Business process reengineering
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Business process re-engineering is a business management strategy, originally pioneered in the early 1990s, focusing on the analysis and design of workflows and processes within an organization. BPR aimed to help organizations fundamentally rethink how they do their work in order to dramatically improve customer service, cut operational costs, and become world-class competitors. In the mid-1990s, as many as 60% of the Fortune 500 companies claimed to either have initiated reengineering efforts, or to have plans to do so.
BPR seeks to help companies radically restructure their organizations by focusing on the ground-up design of their business processes. According to Davenport (1990) a business process is a set of logically related tasks performed to achieve a defined business outcome. Re-engineering emphasized a holistic focus on business objectives and how processes related to them, encouraging full-scale recreation of processes rather than iterative optimization of subprocesses.
Business process re-engineering is also known as business process redesign, business transformation, or business process change management.
Business process re-engineering (BPR) began as a private sector technique to help organizations fundamentally rethink how they do their work in order to dramatically improve customer service, cut operational costs, and become world-class competitors. A key stimulus for re-engineering has been the continuing development and deployment of sophisticated information systems and networks. Leading organizations are becoming bolder in using this technology to support innovative business processes, rather than refining current ways of doing work.
Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) is basically rethinking and radically redesigning an organization's existing resources. BPR, however, is more than just business improvising; it is an approach for redesigning the way work is done to better support the organization's mission and reduce costs. Reengineering starts with a high-level assessment of the organization's mission, strategic goals, and customer needs. Basic questions are asked, such as "Does our mission need to be redefined? Are our strategic goals aligned with our mission? Who are our customers?" An organization may find that it is operating on questionable assumptions, particularly in terms of the wants and needs of its customers. Only after the organization rethinks what it should be doing, does it go on to decide how best to do it.
Within the framework of this basic assessment of mission and goals, re-engineering focuses on the organization's business processes—the steps and procedures that govern how resources are used to create products and services that meet the needs of particular customers or markets. As a structured ordering of work steps across time and place, a business process can be decomposed into specific activities, measured, modeled, and improved. It can also be completely redesigned or eliminated altogether. Re-engineering identifies, analyzes, and re-designs an organization's core business processes with the aim of achieving dramatic improvements in critical performance measures, such as cost, quality, service, and speed.
Re-engineering recognizes that an organization's business processes are usually fragmented into subprocesses and tasks that are carried out by several specialized functional areas within the organization. Often, no one is responsible for the overall performance of the entire process. Re-engineering maintains that optimizing the performance of subprocesses can result in some benefits, but cannot yield dramatic improvements if the process itself is fundamentally inefficient and outmoded. For that reason, re-engineering focuses on re-designing the process as a whole in order to achieve the greatest possible benefits to the organization and their customers. This drive for realizing dramatic improvements by fundamentally re-thinking how the organization's work should be done distinguishes re-engineering from process improvement efforts that focus on functional or incremental improvement.
In 1990, Michael Hammer, a former professor of computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), published an article in the Harvard Business Review, in which he claimed that the major challenge for managers is to obliterate forms of work that do not add value, rather than using technology for automating it. This statement implicitly accused managers of having focused on the wrong issues, namely that technology in general, and more specifically information technology, has been used primarily for automating existing processes rather than using it as an enabler for making non-value adding work obsolete.
Hammer's claim was simple: Most of the work being done does not add any value for customers, and this work should be removed, not accelerated through automation. Instead, companies should reconsider their processes in order to maximize customer value, while minimizing the consumption of resources required for delivering their product or service. A similar idea was advocated by Thomas H. Davenport and J. Short in 1990, at that time a member of the Ernst & Young research center, in a paper published in the Sloan Management Review
This idea, to unbiasedly review a company’s business processes, was rapidly adopted by a huge number of firms, which were striving for renewed competitiveness, which they had lost due to the market entrance of foreign competitors, their inability to satisfy customer needs, and their insufficient cost structure. Even well established management thinkers, such as Peter Drucker and Tom Peters, were accepting and advocating BPR as a new tool for (re-)achieving success in a dynamic world. During the following years, a fast growing number of publications, books as well as journal articles, were dedicated to BPR, and many consulting firms embarked on this trend and developed BPR methods. However, the critics were fast to claim that BPR was a way to dehumanize the work place, increase managerial control, and to justify downsizing, i.e. major reductions of the work force, and a rebirth of Taylorism under a different label.
