Original Research

Goals and benefits of digital transformation projects: Insights into project selection criteria

Warren M. Gertzen, Elma van der Lingen, Herman Steyn
South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences | Vol 25, No 1 | a4158 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajems.v25i1.4158 | © 2022 Warren M. Gertzen, Elma van der Lingen, Herman Steyn | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 May 2021 | Published: 28 February 2022

About the author(s)

Warren M. Gertzen, Department of Engineering and Technology Management, Faculty EBIT, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Elma van der Lingen, Department of Engineering and Technology Management, Faculty EBIT, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Herman Steyn, Department of Engineering and Technology Management, Faculty EBIT, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Digital transformation (DT) is an increasingly relevant concept for businesses to remain competitive. As DT projects are disruptive to an organisation and are significantly different from traditional information technology projects, it is important to understand the value that specific DT projects will bring to an organisation before they are implemented, so that DT project portfolios can be optimally managed.

Aim: This study aims to determine the key goals and benefits of DT projects, as well as the selection criteria for DT projects in South African businesses. The study also explores the most influential technologies for driving the implementation of DT projects.

Setting: South Africa is an emerging economy. The study was performed in the initial phases of nationwide lockdown owing to COVID-19.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 11 leaders from South African businesses of varying sizes, but all in significant local markets. Content analysis using CAQDAS was used to analyse the primary data, using both inductive and deductive coding methods.

Results: South African businesses use a combination of financial and non-financial project selection criteria across four main goals and benefit categories: customer experience, operational efficiency, business culture, and traditional project evaluation. The fifth proposed goal (new business models) was not used to evaluate DT projects. The most influential technologies that drive the selection of DT projects were data-related, such as data storage, data processing, machine learning, and data-driven decision-making.

Conclusion: Companies in South Africa can use traditional project evaluation criteria together with several new criteria to determine the value of DT projects more holistically. This study also suggests several key practical takeaways for businesses that are aspiring to implement their own DT projects.


Keywords

digital transformation; project selection criteria; project evaluation criteria; fourth industrial revolution; project portfolio management

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