CPR on BPR: Long Live Business Process Reengineering Part 1: A Primer

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CPR on BPR: Long Live Business Process Reengineering

Part 1: A Primer
R. Garland - August 21, 2001


All management and technology paradigms seem to come and go. Some make hay in the sun and retire in the shade, and some live on in other forms. On the technology side, we've had mainframe/dumb terminal computing give way to client/server computing, and now, in a back to the future way but with more color, to web-browser-based computing.

On the management side, we've had, in random order, Just In Time (JIT) inventory management, Edward Deming's 14 Points documented in his book, Out of the Crisis and taught in Japan and in the U.S., Total Quality Management (TQM), Knowledge Management lead by Peter Senge of MIT and documented in his book The Fifth Discipline, Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI), Six Sigma, ISO Quality Certification guidelines, and, of course, Business Process Reengineering (BPR), that 90's management fad fostered and enamored by Hammer and Champy in Reengineering the Corporation.

So, what lives on? For certain, BPR (Business Process Reengineering), in some form, is still a relevant, nay, crucial, element in today's business world, especially as it pertains to successful implementations of CRM, ERP, and other modern technologies. We could coin yet another acronym or phrase to re-label BPR for the 2000's, but let's not add to the already bloated business acronym lexicon. So 'BPR' is alive and well.

What is BPR? 

There are many definitions of Business Process Reengineering, but the one I like most is the one proposed by Ray Manganelli and Mark Klein in their book, The Reengineering Handbook:

Reengineering - The rapid and radical redesign of strategic, value-added business processes - and the systems, policies, and organizational structures that support them - to optimize the work flows and productivity in an organization.

Now, some definitions need to be put in place for us to be able to swallow this statement whole:

value-added processes - those activities that are essential to satisfying a customer's wants and needs and for which a customer is willing to pay. Value-adding activities deliver or produce something that the customer cares about as part of the product or service being offered.

Workflows - an interrelated series of activities that convert business inputs into business outputs. They are composed of three primary types of activities: value-adding activities (see above); hand-off activities - activities that move work flow across boundaries that are primarily functional, departmental, or organizational, and; control activities - activities that for the most part, are created to control the hand-offs across the boundaries previously described.

So, if we come back to our definition of Reengineering, Manganelli and Klein are saying that we need to rapidly examine and redesign those processes which add value to the customer, in order to optimize the delivery of business outputs, to the happiness of the customer and financial success of the business

"Don't Pave Cow Paths": Linking BPR to CRM

"Don't Pave Cow Paths;" "If you always do what you've always done (but a little bit faster), you'll always get what you've always gotten (but a little faster);" "Automating broken processes with technology means that you'll do the bad things faster." The phrases all mean the same thing: Don't lead with technology when you believe that your company's workflows are broken. I have had first-hand experience one too many times with Vice President's calling down from on high and telling the worker bees to "get some technology in here to fix the problems." Without sound business process analysis, design, and possible re-design or full-blown reengineering in place before you bring in technology, your CRM (or any IT) efforts are doomed to fail.

Key Ideas in BPR for the 2000's 

There are many key, sound ideas that originated in the foundation of the BPR movement of the 90's and resonate with us in business today. Some of the key tenets include:

  • Focus on Processes first, not People or Technology.

  • Organize the company's processes around value-adding processes (as previously defined).

  • Eliminate as many non-value-adding activities as possible, including bureaucracy. Non-value adding steps that cannot be eliminated should be automated, and separated from the main sequence of value-adding activities.

  • Involve the people who do the work, since they have the best ideas for fixing the problems. Involving them will help you not only find the best solutions, but will guarantee that they will support the implementation, since the design came from them.

  • Eliminate duplication of work or effort.

  • Provide a single point of contact for customers whenever possible.

  • Capture information once, at the source.

  • Put information in one place only, and provide access for all who need it.

  • Minimize checks, controls, and reconciliation.

  • Remember and apply the O.H.I.O. principle - Only Handle It Once.

  • Perform processes in parallel whenever possible.

  • Find and cluster those processes that fit together naturally. Design separate processes for logical distinctions. One process does NOT fit all. Establish processes for like groups of tasks.

  • Make sure that as few people as possible are involved in the performance of a process.

  • Think about co-location of employees who perform work in a given workflow.

  • Specify an OWNER for each process or program.

  • Use information technology appropriately. Information technology can help to dramatically change and improve business processes, but be sure that technology supports an intelligent process design instead of driving the design process.

  • Keep in mind the value equation: Value = (Quality + Service) / (Cost + Time)

  • Create concrete, measurable goals - establish challenging, specific targets. "Reduce process time by 40%" is specific; "improve this process" is not.

  • Finally, get results in 90 days or less, to show progress, and to keep change down to bite-size nuggets that the company as a whole can swallow.

Support from CRM, ERP, and Other Modern Technologies 

As mentioned, never lead with technology. Review your business goals and objectives. Understand how your business is organized. Examine your business processes, which are supposed to support the corporate goals and strategies, and redefine or reengineer them as needed. Use the above list as a guide to change. Then and only then, find the technology that matches your business goals, objectives, and processes.

About this note:
This is the first of a series of Tutorials discussing Business Process Reengineering.

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