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IT Has To Deliver Great Tools — and Teach People to Use Them - Andrew Horne and Brian Foster - Harvard Business Review

Posted on by Brandon Klein

HBR Blog Network IT Has To Deliver Great Tools — and Teach People to Use Them

by Andrew Horne and Brian Foster  |  10:00 AM August 12, 2013

In a workplace that is increasingly collaborative and knowledge-intensive, many CIOs plan to create value by delivering these capabilities effectively. No wonder collaboration and analysis tools make up the single largest category of IT project spend. But much of this value is being lost because employees lack the skills to use these resources effectively. In response, CIOs must rethink how IT provides employee support and training.

A recent CEB survey of 25,000 employees globally found that about half of an employee's contribution to business performance comes from their "network performance" — the ability to collaborate, to help others and, in turn, be helped by others, through activities such as teamwork, knowledge sharing, and peer coaching. Interestingly, network performance accounted for only about 20% of an employee's contribution to business performance a decade ago. Despite the growing importance of these skills, our survey found that only one in five employees is an effective network performer, the rest struggle to assist colleagues or make an impact when working in teams.

A similar story emerges around the ability to use data to make decisions. Another CEB survey found that more than 80% of employees collect data or use data for decision making. Even in traditionally transactional and process-centric fields such as manufacturing or customer service, more than half the employees undertake at least some knowledge work. Although almost everyone now does knowledge work, not everyone is effective at it. In fact, only 38% of employees have the skills and judgment to use data for decision making. The rest either blindly trust data regardless of its quality, or they are overly skeptical and ignore sound analysis altogether and go with their guts.