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Process Automation in Swedish Municipalities: Stakeholders, Challenges, and Public Values
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Information Systems and Digitalization. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5656-5236
2024 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)Alternative title
Processautomatisering i svenska kommuner : Intressenter, utmaningar, och offentliga värden (Swedish)
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 [en]
Process automation, RPA, Public sector, Municipalities, Challenges, Public value
Keywords [sv]
Processautomation, RPA, Offentlig sektor, Kommuner, Utmaningar, Offentliga värden
National Category
Information Systems, Social aspects
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-205052ISBN: 9789180757133 (print)ISBN: 9789180757140 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-205052DiVA, id: diva2:1873331
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
List of papers
1. Automation as a Driver of Digital Transformation in Local Government: Exploring Stakeholder Views on an Automation Initiative in a Swedish Municipality
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Automation as a Driver of Digital Transformation in Local Government: Exploring Stakeholder Views on an Automation Initiative in a Swedish Municipality
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
Keywords
automation, digitalization, public sector, stakeholders, local government
National Category
Public Administration Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-183969 (URN)10.1145/3463677.3463685 (DOI)978-1-4503-8492-6 (ISBN)
Conference
The 22nd Annual International Conference on Digital Government Research
Available from: 2022-03-30 Created: 2022-03-30 Last updated: 2024-06-19
2. Stakeholder Views of Process Automation as an Enabler of Prioritized Value Ideals in a Swedish Municipality
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Stakeholder Views of Process Automation as an Enabler of Prioritized Value Ideals in a Swedish Municipality
2022 (English)In: eJournal of eDemocracy & Open Government, E-ISSN 2075-9517, Vol. 14, no 2, p. 32-56Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Municipalities in Sweden are recommended to pursue process automation to face upcoming societal challenges. This paper focuses on a case where these recommendations are operationalized. Views on process automation held by different stakeholders, in relation to value ideals they prioritize in their respective areas of work, are explored by combining stakeholder theory and a model of public value ideals. Our findings show that, different stakeholder groups prioritize different values and that their views on process automation as an enabler of these value ideals are either optimistic, undecided, or pessimistic, where the latter two can be considered obstacles. This paper contributes, with an empirical illustration of how process automation is operationalized, answering previous calls for more research on this topic. We also elaborate on the use of stakeholder theory and public value as an analytical lens, contributing to the growing body of research attempting to understand process automation. 

Keywords
Automation, public sector, municipality, stakeholder theory, public value
National Category
Information Systems
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-190994 (URN)10.29379/jedem.v14i2.726 (DOI)
Funder
AFA Insurance, 190200
Available from: 2023-01-11 Created: 2023-01-11 Last updated: 2024-06-19
3. AUTOMATION AS MIGRATION?: IDENTIFYING FACTORS INFLUENCING ADOPTION OF RPA IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Open this publication in new window or tab >>AUTOMATION AS MIGRATION?: IDENTIFYING FACTORS INFLUENCING ADOPTION OF RPA IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT
2021 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This paper is part of a research project that investigates and provides guidance regarding the adoption and implications of automation in the Swedish local government. Automation technologies, such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), are well established in the private and the public sector. In this paper, we discuss whether the adoption of RPA can be seen as migration towards automation. The aim is to evaluate the Push-Pull-Mooring (PPM) framework to understand better what factors influence local government adoption. By analysing RPA suppliers, RPA developers, and local government representatives' perspectives, we have identified push, pull, and mooring factors potentially influencing the decision to adopt, i.e., accepting or rejecting RPA. We, therefore, argue that the PPM framework seems to be a fruitful way of researching factors influencing the adoption of automation and the concept of automation as migration further.

