The IS research literature has tested the applicability of option pricing models to IS projects mostly through detailed case studies. The current study complements this literature by considering a wide set of IS projects and assessing, albeit crudely, their optional value. We test the literature’s assumption that IS projects embed significant optional value. Our research site is a European plant of a leading multinational manufacturer of sophisticated products. The portfolio of current and recent IS projects is studied through a questionnaire administered to all project managers. Seventeen project managers were interviewed concerning thirty-one projects with median cost of $325k and median benefit of $1.2m. We find strong support to the prediction that IS projects include considerable optional value. The thirty one projects we studied embed forty seven options, many of them with benefits comparable to the value of the original projects. Only four projects had no optional value. A comparison between a subset of the portfolio and the corresponding scale-up options shows that the exercise price of the options is 20% of the original projects’ cost, and that the value of these options is about 70% of the original projects’ value. This data also demonstrates the large return, of scale-up options – the median return is 1500%, five fold the median return of projects. The main practical implication of this study is that real option evaluation is useful for IS projects in general, and should not be confined to special cases. A further implication is that real option thinking may be of particular value in recognising reduction and deferral options. The project managers in our study found such options difficult to identify and considered their time to expiration as relatively short. Proactive management of reduction and deferral options should thus increase the flexibility and value of IS projects.
Kenneally, Jim and Lichtenstein, Yossi, "The Optional Value of IS Projects - A Study of an IS Portfolio at a Multinational Manufacturer" (2002). ECIS 2002 Proceedings. 128.