look_inside
Records Management and Information Culture

Jan 2014 | 160pp

Paperback
9781856049474
Price: £59.95
CILIP members price: £47.95

eBook (PDF)
9781783300372
How to buy eBooks turqoise_arrow


Share this page


Join our mailing list

Records Management and Information Culture
Tackling the people problem

Gillian Oliver and Fiorella Foscarini

This book explores how an understanding of organisational information culture provides the insight necessary for the development and promotion of sound recordkeeping practices.

It details an innovative framework for analysing and assessing information culture, and indicates how to use this knowledge to change behaviour and develop recordkeeping practices that are aligned with the specific characteristics of any workplace. 

This framework addresses the widely recognised problem of improving organisation-wide compliance with a records management programme by tackling the different aspects that make up the organisation’s information culture. 

Discussion of topics at each level of the framework includes strategies and guidelines for assessment, followed by suggestions for next steps: appropriate actions and strategies to influence behavioural change. 

Key topics covered include: 

  • The value accorded to records
  • Information preferences
  • Language considerations and regional technological infrastructure
  • Information-related competencies
  • Awareness of environmental requirements relating to records
  • Corporate information technology governance
  • Trust in recordkeeping systems.  

Readership: Archivists, records managers and information technology specialists will find this an invaluable guide to improving their practice and solving the ‘people problem’ of non-compliance with records management programmes. LIS students taking archives and records management modules will also benefit from the application of theory into practice. Records management and information management educators will find the ideas and approaches discussed in this book useful to add an information culture perspective to their curricula.

1. Background and context    

  • The concept of information culture   
  • Underlying theory   
  • The information culture assessment framework   
  • Why information culture?   
  • Summary and conclusions   
  • Notes
  • References   

2. The value accorded to records   

  • Cultural influences   
  • Attitudes and behaviours   
  • Records management infrastructure   
  • IT usage: The EDRMS challenge   
  • Assessment techniques   
  • Next steps   
  • Summary and conclusions   
  • Note
  • References      

3. Information preferences   

  • Words or pictures?   
  • Sharing information   
  • Assessment techniques   
  • Next steps   
  • Summary and conclusions   
  • References    

4. Language considerations and regional technological infrastructure   

  • Language as a social fact   
  • Dealing with your organization’s broader  technological context   
  • Assessment techniques   
  • Next steps   
  • Summary and conclusions   
  • Note
  • References   

5. Information-related competencies   

  • The training imperative   
  • Information-related competencies   
  • Assessment techniques   
  • Next steps   
  • Summary and conclusions   
  • References     

6. Awareness of environmental requirements relating to records   

  • Researching recordkeeping requirements   
  • Other requirements   
  • How to do it   
  • Organizational policy   
  • Assessment techniques   
  • Next steps   
  • Summary and conclusions   
  • Notes
  • References  

7. Corporate information technology governance   

  • Information governance   
  • Information architecture   
  • Security   
  • Cloud computing   
  • Assessment techniques   
  • Next steps   
  • Summary and conclusions
  • References   

8. Trust in recordkeeping systems   

  • Trust and trustworthiness   
  • Audit   
  • Mistrust   
  • Ethical practice   
  • Assessment techniques   
  • Next steps   
  • Summary and conclusions   
  • References   

9. Bringing it all together   

  • Soft systems methodology   
  • The genre approach   
  • Assessment techniques   
  • Next steps   
  • Summary and conclusions   
  • Note  
  • References

"Oliver and Foscarini have used their wealth of experience in the countries in which they have lived and worked (th UK, the USA, Canada, NZ, Germany and Italy) to inform this interesting and thought-provoking work which I recommend to practitioners in the information and records management world."
- Archives and Records

"The authors' aim is twofold: 1) to identify "the messy and difficult issues which are inevitable when we attempt to manage records in organization", and 2) to address those issues. Their practical experience with archives and records management as well as their theoretical knowledge enables them to present theoretical basics and write a handbook for developing records management procedures and practices in organizations...The structure of the book and each chapter is very clear and systematic. The introductory paragraph explains the content of the chapter. Each chapter ends with a summary, a section of next steps, notes and references. Numerous clear and non-intrusive cross-references avoid overburdening the reader and the text with explanations."
- Library Review

"Oliver and Foscarini have produced a very useful manual for the analysis of a nebulous and often misunderstood concept of 'information culture'. The book's real value is its potential to equip the records manager with a deeper awareness of the constraints and motivators that shape people's attitudes toward information and recordkeeping and thus provide the foundation upon which properly targeted actions and strategies can be formulated."
- Archives and Manuscripts

"Human factors in recordkeeping - the elephant in the room. This is the book that was waiting to be written. Thanks to Oliver and Foscarini, we no longer have to wait to read it. It comes highly recommended."
- Australian Library Journal

Gillian Oliver is an academic at the School of Information Management, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Her PhD is from Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. Her research interests centre on organisational culture, and the influences this has on the way that information is managed. She is the author of Organisational Culture for Information Managers (Chandos, 2011) and a Co-editor in Chief of Archival Science. 

