A strategic approach is necessary for a Business Process Redesign (BPR) to be successful. Through each stage of the effort, there are a core group of factors that must be kept in mind to ensure the reengineering goes beyond addressing the obvious issues, and addresses future goals while avoiding potential problem areas.
The first step in a business transformation is to define the challenge you are trying to overcome. You need to make sure the problem is clearly defined and the goals are understood. If you are looking to solve a technology expense problem, you may want to reduce lights on, doors open cost expense; if your application processing is inefficient, you may want to decrease cycle time; if your operations organization isn’t scalable, your goal may be handle seasonal volume increases with fixed resource level, etc. The point being, a nebulous target will be impossible to hit, so the problem, the goals need to be understood and validated with project stakeholders.
Once the problem and goals are defined you must look at the current state to find out what is broken and how to fix it. There are 4 key areas to look at when doing a current state assessment:
- People – Whether leading, enabling, or adopting the change, the organization’s people are a key success factor and need to be understood
- Process – Look for inefficiencies, pain points, gaps, and workarounds
- Tools – Ensure the technology enables the business, and doesn’t limit it
- Peers – know what your peers are doing both in the industry and outside it will help you benchmark yourself and where you want to be
When the current state assessment is completed and documented, the results have to be analyzed and prioritized. If you are lucky, only minor adjustments will be required, and a project or two will have you on your way. If the current state is in trouble and requires a significant overhaul, the project may turn into a program, and each goal may have to be organized into one or many projects, each requiring a clearly defined scope. When the project(s) are scoped, they must be organized based on internal dependencies and concurrent initiatives taking place in the organization. The sequence of these activities should then be translated into your Strategic Roadmap which will serve as an initial high level baseline for the project and will help when socializing the plan within the organization.
All the while, attention must be paid to common business process reengineering pitfalls. When a change has a significant impact on employees, they will have a significant impact on its outcome, regardless if they are upper management or operations clerks. Because transformation projects are often arduous, strong executive leadership and encouragement ‘from the top’ is needed to keep momentum and enthusiasm high. Similarly, project level management cannot just be ‘competent’, but should have experience with process redesign. An inexperienced project manager may lack expertise and foresight to perform the interpersonal management activities required by a BPR project while simultaneously tending to the typical PM responsibilities. Perhaps most importantly, the workers that are ‘in the trenches’ have got to be on board. Management will enable the change, but the staff must execute the change. When the employees that have to change don’t seem to be willing to adapt it becomes a significant risk and must be managed accordingly.
Beyond the risks presented by the organization, attacking the wrong problem or implementing the wrong solution can derail a project. Fixing a symptom of a problem, and not the root cause, or implementing a technology that solves the problem but doesn’t align with the corporate technology vision can give the illusion of success, but down the road the effort will ultimately be a loss.
For a more detailed look at approaching business process redesign strategically, please see my whitepaper,A Strategic Approach to Business Process Redesign.