Setting the stage for digital transformation has a lot to do with an enterprise's approach and commitment to Business Process Re-engineering (BPR).
BPR is an integrated set of management policies, project management procedures, and modeling, analysis, design and testing techniques for analyzing existing business processes and systems; designing new processes and systems; testing, simulating and prototyping new designs prior to implementation; and managing the implementation process, according to global research firm Gartner.
When did BPR emerge?
The idea of re-engineering was first touted in an article in Harvard Business Review in 1990 by Dr. Michael Hammer, then a professor of computer science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and, later, a founder and director of several high technology companies. Hammer's method was popularly referred to as business process re-engineering (BPR) and was based on an examination of the way information technology was affecting business processes. In fact, so popular was re-engineering that one survey in the 1990s showed it to have been adopted by almost 80% of Fortune 500 companies. It was often blamed for the widespread lay-offs that became part of almost every company's radical redesign at that time.
Indeed, Hammer changed forever how businesses do business. As the originator of re-engineering and the process enterprise, he helped usher in new ways of thinking about managerial innovations and business practices. An engineer by training, Dr. Hammer focused on the operational nuts and bolts of business; his work remains relentlessly pragmatic and immediately relevant. One of Hammer's enduring contributions to the field of business process redesign was the Process and Enterprise Maturity Model (PEMM) and the programs in which the model has been taught. He was even named by Time magazine to its first list of America's Twenty-Five Most Influential Individuals.
In an article for the Harvard Business Review in 1990, Reengineering Work: Don’t Automate, Obliterate, Hammer wrote:
"The usual methods for boosting performance — process rationalization and automation— haven’t yielded the dramatic improvements companies need. In particular, heavy investments in information technology have delivered disappointing results—largely because companies tend to use technology to mechanize old ways of doing business. They leave the existing processes intact and use computers simply to speed them up.
But speeding up those processes cannot address their fundamental performance deficiencies. Many of our job designs, work flows, control mechanisms, and organizational structures came of age in a different competitive environment and before the advent of the computer. They are geared toward efficiency and control. Yet the watchwords of the new decade are innovation and speed, service and quality.
It is time to stop paving the cow paths. Instead of embedding outdated processes in silicon and software, we should obliterate them and start over. We should “reengineer” our businesses: use the power of modern information technology to radically redesign our business processes in order to achieve dramatic improvements in their performance."
Next Generation BPR for Today's Enterprise Digital Transformation
With the increased implementation of digital technologies - and a push for enterprise-wide digital transformation - business leaders are evaluating BPR strategies to keep up with the rapid changes redefining enterprise operational performance and functionality today. There are seven smart BPR elements that form basic guidelines for staging digital transformation across an enterprise.
- Automation: Deploy a fully automated, flexible process to manage existing and new processes.
- Efficiency: A single system managed the entire business process.
- Scalability: Supporting a scalable system allows for the handling of thousands of business and customer requests, change management, reporting and more.
- Proactive Management: A proactive approach reduces cycle times with proactive management via standard, as well as ad-hoc, processes.
- Search Capability: Reducing costs from search capability allows for more effective, on-demand information management practices.
- Flexibility: A flexible approach allows an enterprise to manage process changes on the fly - allowing for greater operational performance.
- Compliance: Operating with adherence to compliance requirements calls for tracking the latest versions, updates and sign-offs to perform as a compliant digital enterprise.
Each element in the guidelines above depends on and reinforces the others.
Since BPR is not easy and the effectiveness of BPR projects may not be uniform across all activities of a firm, careful thought must be given to whether each step is right for an organization given prevailing circumstances. Overall, doing just part of the guidelines often yields none of the optimal results - cultivation of an enterprise environment that is flexible, agile and dynamic enough to enable personnel and processes function in a more strategic collaborative and technologically capable way.
Therefore, in order to enhance an organization’s ability to improve through the BPR guidelines, the critical first step is to clearly articulate the organization’s vision and goals - embracing a change initiative that will ultimately help the organization satisfy all of the elements in the BPR guidelines and be successful in digital transformation initiatives. BPR is a successive and ongoing improvement process that enables an organization to make the move from traditional functional operations to digitally empowered operational performance.