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Engaging your board on geopolitical and security issues isn't just about what you say. It's also about how you say it. We outline three types of intelligence reports proven to appeal to senior decision-makers.

“No matter how often I tried to warn our board about Russia’s intentions before they invaded Ukraine, no one would listen to me. Everyone thought I was exaggerating and ignored what I had to say…”

It’s a repeating refrain from CSOs. In the weeks before the invasion, they struggled to overcome board-level scepticism about Russia’s intentions. And once they had that attention, they found it difficult to keep a senior audience engaged with the knock-on risks stemming from the war.

Perhaps you can relate. It’s frustrating when you have insights that are critical to the future of your company but simply can’t catch the attention of senior decision-makers.

Knowing how to communicate with them effectively is growing more important, as security climbs up boards’ agendas and security and intelligence teams are increasingly required to speak to those trends.

One key is to focus on strategic issues which impact the future of your company, as these will be of most interest to the board. 

But the way you present your information is critical, too.

Our Advisory team works with dozens of security and intelligence teams to produce bespoke reports which they present to the C-Suite. Here are three principles they recommend for effective board briefings:

1. Be concise

If you have an important message to convey, it’s natural to share as much information as you can. But when you’re communicating to the board, it’s also a mistake.

Your security intelligence report will likely be included in the pack which board members receive before their meetings. But it will be competing with briefs on the company’s latest numbers and performance, and depending on the board’s agenda, information on special projects, the latest staff survey, and more.

Chances are, they’ll only look at your report briefly – and perhaps only skim through it. So you need to communicate your points concisely and clearly. We recommend no more than two pages.

How we can help: The “Bespoke SIAS” report

One of our clients in the extractives industry was keen to keep their board informed of geopolitical developments that may affect their operations in markets. As subscribers to our Security Analysis and Intelligence Service (SIAS), they used material from our weekly regional briefings but found that there was simply too much for the board to grapple with.

So, we created a “Bespoke SIAS report” for them, which we deliver weekly.

Focusing on 20 strategic markets, our Dragonfly Advisory team summarises relevant developments, adding an analysis of the business implications and forward-looking forecasts which are tailored to the client.

The report is just two pages long and gets straight to the point, adding value to the board and giving them access to our in-house expertise. It also saves huge amounts of time for the security function, which can forward the report to the board with no further work involved.

We can create a similar “Bespoke SIAS report” for you, too. This can focus on your own key markets, or on issues that are particularly relevant to your board, your sector or risk profile. We can also tweak the format to suit your needs.

2.  Make your reports data-driven

To be heard by your board members, you need to speak their language. 

Many of your board members will have a financial background and will be used to reading financial reports and considering KPIs and data trends.

So they are likely to respond well to data and to numbers, particularly if they can correlate these to your company’s financial performance. 

Where possible, include these or even focus on them in your board reports. Just think carefully about how to present your data in an attractive, easy-to-grasp way rather than burying it in lines of text, so it can be immediately noticed and analysed by your C-Suite.

How we can help: Data dashboards

Every quarter, our Advisory team creates four data dashboards for an international company in financial services.

These cover trends in four risk areas in which their board is particularly interested, such as terrorism and geopolitical flashpoints in the markets in which they operate. Here’s an (anonymised) example:

The data is presented through accessible and impactful infographics, so board members can quickly see trends, outliers and patterns. 

Each dashboard is just one page long, answering the need for concision. And they stand out in the board members’ data packs, so they are always noticed.

We can create data dashboards for your board, too, focusing on issues which are of particular concern to them – from trends in cybersecurity to data concerning climate change, supply chains and more. 

As well as our own data, we can incorporate yours (if you have access to it). And we’ll break down the numbers so that they yield unique insights, answer your board’s most pressing questions – and show the value your security function delivers.

3. Use visuals

People absorb data in different ways. Some like to read; but others learn visually, through images, charts and graphs, colours and maps.

Graphics are quicker to absorb than words or plain numbers. Studies show that they are remembered for longer, too. 

Given that your board members are likely short of time and people of action, this is often an effective way to communicate with them. 

Intersperse your reports with visuals for maximum impact. Even better, tell a story through your visuals, presenting essential facts and information through your graphics.

How we can help: Visual Intelligence Reports

For one of our clients – one of the largest technology companies in the world – we produce a monthly infographic exploring a strategic issue that is critical to their operations or expansion.

Each issue focuses on a different topic, from the rise of religious extremism in areas where they operate to potential flashpoints, their evolving competition, the future of certain technologies and more. Take a look at this (anonymised) example:

In addition to presenting data and numbers, these Visual Intelligence Reports also highlight individuals of interest and issues to watch, establish timelines, show heat maps, incorporate forecasting showing how issues are likely to develop, and more. 

Senior decision-makers respond well to these because they’re both interesting and highly informative on subjects of strategic interest. The information is analytical and can easily be used to spark further conversation in a board meeting or another forum.

We can create similar Visual Intelligence Reports for your company, too, exploring the issues which matter most to you.

Are you interested in presenting strategic information to your board but are not sure which report format is right for you? Or perhaps you’d like to mix and match, combining a Bespoke SIAS Report with visual data? 

Dragonfly’s Advisory reports are all tailored to your needs, so we can create a format which is just right for you and your C-Suite. Speak to one of our specialists for a no-obligation conversation about your requirements and how we can help you.