Despite this critique, reengineering was adopted at an accelerating pace and by 1993, as many as 60% of the Fortune 500 companies claimed to either have initiated reengineering efforts, or to have plans to do so. This trend was fueled by the fast adoption of BPR by the consulting industry, but also by the study Made in America, conducted by MIT, that showed how companies in many US industries had lagged behind their foreign counterparts in terms of competitiveness, time-to-market and productivity.
Development after 1995 
With the publication of critiques in 1995 and 1996 by some of the early BPR proponents, coupled with abuses and misuses of the concept by others, the reengineering fervor in the U.S. began to wane. Since then, considering business processes as a starting point for business analysis and redesign has become a widely accepted approach and is a standard part of the change methodology portfolio, but is typically performed in a less radical way as originally proposed.
More recently, the concept of Business Process Management (BPM) has gained major attention in the corporate world and can be considered as a successor to the BPR wave of the 1990s, as it is evenly driven by a striving for process efficiency supported by information technology. Equivalently to the critique brought forward against BPR, BPM is now accused of focusing on technology and disregarding the people aspects of change.
Business process reengineering topics 
The most notable definitions of reengineering are:
- "... the fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in critical contemporary modern measures of performance, such as cost, quality, service, and speed."
- "encompasses the envisioning of new work strategies, the actual process design activity, and the implementation of the change in all its complex technological, human, and organizational dimensions."
BPR is different from other approaches to organization development (OD), especially the continuous improvement or TQM movement, by virtue of its aim for fundamental and radical change rather than iterative improvement. In order to achieve the major improvements BPR is seeking for, the change of structural organizational variables, and other ways of managing and performing work is often considered as being insufficient. For being able to reap the achievable benefits fully, the use of information technology (IT) is conceived as a major contributing factor. While IT traditionally has been used for supporting the existing business functions, i.e. it was used for increasing organizational efficiency, it now plays a role as enabler of new organizational forms, and patterns of collaboration within and between organizations.
BPR derives its existence from different disciplines, and four major areas can be identified as being subjected to change in BPR - organization, technology, strategy, and people - where a process view is used as common framework for considering these dimensions.
Business strategy is the primary driver of BPR initiatives and the other dimensions are governed by strategy's encompassing role. The organization dimension reflects the structural elements of the company, such as hierarchical levels, the composition of organizational units, and the distribution of work between them. Technology is concerned with the use of computer systems and other forms of communication technology in the business. In BPR, information technology is generally considered as playing a role as enabler of new forms of organizing and collaborating, rather than supporting existing business functions. The people / human resources dimension deals with aspects such as education, training, motivation and reward systems. The concept of business processes - interrelated activities aiming at creating a value added output to a customer - is the basic underlying idea of BPR. These processes are characterized by a number of attributes: Process ownership, customer focus, value adding, and cross-functionality.
The role of information technology 
Information technology (IT) has historically played an important role in the reengineering concept. It is considered by some as a major enabler for new forms of working and collaborating within an organization and across organizational borders.
Early BPR literature  identified several so called disruptive technologies that were supposed to challenge traditional wisdom about how work should be performed.
- Shared databases, making information available at many places
- Expert systems, allowing generalists to perform specialist tasks
- Telecommunication networks, allowing organizations to be centralized and decentralized at the same time
- Decision-support tools, allowing decision-making to be a part of everybody's job
- Wireless data communication and portable computers, allowing field personnel to work office independent
- Interactive videodisk, to get in immediate contact with potential buyers
- Automatic identification and tracking, allowing things to tell where they are, instead of requiring to be found
- High performance computing, allowing on-the-fly planning and revisioning
In the mid-1990s, especially workflow management systems were considered as a significant contributor to improved process efficiency. Also ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) vendors, such as SAP, JD Edwards, Oracle, PeopleSoft, positioned their solutions as vehicles for business process redesign and improvement.
