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Deployment of business process automation software agents and the future of work

Shadi, Said 2022. Deployment of business process automation software agents and the future of work. DHS Thesis, Cardiff University.
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The thesis explores the impact of a new wave of software application technology that attempts to “mimic” human activities to automate routine and repetitive tasks. The claims made by the technology suppliers is that organisations can reduce reliance on workers by replacing them with more cost-effective software agents (also known as robotic process automation and business process automation using software). The aims of the research are three-fold: firstly, to understand the main determinants that influence the deployment of software agents in the workplace setting and can decisions be explained through existing frameworks and models; secondly, to explore how software agents affect job characteristics, work characteristics and skills; and thirdly, to consider the extent to which the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology model (UTAUT) captures the key elements to assess workers’ intentions to work with and use software agents. The nature of the research problem is concerned with analysing a real-world contemporary phenomenon in a natural setting. The research empirically examines the implementation of software agent technology in the healthcare sector through six case studies pre and post implementation in a workplace environment. Participants groups comprised of managers and workers across five departments. To provide structure to capture the data analysis, a logic model framework was used, allowing for a comparison of what had changed between the two phases of the study at each site. The findings suggest that the implementation of software agents is not straightforward, even for simple tasks and it is not something that can be delivered quickly. To understand the extent automation is implemented, a revised five level of automation taxonomy was developed and assessed. Any level of task automation (i.e. taxonomy level 1 or greater) was found to benefit departments and workers by reducing the need for workers to perform the mundane, route and repetitive tasks. The benefits included automation outperforming workers at certain tasks and freeing workers to have more time to perform other duties. The research contributes to the continued debate on the skills required to perform work and on the labour use strategies for automation systems. What remains the same is that workers are continuing to use skills to intervene and perform manual tasks when the automation fails. What is new is the troubleshooting skills workers are learning to fix issues with the automation and what is different is the rebalance of work.

Item Type: Thesis (DHS)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 21 April 2022
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2024 03:35

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