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Business Process Re-engineering
Business Process Re-engineering

Business process can be defined as "a set of logically related tasks performed to achieve a defined business outcome." It is "a structured, measured set of activities designed to produce a specified output for a particular customer or market." Improving business processes is important for businesses to stay ahead of competition in today's marketplace. Over the last 10 to 15 years, companies have been forced to improve their business processes because customers are demanding better products and services. Many companies begin business process improvement with a continuous improvement model. The BPR methodology comprises of developing the business vision and process objectives, identifying the processes to be redesigned, understanding and measuring the existing processes, identifying IT levers and designing and building a prototype of the new process. In this context it can be mentioned that, some of the biggest obstacles faced by reengineering are lack of sustained management commitment and leadership, unrealistic scope and expectations, and resistance to change.

Business Process Reengineering (BPR) and Total Quality Management (TQM)

Total Quality Management and BPR share a cross-functional relationship. Quality specialists tend to focus on incremental change and gradual improvement of processes, while proponents of reengineering often seek radical redesign and drastic improvement of processes. Quality management, often referred to as TQM or continuous improvement, means programs and initiatives, which emphasize incremental improvement in work processes, and outputs over an open-ended period of time. In contrast, reengineering, also known as business process redesign or process innovation, refers to prudent initiatives intended to achieve radically redesigned and improved work processes in a specific time frame. In contrast to continuous improvement, BPR relies on a different school of thought. The extreme difference between continuous process improvement and business process reengineering lies in where you start from and also the magnitude and rate of resulting changes. In course of time, many derivatives of radical, breakthrough improvement and continuous improvement have emerged to address the difficulties of implementing major changes in corporations. Leadership is really important for effective BPR deployment, and successful leaders use leadership styles to suit the particular situation and perform their tasks, giving due importance to both people and work. Business process is essentially value engineering applied to the system to bring forth, and sustain the product with an emphasis on information flow. By mapping the functions of the business process, low value functions can be identified and eliminated, thus reducing cost. Alternatively, a new and less costly process, which implements the function of the current process can be developed to replace the present one.

The role of executive leadership or top management in business process reengineering cannot be disregarded. They should provide the needed resources to the team, demonstrate their active support for the project, set the stage for reengineering by determining core business processes, and by defining the project scope and objectives. The management should also take care to provide adequate funding, set new standards as well as encourage others to be open to innovative approaches. Many reengineering projects fail to be completed or do not achieve bottom-line business results. For this reason alone, business process reengineering 'success factors' has become an important area of study. Success factors are a collection of lessons learnt from previous projects. It is useful to think of your team structure in 3 levels: stakeholders, core team, and extended team.

The stakeholders are key business leaders ultimately accountable for the success of the project. Their role is to provide high-level guidance to the team, help remove barriers, and provide funding. The core team is the group responsible for the design and implementation of the solution. Your extended team includes other people in the organization contributing to the project on an as-needed basis. These extended-team members include subject-matter experts. A well-rounded team includes a mix of people and skills. Such a team may include individuals who thoroughly understand the current process, who actively use the process and also work closely with customers, technical experts, and consultants, if necessary. But the main criterion is that the entire team should work together for the project to succeed.

The Role of Consultants in BPR projects

New reengineering teams typically employ the assistance of a consultant for their project. Consultants can play a valuable role in BPR projects. They are objective and immune to internal politics. Having followed the processes before, they provide valuable information and best practices from a wide range of experience. Consultants can also serve as good communication bridge between the team and management, write project documentation, lead the project and facilitate meetings, make presentations to stakeholders and associates, and last but not the least, contribute subject-matter expertise in your organization's work processes.

BPR and Information Technology

Business Process Re-engineering has rapidly developed towards a new management philosophy. The inherent business process orientation changes the perspective of international management from a structural to that of a process view. The re-engineering of business processes is only one aspect of the management of business processes. In particular, the re-engineering of international business processes needs special attention, because the multi-faceted structure of multinational corporations increases the complexity of business processes, there by influencing the options for redesign. Business Process Re-engineering has rapidly developed towards a new management philosophy based upon predecessors like Total Quality Management, Overhead Value Analysis, Kanban or Just-In-Time-Management. Business processes can be re-engineered by redesigning the steps, by changing the logical and temporal sequence of the steps, or by changing any other characteristics of the process. The role of IT is discussed in contradictory way. Advocates of information systems favor the view that the new technology is an enabler of process re-engineering. IT has to be monitored constantly to determine whether it can generate new process designs or contribute to the performance of a business process. The breakthrough of BPR is closely connected with IT, which opens new dimensions of process reorganization. Moreover, those who take the initiative in process improvement/redesign, influence the role of IT. If the data processing department initiates the process change, then IT will have more of a generator function for new process redesigns. If on the other hand, the top management sets off the change process, then the process will be first restructured and later optimized through IT.


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