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Digitalization and automation for the sake of IT? Insight from automation initiatives in Swedish municipalities
Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Information Systems and Digitalization.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5656-5236
Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Information Systems and Digitalization.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2282-222X
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Information Systems and Digitalization. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4735-8697
2023 (English)In: ICEGOV '23: Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance / [ed] Demi Getschko, Ida Lindgren, Mete Yildiz, Mário Peixoto, Flávia Barbosa, Cristina Braga, 2023, p. 86-93Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Swedish municipalities are expected to contribute to the fulfilment of the Swedish Digital Agenda, by digitalizing and automating as much work as possible. There is currently a gap between the expectations, as expressed in policies, and the outcomes of digitalization and automation initiatives in municipalities thus far. The aim of this study is to address this gap by exploring the purpose of digitalization and automation initiatives as expressed by employees in three Swedish municipalities. We do this by applying a public values and pragmatist lens to identify ends-in-view, departing from an established model of public values. We conduct an interpretative analysis of semi-structured interviews conducted with employees at three Swedish municipalities. Our findings illustrate discrepancies between employees’ ends-in-view, in comparison with those expressed in policies on local government digitalization and automation. Despite the official Swedish digitalization strategy expressing that digitalization “is not a goal in itself”, we illustrate how compliance with directives is an important driver, as well as a feeling of having to keep up with others and showcasing a “modern” organization. These ends-in-view illustrate that digitalization projects are indeed being initiated for the sake of digitalization (without clear long-term goals) rather than for particular purposes, potentially creating digitalization practices in which the end goals of digitalization are lost along the way.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2023. p. 86-93
Keywords [en]
automation, digitalization, local government, municipality
National Category
Information Systems
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-203711DOI: 10.1145/3614321.3614333OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-203711DiVA, id: diva2:1860928
Conference
International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance (ICEGOV)
Available from: 2024-05-27 Created: 2024-05-27 Last updated: 2024-06-19
In thesis
1. 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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Publisher's full texthttps://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3614321.3614333

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Toll, DanielLindgren, Ida

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