Fiorella Foscarini holds a PhD in archival studies from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. Prior to joining the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto, she worked as senior archivist for the European Central Bank. In her teaching and research, she uses archival science, diplomatics and genre theory, as well as ideas of organizational culture and information culture to investigate how records are created, managed, and preserved in organizations.

1. Background and context

This chapter provides the background detail which describes and explains the foundations of the assessment framework discussed in the remainder of the book. The chapter begins by tracking the origins of the concept of information culture, reporting on efforts to date studying it from societal, national and organizational perspectives. It is this latter organizational perspective which is of key relevance to records management in the 21st century workplace. At this organizational level, two incompatible (alternative) points of view can be identified: one that regards an information culture as being conducive to good information management, and the other that takes the view that all organizations have an information culture, no matter how effective the latter may be perceived. This then leads into the specific theoretical orientation influencing our approach to information culture, which is the records continuum. We explain how information culture is an integral part of a new conceptualization of records management: recordkeeping informatics. This chapter then provides an overall introduction to the Information Culture Framework (ICF), briefly explaining the different levels and the relationships between them. Finally, the ICF is clearly differentiated by considering it in the context of other evaluation methodologies and tools, such as information audits, information maturity models, DIRKS (State Records New South Wales’ Design and Implementation of Recordkeeping Systems), the Impact Calculator, and ARMA International’s Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles (GARP).

2.  The value accorded to records

This chapter is the first of three that consider the level 1 factors of the Information Culture Framework. It deals with the area that can be the most daunting, and is possibly the most challenging to tackle and to develop strategies for: the extent to which members of the organization ‘respect records’. To put it another way, the extent to which people accept that it is necessary to manage information as evidence, for accountability purposes. This core value will be reflected in behaviours and attitudes, resourcing and ultimately in the success of the records management programme. The chapter begins by providing some background to explain the influences that shape this value. It then describes the likely manifestation of differing values towards information as evidence as reflected in attitudes and behaviours, the records management infrastructure, and IT usage. The next part suggests various methods to use in assessment, including observation, survey and/or interviews and provides guidance to help select which options are appropriate in different organizational environments. The concluding Next Steps section suggests ways to develop appropriate responses, which include taking what may be perceived as radically different approaches to traditionally accepted practices.

3. Information preferences

This chapter discusses two fundamental information preferences, which are key characteristics to assess at Information Culture Framework (ICF) level 1. The first of these is a complex cluster of factors that encompasses differences in terms of need for explicit versus implicit information in order to communicate successfully, as well as variation in tendencies to prefer (or trust) written rather than informal sources of information communicated by individuals in one’s own social group, and vice versa. The second preference considered is the willingness to share information, and the level of granularity to which it is felt to be appropriate to share (e.g. with colleagues in the same workgroup). The chapter begins by attempting to disentangle the cluster of preferences relating to different sources and formats of information, and suggests reasons for preferences for textual (in all its many variants) or oral communication channels, linking these to different cultural traditions. The next section considers preferences relating to sharing information, and discusses the association of these with different national cultures, as well as with occupational and corporate cultural features. Assessment methods that are appropriate to identify these information preferences centre mostly on identification of the dimensions of national culture that are likely to be influential. In order to identify local drivers that will impact on information sharing, it will also be necessary to undertake some analysis of organizational documents. The concluding Next Steps section urges consideration of alternative, non-traditional record formats, and emphasizes the need to take into account any organizationally mandated motivations to guard information from colleagues into the design of records management programmes and systems.

4. Language considerations and regional technological infrastructure

The first part of this chapter introduces the idea of language as a socially constructed phenomenon. After examining the impact of the English language on recordkeeping, it considers the local usage of certain terms by the members of specific workplace communities (i.e. their ‘vernacular’) and the relationship among different professional/technical languages, or jargons, within organizations. One of the purposes of this first section is to uncover the rhetorical aspects of writing and speaking in the workplace. The underlying framework is provided by ideas derived from rhetorical genre studies. In its second part, this chapter deals with the telecommunication services (primarily the internet) and the hardware and software products that constitute the technological infrastructure we all depend on as creators and users of digital information. The main factors influencing such broader infrastructure are reviewed and used as a basis to discuss possible future scenarios. In the Assessment Techniques and Next Steps sections, you will learn how to apply assessment techniques already identified in previous chapters in order to find out how people communicate in your organization and what Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) are available in your region. Another objective of these sections, and this chapter as a whole, is to show how records managers can contribute to making both language and technology more suitable to their purposes.

