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Business Process Reengineering:

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Executive Systems Research Centre, University College, Cork, Ireland.


Business Process Reengineering (BPR) advocates the fundamental examination and redesign of business processes, recognising tb-at the legacy of scientific management has been the excessive fragmentation of work practices in organisations today. This is reflected in the hierarchical structuring of organisations around functional departments, with individual aind departmental goals displacing overall organisational goals. This paper discusses the development of a specific methodology for BPR. The practical application of this methodology in an actual BPR project in one organisation is discussed sind some of the findings and lessons learned from the project are presented.

Keywords: Business process reengineering, business process redesign, business reengineering, methodology, manufacturing, electronics industry, case study, action research

RESUME Le Reengineering d'entreprise, ou Business Process Reengineering (BPR), est fonde sur un examen

systematique et une reconfiguration fondamentale des processus de l'entreprise, motives par

le constat de la fragmentation excessive des taches dans les entreprises modernes. Cette fragmentation,

heritage du Scientific Management, est refietee dans la structure tres hierarchique et

departementale des entreprises ou, trop souvent, les objectife des departements entrent en confiit

avec les objectifs de l'entreprise. Cet article presente une methodologie specialeinent aidaptee au

Reengineering d entreprise et son application a un projet reel de redesign dans une entreprise.

L'article conclut en presentant les legons tirees de cette application.


Interest in the Business Process Reengineering (BPR) concept is quite recent, emerging in the

work of writers such as Davenport and Short (1990), Hammer (1990), Hammer gmd Champy

(1993), and Harrington (1991). The concept is currently very topical, however, and is ubiquitous

in recent organisational, management and information technology literature. The extent of the

widespread popular interest in the BPR concept can be gauged from the fact that Hammer and

Champy's recent book on BPR featured at the top of the US best-seller lists. This popularity

is also reflected in the fact that many organisations claim to be undertaking BPR projects

and many software vendors are offering products to support BPR. However, spveral studies

have recently appeared in the literature which have critically examined the BPR pihenomenon

{e.g. Earl, 1994; Coulson-Thomas, 1994; Strassman, 1993). The progression of a concept from

theory to sustained practice is dependent on the development of its theoretical baise, and the

introduction of methodological approaches that are capable of being used by practitioners. This

paper reports on a study in which a specific methodology for BPR wasi developed land applied

in one organisation.


While BPR is usually portrayed as a new concept, a number of the principles and concepts

underpinning BPR^ have their antecedents in other disciplines. For example, Strassman (1993)

identifies the contribution of the industrial engineering discipline in which methods such as

process analysis, activity costing and value-added measurement have been around for about 50

years. Earl (1994) also discusses the contribution of a number of fields, including the operations

management domain {e.g. Juran, 1964), sociotechnical systems thinking (Leavitt, 1964) and

systems analysis. However, BPR is now coming to the fore in a different business environment.

iRecd. 1994; Revd. 1995 " INFOR vol. 34, no. 1, Feb. 1996


Certainly, the technological infrastructure is now very different, offering capabilities that were

not feasible in the past. Also, BPR attempts to reorient the axis of the organisation away

from the traditional vertical management control of employee up to management, and towards

a horizontal value orientation of vendor to customer (Orr, 1993). The latter orientation is one

where real value may be added for the enterprise.

Definitions of the term business process vary, but most researchers suggest that it comprises

a number of interrelated activities that cut across functional boundaries in the delivery of an

output (Bevilacqua & Thomhill, 1992; Davenport & Short, 1990; Thomas, 1994). The looseness

of this type of definition has led to significant variations in establishing the number of processes

in a business. For example, Thomas (1994) cites the case of one large bank which estimated

that it had three core processes while another reckoned it had seventeen.

In the past, information technology has been applied to help improve business operations.

However, the technology has generally been applied as part of process rationalisation, that

is, the primary motivation behind the use of technology is to automate or expedite existing


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