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The importance of proximity for geographically dispersed organisations: indications from a call centre cluster in Sweden
Linköping University, Department of Computer and Information Science, EISLAB - Economic Information Systems. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.
Linköping University, Department of Computer and Information Science, EISLAB - Economic Information Systems. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.
2003 (English)In: Proceedings of the 17th Nordic Conference on Buysiness Studies, 2003Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Nowadays we can see an increased share of information based businesses, i.e. businesses where the delivered product or service do not constitute a tangible product. A growing organisational solution for information based businesses is call centres (Stoltz and Moberg, 2002; forthcoming). As information based products and services can be transported easily and at a low cost over geographical distances (cf. Litan and Rivlin, 2002), geographical proximity should not be of importance for call centre organisations. Technological advances lead organisations to consider alternative locations for their information processing, sales and service work (Larner, 2002). One general assumption is that spatial proximity internally within an organisation as well as proximity to customers and other business partners should not be of significant importance for call centre businesses. Following this reasoning, call centre business establishments can be located almost anywhere (cf. Wilson, 1995 and Gillespie et al., 2001).

In practise, a considerable number of regions in Sweden, especially in sparsely populated areas, are active and work to attract call centre businesses. This applies to new business establishments as well as organisations relocating business activities. In this development, certain regions seem to excel themselves as call centre regions. In other words, clusters are emerging for this type of business in form of geographical agglomerations of call centre organisations to specific delimited areas.

The aim of this paper is to reach an increased understanding for call centre establishments trough reaching an understanding of the importance of clusters and networks, i.e. proximity to other organisations and actors, for this type of business. With this aim in mind, we put questions like: What importance do clusters in terms of geographical concentrations have for businesses that are regarded as mobile and not delimited in space when it comes to choice of location? Is the local or regional dimension of importance when you are acting nationally or even globally? Can these businesses be located anywhere or are there more locally based conditions that are of importance for growth and sustainability of call centre organisations? What importance do clusters and networks have for entrepreneurship and new business establishments for call centres businesses? What similarities and differences can be distinguished comparing clusters of call centre organisations with clusters of more traditional manufacturing organisations?

Our findings show that the geographical concentration, which a cluster means, of similar business activities seems to be of importance for supporting and encouraging both existing call centres and new establishments. This applies to leaming, knowledge sharing and expansion of the local knowledge base. Cluster formations facilitate access to and development of resources in terms of available training programs, tailored infrastructure, educated personnel and pool of workers. We have also noted positive knowledge spill-over and spin-off effects, where certain organisations are acting as role models for entrepreneurs starting up new business establishments. Finally, we have found evidence for a so-called "call centre spirit" that fosters innovations and sprit of enterprise.

In the paper, we discuss different types and views of cluster to interpret our findings. Two examples are an evolutionary perspective with different stages, or types, of clusters; locational, market, labour division, innovative, full-fledged industrial district government and techopoles (Dijk, 1999) and Porter's (1998) analysis of clusters with horizontal respectively vertical relations as well as Porter's (1990a and 1990b) diamond of factors for national or regional competitive advantages.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2003.
National Category
Computer Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-61987OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-61987DiVA: diva2:370940
Conference
17th Nordic Conference on Business Studies, NFF 2003, Reykavik, August 14-16 2003.
Available from: 2010-11-18 Created: 2010-11-18 Last updated: 2013-11-04
In thesis
1. Calling for call centres: a study of call centre locations in a Swedish rural region
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Calling for call centres: a study of call centre locations in a Swedish rural region
2004 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The business economy is undergoing structural changes as we are moving towards more information based businesses. Most studies of industrial location have however focused on manufacturing activities and there is a lack in knowledge of the exact determinants for the location of information based and geographically independent activities. Traditional locational theories have to be complemented with factors that consider these types of businesses. A focus on information based and geographically independent organisations, such as call centres, has a potential to fuel research into industrial location.

The general aim of this thesis is, from a business perspective, to explore and identify a number of factors that are of importance for call centre locations in a specific region. More specifically, the thesis deals with the fact that development and use of information and communication technology, organisational prerequisites in form of changed organisational structures and management of organisations and also more individually related aspects nowadays seem to play an important role for both how business are organised and for where they are located. The thesis is mainly based on a case study of a Swedish rural region that has been successful in its efforts to attract and develop call centre activities.

First, it is shown that the call centre concept is full of nuance and researchers as well as practitioners use the concept differently. In order to enhance and balance discussions about call centres and also facilitate the process of comparing research findings, ten characteristics that are regarded as useful for discriminating among call centre activities are presented. Second, the importance of distinguishing location choices for information based business from location choices for more traditional service business and manufacturing businesses is an important finding and examples that support this are given. A third finding is that even though call centres are often regarded as geographically independent, the proximity that can be offered with cluster formations seems to be of importance also for this type of businesses. It is however more about horizontal integration and not about vertical integration, which is often present for manufacturing businesses. Finally, call centres seem to offer opportunities for regions and localities that wish to create work opportunities and achieve a positive regional development and this applies especially to rural or peripheral areas. However, in order to be successful there are many interacting factors that have to be considered and dealt with and it is important to notice that it often takes time to build up a positive climate for call centre businesses in a region, i.e. different regional actors can and have to do much more than just call for call centres.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköpings universitet, 2004. 68 p.
Series
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Thesis, ISSN 0280-7971 ; 1084Dissertation from the Swedish Research School of Management and Information Technology (MIT). Licentiate theses, ISSN 1653-2554 ; 5
Keyword
Call centres
National Category
Computer Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-22925 (URN)2285 (Local ID)91-7373-930-8 (ISBN)2285 (Archive number)2285 (OAI)
Presentation
2004-04-22, John von Neumann, Hus B, Linköping Universitet, Linköping, 13:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2009-10-07 Created: 2009-10-07 Last updated: 2013-11-04

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