We've found that, on average, employees now spend 36 per cent of their time collecting and analyzing information.

But less than 40 per cent have the skills and judgment needed to use this information effectively for decision making.

Paradoxically, as organizations amass more data and spend more on analytics, they face a growing insight deficit.

The insight deficit poses a dilemma for CIOs as information management is often the main way in which IT can enable growth.

In business functions that are critical to growth:

 - innovation
 - marketing
 - sales
 - customer service

— we estimate that up to 80 per cent of IT enablement opportunities relate to:

 - business intelligence
 - collaboration
 - the customer interface

Yet, the Insight Deficit means that investments in information management may lead to worse decision making.

To identify practical steps to overcome the Insight Deficit, we surveyed almost 5,000 knowledge workers at hundreds of organizations.

We looked at what drives their ability to find and analyze information to make decisions.

The results suggest that CIOs should refocus IT's information management efforts.

They should ask how they can equip the organization to use data and analysis to make better decisions, not how they can provide better data and analytic tools.

Information quality, architecture, and stewardship remain important, but IT teams also need five capabilities that help make information and analytic tools more usable, and build the skills and processes that underpin data-driven decision making:

1 Greater tools choice
Greater choice in analytic tools makes information more usable. Rationalization programs for analytic tools may over-standardize, leaving knowledge workers without necessary capabilities and opening the door to unofficial tools.

In response, progressive organizations provide choice without creating a free-for-all by offering a portfolio of tools aligned to a list of analytic capabilities.

At one insurance company we spoke to, this means two-to-three primary analytic tools, and another six or so tools for niche capabilities.

2 Visualization and filtering
Many knowledge workers struggle to use information from supposedly user-ready reports.

Consequently, leading organizations invest in capabilities for information visualization, aggregation, and filtering before they provide more sophisticated analytics.

3 Collaborative decision-making tools
Making biases and assumptions explicit and listening to alternative points of view are all important when using information for make decisions.

To support these behaviors, IT should provide workflow tools that connect decision makers, capture wisdom-of-the-crowds input, and add contextual data.

In addition, organizations can help promote the right behaviors in performance expectations and introduce formal decision-making models.

4 Analytics training
Two-thirds of knowledge workers have access to analytics training, but only 25 per cent find the training effective.

Training that teaches how to use a new tool but does not address information sources or analytic techniques is ineffective.

Leading organizations use a multipronged approach that supports knowledge workers across the information lifecycle and teaches how to conduct analysis.

This training has no natural organizational home, so IT and other business leaders should collaborate to determine ownership.

5 Analysts who can coach
Knowledge workers should be supported by business intelligence experts who act as force multipliers.

To be effective, these analysts need coaching skills but most organizations only look for quantitative and business skills when hiring.

With these five capabilities in place, CIOs can be confident that IT is playing an active role in overcoming the insight deficit.

Andrew Horne is managing director at CEB