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Automation as a Driver of Digital Transformation in Local Government: Exploring Stakeholder Views on an Automation Initiative in a Swedish Municipality
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Information Systems and Digitalization. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4735-8697
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Information Systems and Digitalization. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5656-5236
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Information Systems and Digitalization. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2784-863X
2021 (English)In: DG.O2021, Association for Computing Machinery , 2021, p. 463-472Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Local government organizations in Sweden are under pressure from policy makers and leading politicians to accelerate digital transformation of administrative tasks, in order to make public service provision more efficient and effective. As part of this digital transformation, local governments are currently investigating and implementing digital technologies that can execute administrative tasks automatically, without involvement of administrative staff. We explore an automation initiative in a Swedish municipality using a qualitative case study. Our analysis is conducted from a stakeholder perspective, investigating (1) how different stakeholders interpret automation as part of the municipality’s ongoing digitalization, and (2) their views on expected outcomes of automation of administrative tasks. Our analysis shows that different stakeholder groups hold different definitions of what digitalization and automation means for their organization, and what outcomes can be expected of automation of administrative tasks in their organization. The analysis further shows that national policy documents encourage local governments to use a specific technical solutions for automation (robotic process automation); however, this technology is viewed as somewhat problematic by the stakeholders working with IT in the organization. Our analysis contributes with an illustration of challenges that municipalities face in their endeavor to find ways of developing automation of administrative tasks, and call for further research on this topic.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Association for Computing Machinery , 2021. p. 463-472
Keywords [en]
automation, digitalization, public sector, stakeholders, local government
National Category
Public Administration Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-183969DOI: 10.1145/3463677.3463685ISBN: 978-1-4503-8492-6 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-183969DiVA, id: diva2:1648256
Conference
The 22nd Annual International Conference on Digital Government Research
Available from: 2022-03-30 Created: 2022-03-30 Last updated: 2024-06-19
In thesis
1. SOCIOTECHNICAL IMAGINARIES OF THE AUTOMATED MUNICIPALITY
Open this publication in new window or tab >>SOCIOTECHNICAL IMAGINARIES OF THE AUTOMATED MUNICIPALITY
2022 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In the last few years, Swedish municipalities have striven to adopt automation to increase their internal efficiency by automating administrative processes. This E-Government initiative is taking place as part of the ongoing digitalization efforts by Swedish municipalities. To be able to automate processes, municipalities are introducing new types of software, such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA). This allows the need for human involvement to be reduced, by letting a software robot perform processes instead. In adopting automation, several different stakeholders are involved, ranging from the original suppliers of the software to the case workers performing processes that might be automated. The aim of this thesis is to explore and understand different stakeholder perspectives on automation. This is done by identifying sociotechnical imaginaries of automation amongst involved stakeholders by conducting a qualitative and interpretive analysis of the contents of the five papers that are part of this thesis. Sociotechnical imaginaries of automation are visions of the future that stakeholders imagine automation as able to bring. Three sociotechnical imaginaries of automation are identified: Automation is a new era of digitalization, Automation is a powerful tool, and Automation is just another software. These imaginaries are held and performed by six stake-holder groups: Suppliers, Developers, Policymakers, Strategists, Civil serv-ants, and IT Department. Underlying interests, closeness to real-life-practice, experience with automation and how stakeholders influence each other are discussed as possible reasons for there being different sociotechnical imaginaries. From this, it is concluded that different stakeholders have different ideas of what automation entails and thus what “the automated municipality” looks like. Contradictions between different sociotechnical imaginaries are potential obstacles of communication and co-operation as different stakeholders may plan and approach automation differently. This thesis contributes a novel way of how the adoption of automation in Swedish municipalities can be understood.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2022. p. 85
Series
Faculty of Arts and Sciences thesis, ISSN 1401-4637 ; 129
National Category
Computer and Information Sciences Other Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-183973 (URN)10.3384/9789179293093 (DOI)9789179293086 (ISBN)9789179293093 (ISBN)
Presentation
2022-04-27, ACAS, A-building, Campus Valla, Linköping, 13:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

Funding agencies: Part of the research in this thesis has been conducted as part of a research project funded by AFA Försäkring.

