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Robotizing shared service centres: key challenges and outcomes

Alcidio Silva Figueiredo (School of Economics, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal)
Luisa Helena Pinto (School of Economics, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal)

Journal of Service Theory and Practice

ISSN: 2055-6225

Article publication date: 4 December 2020

Issue publication date: 2 January 2021




The introduction of robotic process automation (RPA) in shared service centres (SSCs) can hardly be overlooked. This article, therefore, draws on the institutional theory to widen the understanding of its implementation and outcomes regarding people management. Drawing on the lens of the institutional theory and the literature on SSCs and RPA, this study addresses the key challenges and outcomes of robotization.


The study follows a qualitative approach and a purposeful sampling design that collected data from six major SSCs) introducing robotization. Data were collected from semi-structured interviews with service representatives, including RPA project managers. A thematic content analysis was used.


The introduction of robotics follows mechanisms of coercive, normative and mimetic isomorphism and is effectively replacing workers. So far, this process has been managed through a few reactive people management practices, such as earlier retirements, internal mobility and outsourcing reduction, which warns of future tensions. The findings also show the emergence of new jobs, such as robot developers and robot managers.


The paper contributes to the limited empirical body of research in RPA in SSCs. The study is novel as it is one of the first offering an implementation roadmap for other SSCs and illustrates the positive impact on processes redesign. It also provides empirical evidence on the debate about the potential for service workers' replacement versus tasks augmentation. In the longer term, this study opens new research avenues related to the tensions and contradictions from the progressive institutionalization of robotization in service organizations.



Figueiredo, A.S. and Pinto, L.H. (2021), "Robotizing shared service centres: key challenges and outcomes", Journal of Service Theory and Practice, Vol. 31 No. 1, pp. 157-178.



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