Business Process Re-Engineering - Meaning, its Need and Technology

Hammer and Champy’s concept of Business Process Re-Engineering depends on harnessing technology to optimize processes as its main driver. To understand why technology is imperative for BPR, let’s first review what BPR does.

What is BPR ?

“BPR is the fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in critical contemporary measures of performance, such as cost, quality, service, and speed.” Instead of starting with an activity flowchart, corporations are advised to start with a clean slate. They are then told to look into why they perform the tasks the way they do. A Process Engineer will look at the activities to be performed and how they can be engineered to invest minimum resources and get maximum returns.

To illustrate the point, let us consider the example of Apple iPod. Apple rethought the way music ought to be made available to the consumers. The changes it brought were:

  • Radical: While all other music labels were selling music via brick and mortar stores, Apple developed its iTunes software to sell music digitally. (Napster had made digital music available through a P2P platform earlier, but was sued by music labels for copyright violation)
  • Fundamental: Apple sold single tracks as opposed to whole albums being sold at brick and mortar shops.

Apple just kept in mind the end need of the consumer and reconsidered whether conventions were required.

Why Re-Engineering the Corporation ?

Business process re-engineering is required in two cases:

  1. The organization has discovered some breakthrough methodology which will revolutionize its processes to give it more productivity and efficiency and therefore the entire process needs to be changes.

  2. The organization has failed to keep up to date with the changing technologies. Since it did not continuously innovate, it is now faced with a “change or die” situation and business process re-engineering which helps integrate latest best practices into the processes are the only way to save the business.

How to Re-Engineer the Corporation ?

Information Availability: To fundamentally redesign a process, one must know the details involved. Details from internal and external sources must be captured and provided to the relevant people in the required time duration. This helps them to identify the bottlenecks and work around better ways of reaching the desired end.

Information Sharing: A BPR project is usually facilitated by a cross functional team. Most of the times, teams are spread across different geographic locations. Information needs to be successfully shared amongst various people to ensure the reengineering goes as planned and without hiccups.

Technology as the Solution: The new processes that are developed as a result of BPR initiatives deploy the latest technology to achieve the desired end results. Usually it is e-Commerce, automation or another technology driven solution that is implemented.

Business Process Re-engineering has become a very important buzzword in the BPM lexicon. Many corporations who were late in realizing the power and importance of BPM have to undergo re-engineering initiatives to ensure that they are still relevant to the marketplace. Re-engineering initiatives are however expensive and may require certain downtime. This is the reason they are resented by many corporations.


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