It has been reported that C-level executives are suffering from a flood of threat intelligence. There is too much of it, it\u2019s too complicated to make sense of, and its utility is questionable. As someone who has spent most of his career in intelligence, I can say with confidence that this isn\u2019t a phenomenon limited to the commercial sector.When I started my career we still used pencil and paper. You didn\u2019t assault a decision-maker\u2019s senses with 30 pages of PowerPoint, you wrote a report. One page. As the adoption of technology grew, we were able to assemble massive amounts data in new formats for user consumption. In theory, this should have been the start of a golden age in the intelligence business: more data, more analytic power, more insights in front of decision-makers.Instead it became a nightmare.What intelligence isn\u2019tPeople have been mistaking data for intelligence since before cyber threat intelligence became a thing. An IP address, a person\u2019s name, a given piece of malware are different types of data. Lots of data assembled into a coherent whole is information. Information subjected to methodology and expert input is intelligence. Intelligence tells you something you did not already know, or gives you some measure of confidence, allowing you to make decisions in an informed manner.\u00a0If you find yourself being overwhelmed by \u201cintelligence\u201d you didn\u2019t buy intelligence you bought a data feed. Machines cannot produce intelligence. An algorithm may be able to process data in accordance with a given formula, but it cannot provide the insight that a subject matter expert \u2014social, martial, political, technical, cultural, linguistic \u2014 can. Anything delivered to you as a decision-maker that isn\u2019t finished by a human being isn\u2019t intelligence.Helping those who won\u2019t help themselvesThe flip side to the intelligence dilemma is that even if you are provided with well-sourced, well-analyzed, and timely intelligence, the utility of that intelligence is still zero if you\u2019re unwilling to act on it. Instead of being something that helps you get ahead of the problem or competition, it becomes a lagging indicator of what happened because you did not act. History, in other words.I saw this a lot when I was responsible for disseminating warnings to DOD elements about cyber threats. Such warnings had to fit within a larger framework that included physically dangerous near-peer adversaries like Russia or China. We fielded a lot of phone calls from frustrated Commanders asking why Tiny Nation was now a red light on their threat dashboard. To someone who is trying to stop bad guys and keep good guys alive, you\u2019re an idiot who is unnecessarily complicating their lives.The icing on that bureaucratic cake would usually come a month or so later when that command would get hacked, and why didn\u2019t we tell them that was going to happen? Well, we did, you just decided that either (a) we were wrong, or (b) it wasn\u2019t as big a problem as we said it was. Fair enough, because in the end every decision-maker is their own intelligence analyst, but the problem wasn\u2019t the intelligence and related assessment.Bias for actionIntelligence only works if both sides \u2014 producers and consumers \u2014 are working in harmony and fulfilling their respective roles. From the perspective of the intelligence team it is critical that you:Avoid hyperbole and FUD. Stick to facts and what you can verify. Caveat questionable sources accordingly.Avoid a rush to judgement. First reports of any sort of activity are usually wrong to some degree. Even when seconds count, it's better to be right than first.Provide a \u201cso what\u201d factor. Context is key The boss can read the news, which stories should she pay attention to, and why?Put things into perspective. What\u2019s the worst thing that can happen? What \u2014 given historical precedence \u2014 is most likely to happen? A decision is more likely when there is a range of options linked to business impact.Likewise, it is on the consumer of intelligence to make effective use of what is being provided:Make your priorities clear. What matters the most to you? That will help the intelligence team understand what to focus on.Make your consumption preferences known. Do you want slides? Will you read a full page of text or just a paragraph? Would you prefer someone in front of your desk articulating the issues?Use what you\u2019re given. Whether it's a command to act, or another question to answer, the third option \u2014 inaction \u2014 suggests you have more fundamental issues that need to be addressed before you can make effective use of intelligence.Provide feedback. What did they do that was useful? What are they doing that wastes your time? Absent direction an intelligence team will produce what they think you want, not what you need.Intelligence failures aren\u2019t always about a failure to have the right information in the right hands at the right time; it is just as often if not more so a factor of decision-makers not believing what they are seeing, and as a consequence not acting. \u201cGo back and look again,\u201d is a completely legitimate request, but there is no such thing as perfect, complete intelligence. At some point a decision has to be made, and that\u2019s something intelligence cannot do for you.