Research and methodology 
Although the labels and steps differ slightly, the early methodologies that were rooted in IT-centric BPR solutions share many of the same basic principles and elements. The following outline is one such model, based on the PRLC (Process Reengineering Life Cycle) approach developed by Guha. Simplified schematic outline of using a business process approach, examplified for pharmaceutical R&D
- Structural organization with functional units
- Introduction of New Product Development as cross-functional process
- Re-structuring and streamlining activities, removal of non-value adding tasks
Benefiting from lessons learned from the early adopters, some BPR practitioners advocated a change in emphasis to a customer-centric, as opposed to an IT-centric, methodology. One such methodology, that also incorporated a Risk and Impact Assessment to account for the impact that BPR can have on jobs and operations, was described by Lon Roberts (1994). Roberts also stressed the use of change management tools to proactively address resistance to change—a factor linked to the demise of many reengineering initiatives that looked good on the drawing board.
Some items to use on a process analysis checklist are: Reduce handoffs, Centralize data, Reduce delays, Free resources faster, Combine similar activities. Also within the management consulting industry, a significant number of methodological approaches have been developed.
Many companies used reengineering as an pretext to downsize their companies dramatically, though this was not the intent of reengineering's proponents; consequently, reengineering earned a reputation for being synonymous with downsizing and layoffs.
In many circumstances, reengineering has not always lived up to its expectations. Some prominent reasons include:
- Reengineering assumes that the factor that limits an organization's performance is the ineffectiveness of its processes (which may or may not be true) and offers no means of validating that assumption.
- Reengineering assumes the need to start the process of performance improvement with a "clean slate," i.e. totally disregard the status quo.
- According to Eliyahu M. Goldratt (and his Theory of Constraints) reengineering does not provide an effective way to focus improvement efforts on the organization's constraint.
Others have claimed that reengineering was a recycled buzzword for commonly-held ideas. Abrahamson (1996) argued that fashionable management terms tend to follow a lifecycle, which for Reengineering peaked between 1993 and 1996 (Ponzi and Koenig 2002). They argue that Reengineering was in fact nothing new (as e.g. when Henry Ford implemented the assembly line in 1908, he was in fact reengineering, radically changing the way of thinking in an organization).
The most frequent critique against BPR concerns the strict focus on efficiency and technology and the disregard of people in the organization that is subjected to a reengineering initiative. Very often, the label BPR was used for major workforce reductions. Thomas Davenport, an early BPR proponent, stated that:
"When I wrote about "business process redesign" in 1990, I explicitly said that using it for cost reduction alone was not a sensible goal. And consultants Michael Hammer and James Champy, the two names most closely associated with reengineering, have insisted all along that layoffs shouldn't be the point. But the fact is, once out of the bottle, the reengineering genie quickly turned ugly." 
Hammer similarly admitted that:
"I wasn't smart enough about that. I was reflecting my engineering background and was insufficient appreciative of the human dimension. I've learned that's critical." 
See also 
- Business Process Management
- Business Process Improvement
- Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN)
- Process improvement
This article incorporates public domain material from the United States General Accounting Office document "Business Process Re-engineering Assessment Guide, May 1997".
- Business Process Re-engineering Assessment Guide, United States General Accounting Office, May 1997.
- Hamscher, Walter: "AI in Business-Process Reengineering", AI Magazine Voume 15 Number 4, 1994
- (Hammer 1990)
- (Thomas H. Davenport and J. Short, 1990)
- Forbes: Reengineering, The Hot New Managing Tool, August 23, 1993
- (Greenbaum 1995, Industry Week 1994)
- Michael L. Dertouzos, Robert M. Solow and Richard K. Lester (1989) Made In America: Regaining the Productive Edge". MIT press.
- Hammer and Champy (1993)
- Thomas H. Davenport (1993)
- Johansson et al. (1993): "Business Process Reengineering, although a close relative, seeks radical rather than merely continuous improvement. It escalates the efforts of JIT and TQM to make process orientation a strategic tool and a core competence of the organization. BPR concentrates on core business processes, and uses the specific techniques within the JIT and TQM ”toolboxes” as enablers, while broadening the process vision."
