. Our various agencies are responding to the challenge in many creative ways:
DoD and CIA: Reengineering Production for the Future
The good news in our various efforts is that we are all looking toward web-based solutions and using predominantly commercial operating technology to build and refine our distribution systems. This means that our separate paths are likely to lead toward the same destination. As a Community, however, we must work more closely to realize cost efficiencies, take advantage of each others’ successes and failures, and ensure that agencies ultimately can operate interactively and easily in a secure information environment. In particular, we need to synchronize our policies as we move toward creating a common knowledge space and linking information repositories.
At the same time, it is highly unlikely that the paper product will disappear or that the utility of face-to-face contact will dissipate. As eye popping as many of the new technologies are, our key customers will still need personal assistance in obtaining the intelligence most important to their needs. Some technology smart customers may design and use their own intelligence homepages, but time constraints will limit how frequently or often most of our senior policymakers, defense planners, and warfighters navigate the intelligence web.
Evaluating PerformanceAs we establish and refine new systems and tools for serving our customers and delivering our products, it will become increasingly important to develop methods for evaluating our performance that produce consistent results that can be replicated and applied across the Community. Statistics on demand and production tell only part of the story. If customers are demanding and receiving more, we can assume that we are, at least in part, satisfying a need. These types of measures, however, do not tell us how well we performed, whether our trade craft was sound, whether we “called it right,” and whether our products actually helped our customers.
In addition to mission or agency reviews that provide organizational feedback, most of our analytic organizations have some rudimentary mechanisms in place for evaluating their products and trying to capture information on customer satisfaction. We all face a common dilemma—how to perform these evaluations without a barrage of survey instruments that are more likely than not to irritate our busy customers and lead to survey “fatigue.”
We are frequently asked by our congressional oversight committees how good our intelligence analysis is and how well we are responding to customers’ needs. It would be useful (and will likely become necessary) to be able to back up our answers with better evidence than anecdotal data and the results of subjective self appraisals. Apart from the need to respond to Congress, however, we should develop better methods for measuring performance and customer satisfaction because, without them, we cannot reliably or confidently determine what we need to fix and how we can improve.
A certain amount of
duplication in intelligence research, analysis, and production is not only useful
but arguably vital to our mission. Indeed, from time to time the analytic community
has been asked to establish mechanisms to perform competitive analysis of
contentious or politically charged issues of high import. However, given
budgetary realities, it is imperative that our analytic community look for ways
to reduce unnecessary redundancies and build on the knowledge, capabilities,
and products already extant in the larger Intelligence Community. Most of our
organizations have taken steps to rationalize production within their units or
“communities,” and we are making some progress across the Intelligence Community
Cooperation, however, is still spotty, and agencies often find it difficult to cede turf to other organizations when their primary customers are continuing to demand information on a particular topic. The lack of connectivity and collaborative tools (see Technology chapter) also inhibits efforts to share the burden or solicit help from other analytic units.
To provide our customers with the kind of intelligence they want and need without wasting their time and patience, the analytical community needs to:
1. Develop better and more consistent methods for evaluating our products and measuring how well we are satisfying customer needs. Without a good program for evaluating our collection and analysis, we cannot speak with any degree of confidence about how well we are or are not hitting the mark. Without such a program, we also miss an opportunity to make studied judgments about our activities and what we can do to improve our collection and analytic posture. We simply cannot continue to rely on anecdotal evidence, data that can not be replicated, and statistics that are questionable and inconsistent across the community. (See also Interacting with Collectors chapter.)
- Work with collection community to develop single evaluation process that incorporates both collection and analysis. Initiate a Community-wide evaluation process on core issues to be presented to the DCI as an annual report. Conduct a first-year pilot on two or three issues. Review pilot for lessons learned, adjust program. Begin full-scale evaluations by FY 2001.
- Establish blue ribbon panels—ideally a mix of insiders and outsiders—under the purview of the ADCI/AP to conduct evaluations of event-driven production. Panel members would vary depending on the issue involved. Studies would be initiated at the behest of the ADCI/AP, in consultation with the NIPB. In addition to assessing performance, these evaluations would include les sons learned and recommendations.
- Explore electronic audit trails and other electronic “survey” measures to encourage customer feedback; more accurately deter mine customer usage, productivity, and timeliness, relevance, and quality of product; and obtain other useful statistics. Investigate possible procedural, legal, and security issues connected with use of audit trail data.
- Learn how web-based businesses measure customer satisfaction and determine what we might profitably emulate.
2. Accelerate digital production efforts and increase Community collaboration in tracking customer requests, measuring productivity, sharing information, and developing tools that make it easier for customers to navigate our knowledge warehouses. Connectivity and collaborative tools are absolutely essential to make progress in sup porting our customers, speeding dissemination of our products, tracking customer demand and productivity, and reducing unnecessary duplication of effort. The Technology chapter of this investment plan deals with these issues in greater detail. We can, however, point to some specific steps here to help realize the customer support objectives highlighted above.
- Migrate digital production technology and tools to agency offices that produce daily publications and to the National Intelligence Council (NIC) as a first priority—ensuring, at minimum, that systems are interoperable. Share best practices and lessons learned in digital production.
- Strengthen the current electronic tracking mechanisms employed by various agencies to ensure that they adequately register customer needs at the front end, track responses at the back end, and capture information in production warehouses so that it can be recovered and reused by customers and other analysts. Share best practices. Look for solutions that are, at a minimum, compatible.
- Cooperate in development of tools to help customers search for and retrieve information quickly.
3. Rationalize production of current publications to reduce unnecessary duplication while preserving opportunities for competitive analysis where appropriate and needed. Examine production responsibilities across the Community to ensure appropriate distribution of labor and to share the burden more effectively. We must find ways to cooperate on our analytic production and reduce the redundant flow of information reaching our customers—with out damaging our ability to engage in competitive analysis where useful. In doing so, we will not only serve our customers better, but also free up resources that are need ed to address other pressing problems.
- Establish baseline of resources (dollars and manpower) devoted to production of daily publications across the Community and develop alternative approaches to Community collaboration—taking account of different customer sets, cost factors, existing and required technology/ connectivity, etc.
- Revitalize Community coordination process for current publications.
- Examine methods for ensuring that competitive analysis on key issues still finds a voice and is incorporated into daily publications.
- Initiate a Community Program of Analysis to rationalize areas of overlap and underlap. Focus especially on strategic studies.