Sustainable digital transformation in small and medium enterprises (SMEs): A review on performance

Dr Isotilia Costa Melo, Geandra Alves Queiroz, Paulo Nocera Alves Junior, Thales Botelho de Sousa, Wilfredo F. Yushimito, Jorge Pereira

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are responsible for 90% of all business and 50% of employment globally, mostly female jobs. Therefore, measuring SMEs’ performance under the digital transformation (DT) through methods that encompass sustainability represents an essential tool for reducing poverty and gender inequality (United Nations Sustainable Development Goals). We aimed to describe and analyze the state-of-art performance evaluations of digital transformation in SMEs, mainly focusing on performance measurement. Also, we aimed to determine whether the tools encompass the three pillars of sustainability (environmental, social, and economic). Through a systematic literature review (SLR), a search on Web of Science (WoS) and Scopus resulted in the acceptance of 74 peer-reviewed papers published until December 2021. Additionally, a bibliometrics investigation was executed. Although there was no time restriction, the oldest paper was published in 2016, indicating that DT is a new research topic with increasing interest. Italy, China, and Finland are the countries that have the most published on the theme. Based on the results, a conceptual framework is proposed. Also, two future research directions are presented and discussed, one for theoretical and another for practical research. Among the theoretical development, it is essential to work on a widely accepted SME definition. Among the practical research, nine directions are identified–e.g., applying big data, sectorial and regional prioritization, cross-temporal investigations etc. Researchers can follow the presented avenues and roads to guide their researchers toward the most relevant topics with the most urgent necessity of investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13908
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Digitalization
  • Industry 4.0
  • Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
  • Sustainable development goals (SDG)
  • Triple bottom line (TBL) of sustainability


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