3.3.2 Business Process Re-engineering (BPR)

Introduction to Business Process Re-eingineering (BPR)

BPR is a management process used to re-define the mission statement, analyse the critical success factors, re-design the organisational structure and re-engineer the critical processes in order to improve customer satisfaction. BPR challenges managers to rethink their traditional methods of doing work and commit themselves to a customer-focused process. Many outstanding organisations have achieved and maintained their leadership through BPR [Oakland, 1995]. Companies using these techniques have reported significant bottom-line results, including better customer relations, reductions in cycle time to market, increased productivity, fewer defects/errors and increased profitability. BPR uses recognised techniques for improving business results and questions the effectiveness of the traditional organisational structure. Defining, measuring, analysing and re-engineering work processes to improve customer satisfaction pays off in many different ways.

Re-engineer your business to the needs of your customers [Lip, 1989]

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Why is BPR Useful?

Improvements in business performance of, say, 10-15 per cent can be achieved in most companies using conventional consultancy techniques. Where quantum leaps are required -- for example, where the old needs to be completely replaced with the new -- then re-engineering is a good way forward. The key to grasping the way BPR differs from other improvement studies lies in understanding the focus, breadth and duration of the re-engineering process.

The primary focus is on the customers -- those people who pay the money which keeps the business going. So if a process does not help to serve a customer then why have the process in the first instance? Although BPR requires a detailed knowledge of what the customers want it does not demand a highly detailed understanding of the tasks involved in every activity of the business. This makes BPR economical in terms of investigation time when compared with conventional methods, in which highly-detailed studies are usually undertaken before any change is made. BPR requires that those conducting the study are highly experienced in business practices and systems, and are able to identify the features of the business which are crucial to its success. A high-level in-house team, working with experienced consultants, would be able to provide the necessary expertise.

A further facet of the BPR approach concerns the speed with which changes are introduced. Conventional wisdom states that change is best brought about through an evolutionary approach. If it is required to introduce a radically changed organisation, it can be argued that it makes good sense to carry out the necessary changes quickly. Many major BPR projects have been implemented within one year [Ovenden, 1994].

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How to Implement the BPR

Organisations will avoid the problems of 'change programmes' by concentrating on 'process alignment' -- recognising that people's roles and responsibilities must be related to the processes in which they work. Senior managers may begin the task of process alignment by a series of BPR steps that are distinct but clearly overlapped. This recommended path develops a self-reinforcing cycle of commitment, communication, and culture change. The steps are as follows.

  1. : Gain commitment to change through the organisation of the top team.
  2. : Develop a shared vision and mission of the business and of what change is required.
  3. : Define the measurable objectives, which must be agreed by the team, as being the quantifiable indicators of success in terms of the mission.
  4. : Develop the mission into its Critical Success Factors (CSFs) to coerce and move it forward.
  5. : Break down the CSFs into the key or critical business processes and gain process ownership.
  6. : Break down the critical processes into sub-processes, activities and task and form the teams around these.
  7. : Re-design, monitor and adjust the process-alignment in response to difficulties in the change process.
BPR creates change. Change must create something that did not exist before, namely a 'learning organisation' capable of adapting to a changing competitive environment. A learning organisation aims to create a self-perpetuating momentum which changes the culture of the organisation. That is to say, the aim is that the norms, values and attitudes underpinning behaviours be changed towards continual questioning and continual improvement. It embraces human resources development on the one hand, and systems development (including BPR) on the other. For without addressing the systems of an organisation, from communication and information systems to reward and recognition systems, you are building your houses on sand, foundationless.

The organisation must also learn how to continually monitor and modify its behaviour to maintain the change-sensitive environment. Some people will, of course, find it difficult to accept the changes and perhaps will be incapable of making the change, in spite of all the direction, support and peer pressure brought about by the process alignment. There will come a time to replace those managers and people who cannot function in the new organisation, after they have been given the opportunity to make the change.

With the growth of people's understanding of what kind of managers and employees the new organisation needs, and from experience of seeing individuals succeed and fail, top management will begin to accept the need to replace or move people to other parts of the organisation.

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