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Bring back BPR all is forgiven
Bring back BPR – all is forgiven
I was recently reading a short article entitled "E-Business demands the return of BPR" which prompted me to write this viewpoint. It seems that as we start our quest for progress and advancement in the new millennium, the business community's "stubbornness" is more intense and even more evident than ever before. The previous experiences of failed projects were not heeded it seems and senior managers are persistent to latch onto the following expressions:
Obliterate and innovate – the premise of e-business is to radically modify how transactions are made, how customers are managed and how a competitive advantage is achieved. The advocates of e-business argue that the "old" approaches and methods of adding value to customers are no longer sufficient. Internet-based management requires the whole of the value chain to be re-defined.
Automate and integrate – automation has been a progressive argument and the experience in this field is very abundant. The evolution of IT/IS applications has brought with it a significant transformation in the way businesses are managed. Integration is a more recent phenomenon and interest in extended ERP systems for instance is still growing. There are, however, other schools of thought on the principles of integration; for instance, from the point of view of change management and process management which are often considered in isolation from the IT-based arguments on integration.
Those who are now arguing for business process re-engineering (BPR) to be brought back are those who have learnt that "if it ain't broke don't fix it". Obliteration of wasteful activities, non-value added functions, unprofitable practices, is a logical way to proceed with innovation. The decision will therefore always be whether any activity, function, process have defined customers, whether there is enough leverage in carrying them out, whether they can be optimised and managed efficiently and effectively and whether they can yield to a sustainable competitive advantage. Innovation is defined in terms of customer impact. The fact that there is newness and novelty associated with it is not a sufficient reason to obliterate existing practices and processes. Internet-based technology is only a vehicle for managing businesses and competing in a digitally-based economy. The underlying factor will of course remain based on customer focus, process orientation, a seamless value chain and continuous improvement and innovation. This is not a difficult question to consider and is certainly not a chicken-and-egg situation. E-business depends on process management and without it any attempts to rely solely on IT will be doomed to failure.
If it was true that IT-based work environments displace process thinking we would, for instance, not require pilots, medical consultants and other professionals who operate in a technology-driven environment, but whose purpose has always remained to add value to end customers and various customer bases.
As far as "automate and integrate" are concerned, once again, there is no fundamental issue of a chicken-and-egg situation. Automation leads to derisory and very modest benefits at best if considered in an ad hoc and localised fashion. The literature is full of examples in this context. Integration is not merely the migration from legacy to extended IT systems such as ERP. The various attempts to drive integration solely on the basis of IT, have so far failed. A holistic approach is therefore required, which uses IT as a key enabler but considers other key factors alongside it.
Bringing back BPR to enable e-business does still raise many questions. The following considerations are therefore of paramount importance:
BPR is a business-driven rather than an IT-led concept.
BPR implementation is top management led rather than considered as a local initiative.
The approach adopted during BPR is very systematic and considers soft and hard issues together.
BPR impacts cross-functionally and not functionally.
BPR is dependent on process orientation and not functional orientation.
BPR requires culture change, structural and infrastructure changes.
BPR creates better focus on customers and markets.
The benefits of BPR are multi-faceted including strategic, organisational, tactical and operational benefits.
BPR generates empowerment and process ownership and eliminates unnecessary control and bureaucracy.
If we are to rid ourselves of the "stubbornness" that I have referred to earlier, we must first of all learn from past experiences and put right what we have continued to do wrong. E-business can only work if it is supported by business process management and re-engineering concepts. Using the stakeholder analogy, E-Business has to be dependent on a holistic management approach which encompasses change management, process management and IT/IS management. Once all of these elements are integrated together an e-business environment can easily be fostered and successful outcomes can then ensue.
Professor Mohamed ZairiSABIC Chair in Best Practice Management Head of The European Centre for TQM