The this by creating Information Systems that can

          The development of Internet and other
communication technologies has significantly increased the amount of
information available to us (today we talk about “Big Data”). This revolution
of technology has changed the way we access information and the cost of
collecting, processing and analyzing it. For more and more companies,
information has increasingly become a critical resource and an asset in their
business processes. As the size of data is growing insanely, its collection and
processing are no longer easy tasks that humans can do alone. Technological
tools are needed to manipulate these Terabytes of data. Therefore, individuals
and businesses are investing big amounts of money in technology and human
resources to collect, store, process and interpret huge quantities of data in
order to translate it into meaningful insights that they can use to make smart
decisions and create strategic advantages. Advances in technology have created
opportunities to do this by creating Information Systems that can support
business decision-making activities. Such Decision Support Systems are playing
an important role in increasing the quality of decision-making and the
effectiveness of the information’s use to create business opportunities.

Awareness of the importance of information in the success of
companies has grown rapidly in our data-intensive, knowledge-based economy. Companies
are considering the use of information as part of their organizational culture.
Today we talk about the concept of “Information Culture”.  In the wide range of approaches, information
culture is closely linked with information technology, information systems and
the digital world. In this paper, I will try to answer the following debatable question:
“Does an “information culture” encourage adopting and using decision support
technologies?”

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          Let us first define what Information
Culture is. It is actually hard to give one definition of this concept, as
there are many existing approaches. For example, Ginman (1988) defined
information culture as the culture in which “the transformation of
intellectual resources is maintained alongside the transformation of material
resources. The primary resources for this type of transformation are varying
kinds of knowledge and information. The output achieved is a processed
intellectual product which is necessary for the material activities to function
and develop positively”. It is therefore the environment where knowledge
is produced. In another approach, it is defined as a culture that is conducive
to effective information management where “the value and utility of
information in achieving operational and strategic goals is recognized, where
information forms the basis of organizational decision making and Information
Technology is readily exploited as an enabler for effective information
systems”. (Curry and Moore 2003 p.94)

Even though several definitions
exist, the general meaning remains the same, which can be summarized in the
relationship between individuals and information in their work. Information
culture is about organization’s values, norms and practices regarding the
perception, management and effective use of information. Marchand identified six information behaviors and values to characterize
the Information Culture of an organization, which are Information integrity,
formality, control, sharing, transparency, and proactiveness. He defined Information
Integrity as the use of information in a trustful manner. Information Control represents
the extent to which information is used to manage and monitor, Information Sharing
refers to the willingness to provide others with information, Information Transparency
characterizes the openness in reporting on errors and failures and finally pro-activeness
refers to actively using new information to innovate and respond quickly to
changes. Information Culture typologies differ from author to other, but they
are all based on these characteristics. The primary goal of an information
culture is to “improve human decision behavior” (Daniel
J. Power) and ameliorate the quality of the decisions.  However, quality decision making and
effective decision support systems require high quality information. High
quality information come from a long process of data collection, integration
and transformation that needs the presence of a sophisticated software as well
as human minds.

In many organizations, Information Culture is described as a form
of Information Technology. In my opinion, Information technology could be seen
as a facilitator of the information culture. Many executives think they can solve
all problems with buying IT-equipment and implementing decision support
systems. However, the process is not as easy as it seems. DSS are just means of
helping Decision Makers take decisions, they only speed up the decision-making
cycle but they do not give a readily chosen solution. It is up to managers and
executives to think and select an alternative and then assume responsibility for
their actions. As Daniel J. Power wrote in his article, “Businesses
aren’t intelligent, people are”.

Besides, as wrote above, quality decision making requires high
quality information. In today’s business environment, quality information is a
matter of primary interest.

Companies are repeatedly
recognizing that making quality decisions and gaining a competitive advantage depend
upon the quality of information available to support these decisions. High-quality
information make it easier to convert available information into solid
knowledge. Data can be found in many places, it has different sources,
different formats and most of the time it contains many errors and
inconsistencies. A lot of work should be done to transform data into meaningful
information, and then a lot of analysis should be done on these information to
extract useful knowledge from it. These tasks (which should be specified by the
characteristics of the information culture within a company), need
sophisticated IT equipment as much as it need human presence. In addition,
since the beginning we are assuming that the information we need exists, is
freely available, and easy to interpret. Yet in many instances, this may not be
the case at all. In most of the situations, information may be scarce,
inaccessible, costly to assimilate, or difficult to interpret. Therefore, a
huge part of the decision-making process is attributed to the people who have the
task of collecting these “hidden” data before using any decision support
technology. Certainly, to process or even read and store these information, any
company needs technological tools. There is no doubt about the necessity of
having such information systems and decision support ones in order to improve
the quality of the decisions and speed up the results.

In my opinion, a positive information
culture recognizes the importance of using information to create a value within
a company, and thus encourages implementing decision support technologies to
help with taking decisions and ameliorate the performance of a given company.
Actually, I even believe that a proactive information culture that promotes the
active use of new information to innovate and respond quickly to changes, can
motivate and incite managers to improve the existing information and decision
support systems. They may even develop better tools that will lead to better
quality of decisions and better corporate performances and especially can
respond to new changes and needs.

We can enumerate several
decision support technologies such as: Decision Support Systems (DSS), Knowledge
Management Systems (KMS), Expert Systems (ES), Supply Chain Management (SCM),
Artificial Intelligence (AI), Enterprise Information Systems (EIS) etc.… The
choice of a given technology depends on the complexity of the problem and the
corresponding inputs and resources.

Technology acts therefore as
a facilitator and as an indispensable mean of manipulating and managing the
huge size of databases and data warehouses. In the beginning of this paper, I
wrote that the concept of Information Culture is closely related to Information
Technology, which is actually logical as the two concepts complement each
other’s. Humans need computerized systems to store, read, process terabytes of
data and present it in a way that can be interpreted by managers. Therefore, decision
makers, not computers, take the final choice. “Effective information management could be achieved only when people
use information efficiently, not machines”.

 

          Information culture
is an important component of an organization. Every organization, no matter how
large or small it is, regardless of its type and function, wherever in the
world it is situated, must have an information culture. Nowadays, quality
information is considered as one of the most important assets a company can
have. It plays a vital role in taking the “right” decision. Besides,
Information is considered as “Power”. Therefore, a company that manages well
its information resources has power over its competitors. I believe that a highly
developed Information Culture leads the organization to success and encourages
the active use of information in the decision processes, which actually needs
decision support technologies to achieve the work. The
relationship between Information Culture and Information Technology is a
relationship of complementarity. Both are necessary in supporting the decision
making-process and improving the human decision. However, the question that can
arise is the following: Do such developments in decision support technologies
threaten the human role in taking decisions?

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