Keywords
Process Automation, RPA, Push-Pull-Mooring, Local Government.
National Category
Information Systems
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-183524 (URN)
Conference
ECIS2021, European Conference on Information Systems - Human Values Crisis in a Digitalizing World. Marrakech 2021
Available from: 2022-03-11 Created: 2022-03-11 Last updated: 2024-06-19
4. Why is it Difficult to Implement Robotic Process Automation? Empirical Cases from Swedish Municipalities
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Why is it Difficult to Implement Robotic Process Automation? Empirical Cases from Swedish Municipalities
2022 (English)In: ELECTRONIC GOVERNMENT, EGOV 2022, SPRINGER INTERNATIONAL PUBLISHING AG , 2022, Vol. 13391, p. 353-368Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Swedish municipalities have been urged by policy makers to implement automation technologies to make administrative work more cost-efficient. As a response, a large set of municipalities have attempted to implement Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solutions with the intention to speed up administrative processes. However, although RPA has been promoted for several years, implementation has been limited and slow. This paper explores challenges related to RPA implementation experienced by three Swedish municipalities. We use an extensive interpretive case study as our empirical foundation, generated in collaboration with three Swedish municipalities, complemented with interviews with RPA consultants. Through interpretive analysis, we generate challenges along four themes. Our analysis shows that RPA implementation requires that different organizational sub-units and stakeholders cooperate. Challenges arise from: initiating RPA top-down without bottom-up support; insufficient process- and IT-competence; dependence on individual enthusiasts and external RPA consultants; and subsequent difficulties in finding the right processes to automate. Our study contributes with empirical illustrations of how RPA implementation is made difficult by current organizational structures and resources. We confirm and further contribute to previous findings by pointing to multiple dimensions in which challenges can arise.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
SPRINGER INTERNATIONAL PUBLISHING AG, 2022
Series
Lecture Notes in Computer Science, ISSN 0302-9743
Keywords
Automation; Public sector; Municipality level; Robotic process automation; Case study
National Category
Information Systems
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-189970 (URN)10.1007/978-3-031-15086-9_23 (DOI)000874748500023 ()9783031150869 (ISBN)9783031150852 (ISBN)
Conference
21st IFIP WG 8.5 International Conference on Electronic Government (EGOV) / Conference on E-Democracy and Open Government Conference (CeDEM) / IFIP WG 8.5 International Conference on Electronic Participation (EPart), Linkopings Univ, Dept Management & Engn, Div Informat Syst & Digitalizat, Linkoping, SWEDEN, sep 06-08, 2022
Note

Funding Agencies|AFA Insurance (AFA Forsakring) [190200]

Available from: 2022-11-16 Created: 2022-11-16 Last updated: 2024-06-19
5. Digitalization and automation for the sake of IT? Insight from automation initiatives in Swedish municipalities
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Digitalization and automation for the sake of IT? Insight from automation initiatives in Swedish municipalities
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.

Keywords
automation, digitalization, local government, municipality
National Category
Information Systems
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-203711 (URN)10.1145/3614321.3614333 (DOI)
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
6. Robot Colleagues in Swedish Municipalities: How RPA Affects the Work Situation of Employees
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Robot Colleagues in Swedish Municipalities: How RPA Affects the Work Situation of Employees
2023 (English)In: Electronic Government (EGOV 2023): 22nd IFIP WG 8.5 International Conference, EGOV 2023, Budapest, Hungary, September 5–7, 2023, Proceedings / [ed] Ida Lindgren, Csaba Csáki, Evangelos Kalampokis, Marijn Janssen, Gabriela Viale Pereira, Shefali Virkar, Efthimios Tambouris, Anneke Zuiderwijk, 2023, p. 160-173Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a popular software used for process automation in order to automate administrative tasks, traditionally performed by knowledge workers. The existing research on RPA is lacking in terms of what is known about how this type of technology affects the work situations of employees and their experiences with it. In this study, we seek to contribute to this knowledge gap by conducting an inductive analysis of employee experiences in three Swedish municipalities to explore the effects of RPA on their work situation. We find that RPA creates different effects during implementation compared to post-implementation, and that these effects can be positive or negative in both cases. Furthermore, we show that RPA may alleviate stress in one area of the organization, but that new stress emerges in another. We also conclude that the experiences on the individual level are interconnected with the organizational and managerial aspects of RPA, showing the need to further interconnect knowledge in these areas. Finally, we present some recommendations for future research, with an emphasis on studying employees’ work situations from a work environment perspective. 

Series
Lecture Notes in Computer Science, ISSN 0302-9743, E-ISSN 1611-3349 ; 14130
Keywords
RPA, automation, local government, employees, effects
National Category
Information Systems
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-203715 (URN)10.1007/978-3-031-41138-0_11 (DOI)978-3-031-41137-3 (ISBN)978-3-031-41138-0 (ISBN)
Conference
22nd IFIP WG 8.5 International Conference (EGOV 2023)
Funder
AFA Insurance, 190200
Available from: 2024-05-27 Created: 2024-05-27 Last updated: 2024-06-19

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5678910119 of 11
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