Research on information culture confirms a correlation between good information management practices and business efficiency. Despite the deployment of information systems, effective information management is still difficult to achieve. A lot of focus has been put on information management systems while research shows that the people issues are equally important and need to be addressed. People should be put at the centre of information management solutions. This is what Davenport (1997) referred to as information ecology. The fact that we are all information creators has still not endowed upon us the understanding required to manage information as a vital resource. Despite the fact that information is considered to be the fuel that drives organizations today, most people are yet to understand that it has to be strategically planned for and that information management is no longer only a only domain for records managers, archivists, and registrars. The information landscape today is complex and hence requires the involvement of all people in an organization and especially top management. It is about collaboration, if information is to be accessed readily across departmental boundaries and if information sharing is to be promoted. This further entails creating and promoting positive norms, attitudes, and values towards the creation, use, management, and reuse of information and records. Investments in information technology cannot alone lead to a positive information culture.
Furness et al. (2006) summed it up well by stating that in order for an organization to achieve superior business performance it must have capabilities in: information technology practices, information management practices and information behaviors and values. A negative information culture as the conducted studies proved develops, when people do not trust the information and records management systems put in place to facilitate the management of information. I have overused the deleted sentence!. This is when the employees develop their own personalized systems in order to have readily access to their documents. In organizations where top management shows little interest in information management issues, the rest of the organizational employees equally devotes less attention to the way they manage the information they produce. The Swedish municipalities demonstrated that having a well-functioning registry promoted positive information culture because organizational employees knew where to turn to when searching for records. They also regarded the registry as a common repository for their records, which facilitated knowledge sharing and the effective use of the registry system.
The people issues make it imperative to offer courses in information and records management to all organizational employees. This would create awareness about the need to effectively manage the information that is generated during the conduct of business processes, and hence lead to the development of a positive information culture. It is easier for people to engage if they have an understanding of why information, especially in the digital environment, has to be managed properly, from its creation, preservation, and reuse. The employees in the Belgian municipality hated records management because they lacked the skills to do it.
The Swedish municipalities had to a certain extent a more developed information culture even though it was not free from challenges. The biggest challenge was the management of electronic records, which requires a change in the paper-mindset that dominated, especially among personnel who had worked for the municipalities for several decades. The over confidence displayed by the Swedish officers towards the management of public records could also hinder the open mind required to understand the current information landscape and its complexities. In the Belgian case, lack of structures to facilitate the management of records was a big challenge. The municipality had many challenges in its records management environment and these included: lack of a fully developed registry, system integration, a records management policy, electronic archives, and the creation of personalized systems that led to the neglect of the common system put in place to manage records.
Where there was lack of respect for records, the records were not effectively captured. Lack of respect for records as sources of knowledge and information sharing tools, meant that it was difficult to share knowledge and information. Where skills to manage records were insufficient, the employees had negative experiences about records management. An underdeveloped records governance model in the Belgian case also meant lack of trust in the case and records management system that had been put in place to manage records. In such an environment, the employees did not embrace the solutions that were meant to achieve a positive information culture. Information culture, therefore, affects the factors that would create a well functioning information and records management infrastructure. It hence affects the capture, management, organization, and pluraliza- tion of public records.
In conclusion, information culture is an important part of information/records management in organizations because it is about the soft issues that are often overlooked, when searching for solutions to deal with the challenges in today’s information landscape. In the researched municipalities, information culture influenced the factors that were meant to achieve good records management practices. This is because the attitudes of the employees and the way they understood and valued public records affected their management. This conclusion was based on the following:
- • Where there were no formulated records management policies, the attitudes towards the management of public records were more relaxed. This created an anarchistic environment as stated in Davenport’s model (1997) where employees created their own systems and managed the records as personal property. This made the capture, organization, management, and use of public records difficult.
- • Lack of training in records management led to lack of an understanding as to why public records had to be managed according to certain criteria.
- • Lack of collaboration affected information planning and led to the procurement of disparate information systems, which caused integration problems and a disparate IT infrastructure.
The outlined issues are people related and they have to do with the information culture of the organizations that the author researched. These are issues that can be dealt with in order to achieve a well-functioning information/records management infrastructure and to develop a positive information culture.