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BUSINESS PROCESS REENGINEERING: PUTTING THEORY INTO PRACTICE^

BRIAN FITZGERALD AND CIARAN MURPHY

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

ABSTRACT

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.

1. INTRODUCTION

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.

2. BPR: BASIC PRINCIPLES AND CONCEPTS

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

4 B. FITZGERALD AND C. MURPHY,

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

manual processes, and the processes themselves have been largely left intact. The futility of this

approach has been bluntly summarised by Drucker (1986) in his declaration: "there is nothing

more useless than to do efficiently that which shouldn't be done at all". The application of

information technology has resulted in incremental gains, but this is still a long way short of

the dramatic 10-fold improvement that has been identified as necessary. Also, the incremental

benefits from continuous improvement programmes may be levelling out, and are perhaps finite

anyway. Continuous improvement programmes axe most effective when companies start from a

higher level of efficiency and effectiveness (such as is the case with many Japanese ones). Goss

et al. (1993) have argued that incremental improvement programmes are not sufficient for most

companies today — they do not need to change 'what is'; rather they need to create 'what is

not'.

3. A METHODOLOGY FOR BPR

Much of the literature on BPR has taken an evangelical stance on the issue, assuming that BPR

is automatically good for an organisation. As a consequence, there has been little reportage of

actual BPR failures. Estimates of failure rates vary. For example, Caron et al. (1994) report

a 50 per cent failure rate, while Murphy (1994) reports a failure rate of 70 per cent. However,

it is quite probably the case that many failures may go unreported since the organisation will

understandably not want to publicise the fact, or, indeed, may not even survive to tell the tale.

Therefore, it is likely that the true failure rate may be even higher. Certainly, many companies

only begin to consider BPR when they are faced with a survival-threatening crisis and radical

surgery is required. For example, Rank Xerox were forced to reengineer their business processes

when their market share plummeted from 90 percent to 9 percent following the entry of Japanese

competitors into their marketplace (Hammer & Champy, 1993).

A key issue in business process reengineering is the 'how' question. Any significant undertaJcing,

which BPR certainly is, requires that some method be followed. Andrews and Stalick

(1992) have argued for a systemic approach to BPR, suggesting that "reengineering... should be

based upon numbers and facts, not guts and politics". BPR projects cannot be planned meticulously

and organised into precise steps which can be prescribed as universally applicable in all

situations (Caron et al., 1994; Hammer, 1990). Nevertheless, since BPR requires a fundamental

reappraisal of business operations, a methodology that can act as an anchoring framework to

co-ordinate the complex web of BPR activities is essential. A clear and committed approach

to BPR is necessary, but a possible danger identified in the literature is that those involved

in the BPR project will confuse motion with progress and charge about in random directions

hoping that any recommended changes can be successfully implemented as a matter of course

(Evans, 1993). Caron et al. (1994) state that implementing BPR recommendations may require

a fundamental change in organisational culture and mind-set and this cannot be left to chance

but must be carefully managed. They also argue that visibility into the BPR exercise is vital

PUTTING THEORY INTO PRACTICE

The four steps of reengineering

4 - The crossing 3 - The plan

2-AS IS 1 - TO BE

Figure 1: Four Steps of BPR (From Evans, 1993)

and must intensify as the project proceeds. Thus, the adoption of some methodological support

is appropriate.

In developing the methodology for BPR used in this study, the authors maxie use of their

prsictical experience with systems development methodologies and combined this with some

specific BPR methodological guidelines in the literature. The relevance of systems analysis is

confirmed by Earl (1994) who sees it as an essential skill in BPR. As already stated, many

BPR researchers have stated that BPR projects cannot be planned meticulously in small precise

steps. However, Evans (1993) adopts a bridge metaphor to suggest a broad framework for BPR

projects (see Figure 1).

As can be seen from Figure 1, Evans proposes fom: general stages as follows:

• Stage 1: To Be

This stage is concerned with defining the vision of where the organisation wants to be and

what it requires of its business processes as a consequence.

• Stage 2: As Is

This stage is concerned with defining the current business processes.

• Stage 3: The Plan

This stage involves making a plan to accomplish the move from the 'as is' stage to the 'to be'

stage.

• Stage 4: The Crossing

This stage is concerned with implementing the plan.

This general high-level approach has its advantages. However, we argue that it has a number

of weaknesses. Firstly, trying to build a vision of the future process before understanding the

current process is problematic. The issue of concern is whether concentration on the current

process wiU constrain efforts to be imaginative and to reengineer the process with a completely

open mind, due to the legacy of past practice. However, the counter argument runs to the effect

that one has to understand a process before can consider redesigning it. In fact, Evans himself

provides an example which illustrates the vital importance of understanding the context of the

6 B. FITZGERALD AND C. MURPHY,

current process: He relates the hypothetical example of an accountant who on analysing aircraft

fuel consumption discovers that 2 percent of the fuel is used during the first 30 seconds of the

flight (the take-off run). Based on this isolated fact, the accountant might recommend that all

aircraft should take off on half-throttle thus saving millions of dollars on fuel bills. However, the

folly of such a proposal is immediately obvious when one considers the context. Discontinuous

thinking and imagination are very important when it comes to developing a vision of the new

processes, and it is important to escape the shackles of past practice. This requires a fresh

and open mind, but it must be grounded in a thorough understanding of the operation of the

current process. Therefore, the authors rejected the sequence in which developing a vision of

the reengineered process precedes the understanding of the current process.

