Are you concerned that you don't have the best information to make the right decisions? This is a dilemma that we all share, whether it's deciding which new car to buy, which candidate to vote for, or, in the case of insurance CEOs, which direction to steer the company.The best example in sports of how information is incorporated into make-or-break decisions is baseball. When managers are contemplating whether to pinch-hit in certain situations, they have thick binders chock full of computer-generated statistics at their fingertips. In baseball, every at-bat and every pitch is recorded and dissected, so that managers and coaches can decide whether to change pitchers or hitters based on how a particular inning is unfolding before them.

As a causal observer of the game who now watches every pitch, thanks to the fact that both Chicago teams are in the middle of hot pennant races, I find it somewhat ludicrous that managers sit in their dugouts pouring over pages of information before they come to a decision. Fans in the stands know when a pitcher needs to be pulled, or when a hot bat on the bench needs to head to the on-deck circle, so why don't managers go with their gut more often when a decision has to be made?

Business executives, on the other hand, aren't paid to make off-the-cuff decisions. Most executives are good at delegating decision-making to others, but the successful CEOs are those who have a firm handle on all aspects of their business, from product development, to marketing and sales. And, because senior executives rely on accurate, timely information to help make key business decisions, they also need to understand how information technology can be used to gain a competitive advantage.

Our cover story, "The Industry's Dirty Secret," examines the importance of having accurate information across a company's enterprise. Insurance companies have many megabytes of information stored in their systems. The industry leaders are the ones that can extract the data, turn it into useful information and act decisively and quickly-just like the manager who pulls his starting pitcher and replaces him with his bullpen ace.

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