Available from: 2022-03-30 Created: 2022-03-30 Last updated: 2022-04-25Bibliographically approved
2. Process Automation in Swedish Municipalities: Stakeholders, Challenges, and Public Values
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Process Automation in Swedish Municipalities: Stakeholders, Challenges, and Public Values
2024 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Processautomatisering i svenska kommuner : Intressenter, utmaningar, och offentliga värden
Abstract [en]

The use of process automation has spread in Swedish municipalities to automate administrative processes, but the knowledge of how this plays out in practice is limited. The employee perspective is under-researched and more knowledge on how process automation is understood by and affects stakeholders is needed. Additionally, as process automation has proven difficult in practice, investigating these challenges can help practitioners. This dissertation investigates what stakeholders are involved in process automation initiatives in Swedish municipalities, how they view process automation, and what challenges are faced as part of these initiatives. These views and challenges are analyzed with a combined analytical lens of stakeholder theory and public value. This answers previous calls for research on how technology in public sector organizations relates to different underlying values. This is a compilation dissertation based on six research papers. The research process is based on a qualitative and interpretative approach, where most of the empirical material consists of interviews with employees involved in process automation initiatives in three Swedish municipalities. The analysis revolves around the identification of five stakeholder groups: Automation strategists, Support staff, Operational staff, IT personnel, and RPA companies. These stakeholder groups have different views on process automation and hold different perspectives of what the automation of processes will lead to. The challenges of process automation initiatives include the need for different competencies, lacking stakeholder buy-in, and difficulties in identifying processes to automate. Using the combined analytical lens of stakeholder theory and public value, these views and challenges are analyzed further, showing that they can be understood as different stakeholders striving for different sets of values as well as having different perspectives on how values relate to one another and how technology affects these relationships. The dissertation concludes that process automation has a more limited scope than was initially expected based on the policy push for process automation, that it is driven by and focuses on a particular set of values that are seen by some as incompatible with other sets of values, and that the challenges that emerge can be thought of as tensions that can and should occur to achieve a balance between different public values.

Abstract [sv]

Användning av processautomation har spridit sig bland svenska kommuner för att automatisera administrativa processer, men kunskap om hur detta utspelar sig i praktiken är begränsad. Medarbetarperspektivet inom detta område är relativt outforskat och mer kunskap om hur processautomation förstås av och påverkar olika intressenter behövs. Då processautomatisering har visat sig vara svårt i praktiken kan praktiker också gagnas av en utökad förståelse kring utmaningar som uppstår. Denna avhandling undersöker vilka intressenter som är involverade i initiativ för processautomation i svenska kommuner, deras perspektiv på processautomation, och vilka utmaningar som uppstår som del av dessa initiativ. Dessa perspektiv och utmaningar analyseras med en kombinerad analytisk lins bestående av intressentteori och offentliga värden. Detta svarar på tidigare uppmaningar till forskning om hur teknik i offentliga organisationer förhåller sig till olika underliggande värden. Detta är en sammanläggningsavhandling baserad på sex artiklar. Forskningsprocessen bygger på ett kvalitativt och tolkande förhållningssätt, där huvuddelen av det empiriska materialet består av intervjuer med medarbetare som varit involverade i initiativ för processautomation i tre svenska kommuner. Avhandlingens analys involverar identifiering av fem intressentgrupper: Automationsstrateger, Stödfunktioner, Kärnverksamhet, IT-personal och RPA-företag. Dessa intressentgrupper har olika syn på processautomation och har olika perspektiv på vad automatiseringen av processer kommer att leda till. Utmaningarna med initiativ för processautomation är behov av olika kompetenser, bristande motivation hos intressenter och svårigheter med att identifiera processer att automatisera. Utifrån den analytiska linsen analyseras dessa perspektiv och utmaningar vidare, vilket visar att de kan förstås som att olika intressenter strävar efter olika värden, samt har olika perspektiv på hur värden relaterar till varandra och hur teknik påverkar dessa relationer. Slutsatserna visar att processautomation är i praktiken mer begränsat än vad som ursprungligen förväntades, att processautomation drivs av och fokuserar på en viss uppsättning värden som av vissa ses som oförenliga med andra uppsättningar av värden, och att utmaningarna som uppstår kan ses som spänningar som kan och bör uppstå för att uppnå en balans mellan olika offentliga värden.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2024. p. 100
Series
Linköping Studies in Arts and Sciences, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 886
Keywords
Process automation, RPA, Public sector, Municipalities, Challenges, Public value, Processautomation, RPA, Offentlig sektor, Kommuner, Utmaningar, Offentliga värden
National Category
Information Systems, Social aspects
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-205052 (URN)9789180757133 (ISBN)9789180757140 (ISBN)
Public defence
2024-09-20, ACAS, A Building, Campus Valla, Linköping, 13:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2024-06-19 Created: 2024-06-19 Last updated: 2024-06-19Bibliographically approved

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Lindgren, IdaToll, DanielMelin, Ulf

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