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DaVinci Alumnus in the Spotlight: Dr Henk van Rensburg

Introducing Dr Henk van Rensburg, a recent graduate of DaVinci's doctoral programme (class of 2023). In this interview, Dr van Rensburg shares insights into his academic journey and its profound impact on his perspective.

Please give us a brief overview of your career to date.

My career spans 36 years in the fields of information systems delivery, project and programme management, and consulting in both public and private sector environments. The bulk of my career is in the public sector as a programme manager assigned to the delivery of several information technology-enabled enterprise transformation programmes. In addition to the practical delivery of programmes in the South African context, I also gained international exposure with a two-year assignment at a multinational space agency in Europe.

You are a recent Doctoral graduate of DaVinci Business School. Please provide us with a blurb on the purpose of your research and its contribution.

The research investigated the lived experiences of programme managers responsible for information technology-enabled enterprise transformation programmes in the public sector in South Africa. It highlights some of the factors that influence programme managers in their day-to-day engagement with their work, stakeholders, and work environment. The research proposes policy considerations and practical measures for public sector entities to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and overall lived experience of programme managers.

The research results are also valuable to public sector service providers who wish to understand some of the dynamics associated with, and complexities involved in, the programme management of enterprise transformation programmes in the public sector.

In a few words, kindly describe your journey to completing your Doctoral qualification.

The journey towards my Doctoral degree saw many detours and, at times, there were long stopovers whilst dealing with the realities of life. When the actual study commenced, the demands of balancing work, homelife and studying were challenging – but with the support of my family, colleagues, friends and supervisor, the journey was successfully completed.

The first two years of my actual Doctoral journey were spent in academic reintroduction, following which the research process commenced. The data gathering process was concluded prior to the COVID-19 lockdown period, with the balance of the data analysis, coding, literature study and actual write-up of the results being completed during the lockdown. The submission of the thesis for external examination coincided with the last constraints of the lockdown period being lifted – it “emerged” in the same timeframe when our society was opened following the pandemic.

The examination process was lengthy, culminating in a successful oral defence. All-in-all an eventful, sometimes frustrating, but fulfilling journey thus. The study itself nearly faltered due to externally induced and unanticipated events that had to be overcome - some of these challenges include changing the research methodology from Action Research to Grounded Theory, responding to the withdrawal of my original supervisor, experiencing blockages to access public sector organisations and their programme managers, as well as having to work within the confines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The result was that it took a little longer than originally anticipated.

What would you say your three greatest attributes or characteristics are as a person that aided you on your journey?

I credit my commitment, perseverance, and the fact that I pay immense attention to detail.

How did your journey impact your way of thinking and (or) life?

My thinking has been broadened with the exposure to new philosophical concepts and approaches, the beauty of Systems Thinking, and the personal journey with, and insight into, people’s lived experiences of a highly complex situation or circumstance. My life is greatly enriched with the achievement of having concluded this journey – it is a long-standing dream that was realised, it illuminated the strengths that I have hidden over time, it exposed a couple of developmental areas, and is an affirmation of the value of perseverance and hard work.

What is next for you on your path of thriving in remarkability?

After this long journey, the first stop is to take a breather... I would be privileged to share the results of my work with my employer – there’s much to be done to improve our organisation’s engagement with programme managers, thereby increasing the chances of even better delivery of our own enterprise transformation programmes. Furthermore, the opportunity must be developed to share the results of the research with interested stakeholders in the broader public and private sectors – government departments, public sector agencies, service providers, and programme management professional bodies.

If you could give advice to a student embarking on this journey, what would it be?

Engage your journey with commitment, be open to new experiences and embrace the process. Unforeseen challenges can be overcome with anticipation and perseverance. Sometimes you must take a step back to reframe, but then continue with renewed energy. Build a productive relationship with your supervisor, and leverage the resources availed by Da Vinci Business School.



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