Business Process Reengineering (BPR)
To survive and thrive, organizations must not only continuously innovate to stay relevant to their customers, organizations must transform to accomplish strategic objectives to stay ahead of the competition.
Business Process Reengineering (BPR) is strategic and disrupts existing business processes - workflows, roles, business policies and procedures, supporting technology and underlying business rules. BPR requires new ways of thinking – doing new things in new ways – resulting in transformational changes in end-to-end business processes in support of an organization’s strategic objectives.
BPR strips away legacy ideas of how an organization should operate. Nothing is sacred. New approaches, no matter how radical, are seriously considered. Properly implemented, BPR results in transformational change - meaning not just 10% improvement in the quality of products, customer service, speed of handling activities and productivity of the organization and employees. Think more in the range of 50% to 100%+.
A well-known example of transformative BPR is Ford Motor Company's accounts payable process. Ford discovered that it had 500 employees handling accounts payable while Mazda only had 5 people. Clearly, Ford needed to make some radical changes in the accounts payable space.
Why do BPR Initiatives Often Fail to Deliver Transformative and Sustainable Results?
Transformative BPR is difficult. Most organizations struggle to achieve transformational and sustainable change regardless of the amount of time and resources expended on the effort. The 10 primary reasons that BPR initiatives often fail to deliver transformative and sustainable change are:
#1: Not Linking BPR Initiatives to Organizational Strategic Objectives
A BPR initiative typically results in many opportunities to improve and transform the organization. Certainly more opportunities than an organization has the time, budget and resources to accomplish. Without a strong link to strategic objectives, the opportunities are untethered and often result in selecting and moving forward with opportunities that do not advance strategic objectives.
Best practice tip: View BPR opportunities through the lens of how much the opportunity moves the needle on advancing one or more strategic objectives. See my blog: Business Process Reengineering: 6 Key Steps + Some Secret Sauce.
#2: Insufficient Focus on the Customers' Needs
The most important objective of an organization is to provide products and services that meet and exceed (and better yet – anticipates) the customer needs and requirements.
Best practice tip: Focus on customer requirements. Listen to the customer. Strengthen those things that add value to the customer and get rid of those whose contribution is not clear. Customer needs and requirements are the essence of everything an organization does. Design processes to add value from a customer perspective.
#3: Insufficient Focus on Change Drivers
An organization does not operate in a vacuum. There are numerous internal and external drivers of change – changing customer requirements, competition, regulation/legislation, product innovation, business strategy, economic conditions, changes in technology, etc.
Best practice tip: What is driving change in and external to your organization over the next 3-5 years? Be proactive, respond to these drivers early rather than defer the difficult changes resulting in an ongoing reactive fire-fighting mode.
#4: A Myopic Focus on the Tactical Layer of an Organization
The tactical layer of an organization includes the workflows, work activities, the hands-on staff performing the work activities and supporting policies, procedures and technology. Together, these elements comprise business processes.
Transformational BPR, however, requires engaging the business from 360° - analyzing the people / roles, processes and technology at the tactical, operational and strategic layers – and analyzing how the people / roles, processes and technology engage one another across and between each layer.
Best practice tip: Effectiveness, efficiency and agility at the tactical layer is essential. However, fully engaging and analyzing the operational (organizational structure and reporting relationships) layers of the organization is equally important and essential to achieving sustainable results.
#5: Superficial Analysis
Transformational change requires a deep understanding of the organizations business processes – work activities, workflows, procedures, roles, supporting technology, etc. My experience is that many BPR initiatives are based on high-level superficial analysis. Superficial analysis is simply not deep enough to identify the underlying patterns and root causes of pain points in a process.
Best practice tip: Conduct deep analysis. Perform detailed current state analysis (see my whitepaper “10 Perilous Misconceptions of Censuring Current State Mapping & Analysis”), broaden the scope of the analysis across functional silos and business units, engage internal and external customers and stakeholder in analysis.
#6: Insufficient Experience in Recognizing Underlying Patterns
Tactical issues in business processes are relatively obvious (assuming deep rather than superficial mapping and analysis is performed - see #5 above). Strategic issues are far more abstract and complex. The underlying patterns that need to be disrupted and reengineered cross many layers and dimensions of an organization.
Best practice tip: Step outside a tactical mindset and look at the big picture across the enterprise.
#7: Passive Rather Than Proactive Implementation
The opportunities to improve and transform an organization must be proactively developed, operationalized and implemented. It’s not going to happen on its own or as a collateral duty. Far too often the big “book” of opportunities is created but is not advanced. Looks great on paper, but it takes a proactive team to make it happen.
Best practice tip: Implementation of BPR opportunities must have milestones, metrics and timelines that are closely monitored. Continually adjust the plan as necessary.
#8 Lack of Change Management Considerations
Change management is the people side of BPR. Regardless of the dysfunctionality of a process, people are typically comfortable with existing processes, activities and procedures, and are naturally resistant to change and leery about changing anything – roles, level of authority, reporting relationships, methods, etc.
Best practice tip: Deeply engage staff (at all levels of the organization) in all aspects of the initiative. Create an authentic sense of ownership. Reach out and glean their input in current state analysis, opportunities for improvement, operationalizing and implementing improvements. Change is not sustainable without staff ownership and commitment.
#9: Poor Communication
Many BPR initiatives lack clear, focused, consistent ongoing communications. Staff at all levels need to know the impact of the initiative on their role in the organization, what is expected of them in connection with participating in the initiative, what is the timeline, etc. If you do not communicate, staff will fill-in the blanks on their own – and in my experience, the blanks are filled in with the darkest possible scenarios.
Best practice tip: Develop sophisticated strategic multi-channel communication plan during the planning stages of the initiative and proactively execute the plan throughout the initiative.
#10: Insufficient IT Systems and Support
Transformational BPR solutions and opportunities require increasingly sophisticated information systems. Many BPR initiatives are performed in parallel with or subsequent to an IT modernization initiative. A sophisticated IT platform is essential to supporting and enabling BPR solutions and opportunities. See my blog post: The Benefits of IT Modernization.
Best practice tip: Engage IT in the planning stages of a BPR initiative. Ensure that your organization’s IT platform is sufficiently sophisticated and agile to support transformative BPR. If not, incorporate IT modernization into the BPR initiative.
Today’s rapidly changing business environment favors high-performing, agile organizations capable of delivering extraordinary customer and business value.
Meeting this challenge often requires transformative change - and sustainable on-going improvement in business processes, organizational culture and supporting technologies.
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