"Left, right, left, right": the birth of MIS

February 13, 2019 09:32

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McKenzie Intelligence started well before I was born. The company is named after my father – who preceded me in my chosen profession and is regularly cited as being a ‘legend’ by folk I consider ‘legends’. Everything we do is forged in his ideas of professional integrity, resilience and work ethic.

The MIS product is founded in firstly, my own mix of academic experiences of Geography, GIS and remote sensed Archaeology at The University of Glasgow. Then secondly, my professional Intelligence background that encompassed all the collection disciplines of Human, Imagery, Ground and Signals, all of which were then underpinned by a solid operational Intelligence background where I cut my teeth at the sharp end of the War on Global terror.

I was a British Army Intelligence Officer educated at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, starting on 9 September 2001. Two days later the world changed forever and with it a unique set of experiences that forged MIS – both in terms of practical and future work colleagues who are the actual backbone of MIS.

I then became a Special Duties Intelligence officer who learnt how to operate in the most austere of environments and conduct operations at range with the minimum of support. The scale of the intelligence collection and delivery was often truly staggering with customers numbering in their 1000’s all over the world.

As the years turned into numerous tours of duty, I started to meet and work with future employees – who at the time were British Army Warrant Officers – so whilst I was senior, I listened to EVERY word they had to say. Their mentoring is what makes the British Army so very special. This creates a trust where everyone knows their job and role.

Whilst working at grand scales, we learnt how to identify what Information Gaps were required to answer time critical questions and then what information collection capabilities could answer them, within the finite resources available to us. After that is was down to us to process this into Intelligence. Lastly, we had to get the information to a very time poor audience who had a direct line to the very highest levels of Government.

The two Warrant Officers who stood out at this time are now the backbone of MIS and have quietly led the charge to enable MIS to be at the very sharp end of the development of Geospatial Intelligence within global Insurance.

We left around the same time and the original plan was to have a small and agile consultancy that delivered Intelligence capability to the corporate world. We wanted to create analytics on which corporate partners could enable their businesses. In this search, we started to utilise satellite imagery, employ the adapted processes and 8hr working cycles, and found that we had a very neat business. So neat that Insurance majors like Aon, and massive companies such as Google, started to employ us for our unique set of Geospatial Intelligence skills.

Insurance and Intelligence are so similar – both deal with risk, analytics and taking educated decisions based on what the empirical evidence suggests. The processed data does not lie. We quickly skipped from project to project dealing with immense levels of insight derived from satellite and ground sensed data.

So when Lloyd’s of London phoned in 2016 asking if we could deliver a pilot project looking at what satellite imagery might do for North American Hurricane reporting, we jumped at the chance. In fact, I started the demo with: “we have been expecting your call”. The imagery and analysis was proven but we needed a way to deliver the data at scale and on time. And so we built a platform into which we began ingesting automatic data feeds from Space, the Sky and the Ground. On top of this, we delivered analytics derived from computing power but also critically from former Military Intelligence Imagery Analysts.

The component of our success not mentioned is our friendly Cartographer who is also a Developer. He alone put together a portal and mapping capability to display the detail, skills he originally learnt from the Ordnance Survey and working for Google Earth.

So in short, the roots of the company stem from the way we learnt how to collect time critical intelligence at vast global scales for the most discerning and critical customers. We have now brought this knowledge to the global insurance market over the last three years, securing our place as a key component in the global insurance claims ecosystem. Our future ambitions involve even greater automation, creating the most unique of data sets.

CEO, Forbes McKenzie


Published on February 13, 2019 09:32

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