5. Information-related competencies

This chapter is the first of two that consider the knowledge, skills and expertise of individual employees required to carry out their records management responsibilities – the factors that are identified at level 2 of the Information Culture Framework (ICF). The chapter begins with discussion of the need to provide training for employees, and the issues and challenges faced in doing so. This is followed by an explanation of the two main perspectives that can be used to situate records management training, information and digital literacy. Suggestions for using issues and concerns in these broad areas to focus on records management responsibilities include dealing with information overload, use of social media and digital longevity. Assessment techniques at this second level of the ICF should preferably be undertaken in collaboration with others within the organization, but suggestions for a solely records management approach are included here. The Next Steps section suggests ways in which training content can be presented, including the consideration of leveraging off employees’ needs for skills to manage their personal digital lives as the means by which key recordkeeping concepts can be communicated.

6. Awareness of environmental requirements relating to records

This chapter addresses the extent to which staff are aware of environmental requirements relating to records and recordkeeping, and the need to develop training focusing on this area. The phrase environmental requirements is used as an umbrella term to encompass the laws, standards and norms present in the broader societal, jurisdictional and organizational context. Thus these requirements include regional, national and provincial or local legislation, as well as standards and codes of practice. Clearly, the obvious first step in addressing this facet of information culture is to identify what is relevant to a specific organization so this is discussed in the first part of this chapter. The next section covers the steps to take to find out if existing organizational policy reflects those requirements, and to identify and action any gaps. The final stage is to find out to what extent employees are familiar with requirements and most importantly, whether they are able (and willing) to put these requirements into practice. This assessment stage may involve surveying users, in contrast to the first two investigative phases which can largely be explored by researching existing databases. Sample survey questions that can be used to identify training needs are suggested. The final part of the chapter discusses the training related delivery choices that have to be resolved, so includes consideration of the relative advantages and disadvantages of different training delivery modes (for example, group versus one on one, synchronous versus asynchronous) and highlights the need to develop sustainable training programmes.

7. Corporate information technology governance

This is the first of two chapters that address the Information Culture Framework (ICF) factors at level 3, the topic of this chapter is the governance of corporate information technology systems. Information governance is a phrase that is very widely used, so this chapter begins by discussing the concept in order to clearly differentiate our focus which is specifically on the organizational information technology infrastructure. However, it is not possible to limit consideration to simply what is happening internally, because organizations rely more and more on external services to carry out their operations. In particular, cloud computing cannot be ignored, as it has massive implications for records management. Security considerations, the need to manage the delicate balance between protecting records from unauthorized use while facilitating access, are discussed. Assessment techniques are very practical and do not necessitate in-depth expertise in information technology (IT). Profiling provides an approach to reviewing corporate IT as reflected in the organization’s approach to information architecture. The coherence of the architecture can be identified by determining the extent to which the information systems that are deployed interconnect. Key questions are: Is the same data used by multiple systems? Is data re-entry required at any point? Are multiple logons required to accomplish related tasks? Also relevant here are the organization’s IT policies and procedures, identifying any which may impact on employees’ recordkeeping behaviours and perhaps motivate unauthorized workarounds. The Next Steps section suggests practical tips for working collaboratively with IT departments.

8. Trust in recordkeeping systems

This chapter deals with the final characteristic of information culture, namely people’s trust in recordkeeping systems and processes. The chapter begins by discussing archival perspectives on trust and trustworthiness, and identifies the initiatives that have been developed to our information culture perspectives are concerned with the way that people behave, our focus then turns to discussion of the consequences of lack of trust in organizational systems. Assessment techniques acknowledge the existing tools and methods that have been developed to address this area, but encourage going further, to find out how users regard the systems that have been set up, and the Next Steps section explains the notion of reflective practice.

9. Bringing it all together

Records managers are faced with enormous challenges. On the one hand demonstrating their relevance in an information environment that is in a constant state of flux, while on the other attempting to just get on and do their job – manage information as evidence, for accountability purposes. The demands of one may mean that the other is neglected, or only partially addressed. Additionally, in their role as mediators between various subject area experts (who may have very different needs in terms of both evidence and information) and IT specialists (responsible for designing and maintaining the systems used to manage corporate information) records managers occupy a rather uncomfortable position in organizations, one that requires not only disciplinary knowledge but also ‘people skills’. The latter may be described as the ability to listen and to communicate effectively, thereby building relationships of trust and productive interactions with co-workers (Bolton, 1986). Taking an information culture perspective will assist in cultivating such ‘soft skills’, thus providing a very different view of the workplace and its challenges, which in turn can lead to more creative and innovative approaches to the problems we face. The purpose of this final chapter is to provide an overview of assessment techniques that have been detailed throughout the book, and to consolidate the next steps suggestions for subsequent actions. But before summarizing these details, we will provide more information about soft systems methodology (SSM) and genre studies.