business process reengineering (BPR)

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Business process reengineering (BPR) is the analysis and redesign of workflow within and between enterprises.

BPR reached its heyday in the early 1990's when Michael Hammer and James Champy published their best-selling book, "Reengineering the Corporation". The authors promoted the idea that sometimes radical redesign and reorganization of an enterprise (wiping the slate clean) was necessary to lower costs and increase quality of service and that information technology was the key enabler for that radical change. Hammer and Champy felt that the design of workflow in most large corporations was based on assumptions about technology, people, and organizational goals that were no longer valid.

They suggested seven principles of reengineering to streamline the work process and thereby achieve significant levels of improvement in quality, time management, and cost:

  1. Organize around outcomes, not tasks.
  2. Identify all the processes in an organization and prioritize them in order of redesign urgency.
  3. Integrate information processing work into the real work that produces the information.
  4. Treat geographically dispersed resources as though they were centralized.
  5. Link parallel activities in the workflow instead of just integrating their results.
  6. Put the decision point where the work is performed, and build control into the process.
  7. Capture information once and at the source.

By the mid-1990's, BPR gained the reputation of being a nice way of saying "downsizing." According to Hammer, lack of sustained management commitment and leadership, unrealistic scope and expectations, and resistance to change prompted management to abandon the concept of BPR and embrace the next new methodology, enterprise resource planning (ERP).

This was first published in April 2001

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