The development of Internet and othercommunication technologies has significantly increased the amount ofinformation available to us (today we talk about “Big Data”).
This revolutionof technology has changed the way we access information and the cost ofcollecting, processing and analyzing it. For more and more companies,information has increasingly become a critical resource and an asset in theirbusiness processes. As the size of data is growing insanely, its collection andprocessing are no longer easy tasks that humans can do alone. Technologicaltools are needed to manipulate these Terabytes of data. Therefore, individualsand businesses are investing big amounts of money in technology and humanresources to collect, store, process and interpret huge quantities of data inorder to translate it into meaningful insights that they can use to make smartdecisions and create strategic advantages.
Advances in technology have createdopportunities to do this by creating Information Systems that can supportbusiness decision-making activities. Such Decision Support Systems are playingan important role in increasing the quality of decision-making and theeffectiveness of the information’s use to create business opportunities. Awareness of the importance of information in the success ofcompanies has grown rapidly in our data-intensive, knowledge-based economy. Companiesare 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, informationculture is closely linked with information technology, information systems andthe digital world.
In this paper, I will try to answer the following debatable question:”Does an “information culture” encourage adopting and using decision supporttechnologies?” Let us first define what InformationCulture is. It is actually hard to give one definition of this concept, asthere are many existing approaches. For example, Ginman (1988) definedinformation culture as the culture in which “the transformation ofintellectual resources is maintained alongside the transformation of materialresources. The primary resources for this type of transformation are varyingkinds of knowledge and information. The output achieved is a processedintellectual product which is necessary for the material activities to functionand develop positively”.
It is therefore the environment where knowledgeis produced. In another approach, it is defined as a culture that is conduciveto effective information management where “the value and utility ofinformation in achieving operational and strategic goals is recognized, whereinformation forms the basis of organizational decision making and InformationTechnology is readily exploited as an enabler for effective informationsystems”. (Curry and Moore 2003 p.94) Even though several definitionsexist, the general meaning remains the same, which can be summarized in therelationship between individuals and information in their work.
Informationculture is about organization’s values, norms and practices regarding theperception, management and effective use of information. Marchand identified six information behaviors and values to characterizethe Information Culture of an organization, which are Information integrity,formality, control, sharing, transparency, and proactiveness. He defined InformationIntegrity as the use of information in a trustful manner. Information Control representsthe extent to which information is used to manage and monitor, Information Sharingrefers to the willingness to provide others with information, Information Transparencycharacterizes the openness in reporting on errors and failures and finally pro-activenessrefers to actively using new information to innovate and respond quickly tochanges. Information Culture typologies differ from author to other, but theyare all based on these characteristics. The primary goal of an informationculture is to “improve human decision behavior” (DanielJ. Power) and ameliorate the quality of the decisions. However, quality decision making andeffective decision support systems require high quality information.
Highquality information come from a long process of data collection, integrationand transformation that needs the presence of a sophisticated software as wellas human minds.In many organizations, Information Culture is described as a formof Information Technology. In my opinion, Information technology could be seenas a facilitator of the information culture. Many executives think they can solveall problems with buying IT-equipment and implementing decision supportsystems. However, the process is not as easy as it seems. DSS are just means ofhelping Decision Makers take decisions, they only speed up the decision-makingcycle but they do not give a readily chosen solution. It is up to managers andexecutives to think and select an alternative and then assume responsibility fortheir actions.
As Daniel J. Power wrote in his article, “Businessesaren’t intelligent, people are”. Besides, as wrote above, quality decision making requires highquality information. In today’s business environment, quality information is amatter of primary interest.Companies are repeatedlyrecognizing that making quality decisions and gaining a competitive advantage dependupon the quality of information available to support these decisions. High-qualityinformation make it easier to convert available information into solidknowledge. Data can be found in many places, it has different sources,different formats and most of the time it contains many errors andinconsistencies. A lot of work should be done to transform data into meaningfulinformation, and then a lot of analysis should be done on these information toextract useful knowledge from it.
These tasks (which should be specified by thecharacteristics of the information culture within a company), needsophisticated IT equipment as much as it need human presence. In addition,since the beginning we are assuming that the information we need exists, isfreely available, and easy to interpret. Yet in many instances, this may not bethe case at all. In most of the situations, information may be scarce,inaccessible, costly to assimilate, or difficult to interpret. Therefore, ahuge part of the decision-making process is attributed to the people who have thetask of collecting these “hidden” data before using any decision supporttechnology. Certainly, to process or even read and store these information, anycompany needs technological tools.
There is no doubt about the necessity ofhaving such information systems and decision support ones in order to improvethe quality of the decisions and speed up the results. In my opinion, a positive informationculture recognizes the importance of using information to create a value withina company, and thus encourages implementing decision support technologies tohelp with taking decisions and ameliorate the performance of a given company.Actually, I even believe that a proactive information culture that promotes theactive use of new information to innovate and respond quickly to changes, canmotivate and incite managers to improve the existing information and decisionsupport systems. They may even develop better tools that will lead to betterquality of decisions and better corporate performances and especially canrespond to new changes and needs. We can enumerate severaldecision support technologies such as: Decision Support Systems (DSS), KnowledgeManagement Systems (KMS), Expert Systems (ES), Supply Chain Management (SCM),Artificial Intelligence (AI), Enterprise Information Systems (EIS) etc.
… Thechoice of a given technology depends on the complexity of the problem and thecorresponding inputs and resources. Technology acts therefore asa facilitator and as an indispensable mean of manipulating and managing thehuge size of databases and data warehouses. In the beginning of this paper, Iwrote that the concept of Information Culture is closely related to InformationTechnology, which is actually logical as the two concepts complement eachother’s. Humans need computerized systems to store, read, process terabytes ofdata and present it in a way that can be interpreted by managers. Therefore, decisionmakers, not computers, take the final choice. “Effective information management could be achieved only when peopleuse information efficiently, not machines”.
Information cultureis an important component of an organization. Every organization, no matter howlarge or small it is, regardless of its type and function, wherever in theworld it is situated, must have an information culture. Nowadays, qualityinformation is considered as one of the most important assets a company canhave. It plays a vital role in taking the “right” decision. Besides,Information is considered as “Power”. Therefore, a company that manages wellits information resources has power over its competitors.
I believe that a highlydeveloped Information Culture leads the organization to success and encouragesthe active use of information in the decision processes, which actually needsdecision support technologies to achieve the work. Therelationship between Information Culture and Information Technology is arelationship of complementarity. Both are necessary in supporting the decisionmaking-process and improving the human decision. However, the question that canarise is the following: Do such developments in decision support technologiesthreaten the human role in taking decisions?