Analysis & Opinions - Harvard Business Review

Intelligence Vendor Checklist

As more and more corporate teams leverage private intelligence vendors to understand geopolitical and security operating conditions, it is critical for executives and their intelligence teams to ask the right questions. How should private sector entities ensure that intelligence vendors operating around the world aligns with their needs, risk tolerance, and ethics?

The checklist (available in a downloadable version below) accompanies “How to Vet a Corporate Intelligence Vendor,” by Maria Robson-Morrow, Paul Kolbe, and Katie Tucker, published in January 2024 by the Harvard Business Review. It provides a succinct, one-page guide for corporate practitioners who are engaging with vendors, ensuring they ask the questions they need to succeed. 

Checklist: What to Look for When Engaging an Intelligence Vendor

Maria Robson-Morrow, Katherine Tucker, Paul R. Kolbe
January 2024

1.    Does the vendor’s expertise match my needs?
☐    Vendor has clear specialties, underpinned by deep expertise.
☐    They invest in their people with training and ongoing development.
☐    Vendor closely oversees any subcontractors and has insight into their collection methods.

2.    Does the vendor tailor to my needs?
☐    Vendor has given us a trial or demo.
☐    They have explained how they can customize their services to meet our requirements.
☐    They have discussed source qualifications and access sufficiently for us to have confidence in the quality of their intelligence.

3.    Does the vendor’s ethical code align with my own?
☐    They have a robust ethical code that aligns with our values and compliance standards.
☐    They have a track record of resolving legal or compliance concerns or declining work that is suspect.
☐    They will protect our data.

4.    Am I supporting my vendor?
☐    I know what they need from us for success.
☐    They are open to collaborating with us and developing intelligence requirements together.
☐    I am confident we will have a dialogue and they will be responsive to our ongoing needs.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Robson-Morrow, Maria, Katherine Tucker and Paul Kolbe.“Intelligence Vendor Checklist.” Harvard Business Review, January 16, 2024.