- Business efficiency: IT can help paint a bigger picture, Financial Times, featuring Ian Manocha, Lynne Munns and Andy Cross
- e.g. Hammer & Champy (1993),
- Guha et al. (1993)
- Lon Roberts (1994) Process reengineering: the key to achieving breakthrough success.
- A set of short papers, outlining and comparing some of them can be found here, followed by some guidelines for companies considering to contract a consultancy for a BPR initiative:
- (Davenport, 1995)
- (White, 1996)
Further reading 
- Abrahamson, E. (1996). Management fashion, Academy of Management Review, 21, 254-285.
- Champy, J. (1995). Reengineering Management, Harper Business Books, New York.
- Davenport, Thomas & Short, J. (1990), "The New Industrial Engineering: Information Technology and Business Process Redesign", in: Sloan Management Review, Summer 1990, pp 11–27
- Davenport, Thomas (1993), Process Innovation: Reengineering work through information technology, Harvard Business School Press, Boston
- Davenport, Thomas (1995), Reengineering - The Fad That Forgot People, Fast Company, November 1995.
- Drucker, Peter (1972), "Work and Tools", in: W. Kranzberg and W.H. Davenport (eds), Technology and Culture, New York
- Dubois, H. F. W. (2002). "Harmonization of the European vaccination policy and the role TQM and reengineering could play", Quality Management in Health Care, 10(2): pp. 47–57. "PDF"
- Greenbaum, Joan (1995), Windows on the workplace, Cornerstone
- Guha, S.; Kettinger, W.J. & Teng, T.C., Business Process Reengineering: Building a Comprehensive Methodology, Information Systems Management, Summer 1993
- Hammer, M., (1990). "Reengineering Work: Don't Automate, Obliterate", Harvard Business Review, July/August, pp. 104–112.
- Hammer, M. and Champy, J. A.: (1993) Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution, Harper Business Books, New York, 1993. ISBN 0-06-662112-7.
- Hammer, M. and Stanton, S. (1995). "The Reengineering Revolution", Harper Collins, London, 1995.
- Hansen, Gregory (1993) "Automating Business Process Reengineering", Prentice Hall.
- Hussein, Bassam (2008), PRISM: Process Re-engineering Integrated Spiral Model, VDM Verlag 
- Industry Week (1994), "De-engineering the corporation", Industry Week article, 4/18/94
- Johansson, Henry J. et al. (1993), Business Process Reengineering: BreakPoint Strategies for Market Dominance, John Wiley & Sons
- Leavitt, H.J. (1965), "Applied Organizational Change in Industry: Structural, Technological and Humanistic Approaches", in: James March (ed.), Handbook of Organizations, Rand McNally, Chicago
- Loyd, Tom (1994), "Giants with Feet of Clay", Financial Times, Dec 5 1994, p 8
- Malhotra, Yogesh (1998), "Business Process Redesign: An Overview", IEEE Engineering Management Review, vol. 26, no. 3, Fall 1998.
- Ponzi, L. and Koenig, M. (2002). "Knowledge management: another management fad?", Information Research, 8(1).
- "Reengineering Reviewed", (1994). The Economist, 2 July 1994, pp 66.
- Roberts, Lon (1994), Process Reengineering: The Key To Achieving Breakthrough Success, Quality Press, Milwaukee.
- Rummler, Geary A. and Brache, Alan P. Improving Performance: How to Manage the White Space in the Organization Chart, ISBN 0-7879-0090-7.
- Taylor (1911), Frederick, The principles of scientific management, Harper & Row, New York]
- Thompson, James D. (1969), Organizations in Action, MacGraw-Hill, New York
- White, JB (1996), Wall Street Journal. New York, N.Y.: Nov 26, 1996. pg. A.1
- Business Process Redesign: An Overview, IEEE Engineering Management Review
- BPR Articles
-  Reengineering relationship of Mission and Work Processes to Information Technology.
- BPR : Decision engineering in a strained industrial and business environment