Secondly, the authors view Evans' framework as being too general to be useful in specific

projects. The term 'process' in business process reengineering indicates the need to focus on

differentiating between the logical activity of what the process does or should do, and the physical

manifestation of how the process is accomplished. This logical/physical separation is at the heart

of the structured approach to systems analysis and design (De Marco, 1978), and although the

original ioxa step (ciurrent phjraical-current logical-new logical-new physical) transition has

been criticised as too cumbersome to be practical, researchers have since modified the approach

to counter this criticism (McMenamin Sc Palmer, 1984). The authors adapted the structured

approach to devise their BPR methodology. The methodology is expressed as a series of phases

(see Figure 2), each of which addresses a basic question, and is summarised below:

• Select process to be reengineered

This addresses the basic question "Where are we going to start?"

• Establish process team

Addresses the question "Who is going to do it?"

• Understand the current process

Addresses the question "Where do our stakeholders see us now?" Also in this phase, the

current physical to current logical mapping of the process models are established.

• Develop a vision of the improved process

Addresses the question "Where do our stakeholders want us to be?"

• In this phase, the new logical model of the process is defined.

Identify the actions needed to move to the new process

• Addresses the question "What do we need to achieve?"

Here, the new physical process model is established.

• Negotiate/execute a plan to accomplish these actions

Addresses the question "How will we achieve it?"

It is worth noting that the methodology is expressed from a first-person point of view, refiecting

the fact that culture and mind-set change are required and this can only come from within

the company itself rather than from any direct actions which external consultants can take.

However, the phases of understand the current process and develop a vision of the reengineered

process adopt an external viewpoint, refiecting the fact that a detached stakeholder-oriented,

outside-in viewpoint is necessary. The term 'stakeholder' is used here in the same sense as

Mason and Mitroff (1981) who define stakeholders as "all those claimants inside and outside the

organisation who have a vested interest in the problem and its solution".

Even though the above phases are presented as linear steps, a central tenet of the strategy

is that it is based on an iterative approach. At any stage, it is permissible (and may indeed be

desirable) to revert to a previous stage for further refinement (see Figure 2). In fact, in practice,

it was often the case that work at later phases required a reconsideration of earlier stages. Also,

the links between the understand current process phase and the develop a vision of reengineered

process phase are shown as dotted lines to indicate that this is not an automatic progression.

Indeed, as has been discussed, some writers put the develop a vision of reengineered process

phase before the understand current process phase.

PUTTING THEORY INTO PRACTICE

Select process to

be reengineered

Negotiate/

Execute plan to

accomplish

Establish

process

team

Identify actions

needed to move

to new process

Understand

the current

process

1

Develop

vision of

improved

process

Figure 2: A Methodology for Business Process Reengineering

A key issue in the development of any methodology is the need to test it empirically so

that it can be validated and modified as appropriate. In the case of BPR, this poses a problem

since a typical reengineering project can last between one and two years. BPR thus requires

considerable effort on the part those engaged in the project. Also, it has been argued that

BPR efforts cannot be uniformly applied across different cultures but need to be tailored to the

specific contingencies of the situation (Murphy, 1994; Caron et al., 1994). For these reasons it

was decided to take an action research approach (cf. e.g. Wood-Harper et al., 1985) where the

authors applied the methodology in an organisation, as described below.

4. A CASE STUDY OF BPR

The methodology was tested in a BPR exercise that was undertaken by the authors in Microelectronic

Devices Incorporated (MDI), a multinational company that specialises in the design

and manufacture of electronic components for the personal computer market. (The company

name has been changed for reasons of confidentiality). The company has. four manufacturing

sites: two in the Far-East, one in the US, and its European manufacturing headquarters is

located in Ireland. The BPR project was initiated in mid-1993, and, while only tentative classifications

of re«ngineering projects have appeared in the literature thus far, the project could

be categorised as a "first-wave" reengineering exercise according to the Caron et al. (1994) terminology.

Alternatively, using Earl's (1994) four-strand typology of BPR projects, the pxoject

would be categorised as spanning core processes and support processes, (see Ta.ble 1).

4.1 Reasons for Reengineering

In 1992, demand for the company's products grew very significantly — in excesjs of 100 percent.

Sales projection figures in mid-1992 were found to have significantly underestimated product

demand for late 1992 and early 1993. As a result, the company had to recruit a large number

of temporary staff, who had to be trained in a very short space of time. The company also

had to reschedule its delivery dates with some of its customers. By mid-1993, problems bad

been addressed and the situation had stabilised. However, the general manager, mindful of the

crisis which had been undergone, resolved "never to go through an experience like that again".

B. FITZGERALD AND C. MURPHY,

Core Processes

Support Processes

Business Network

Processes

Management

Processes

These are the processes central to business functioning. They are

typically primary value-chain activities and relate directly to external

customers. The generic example is the order fulfillment process

in which several organisations have shortened lead-times, reduced

material and information flows, administrative steps and staff headcount.

Notable examples in tbe literature are those of Xeros, Texas

Instruments, Mutual Benefit Life.

These axe the back-office processes which underpin the core processes.

They are typically secondary value-chain activities and relate

more to internal customers. The classic example in the literature is

that of Ford's redesign of the accounts payable process.

These are the processes which extend beyond the boundaries of

tbe organisation into other organisations such as suppliers and customers.

The basic principle here is to create sjonbiotic partnerships,

thus redefining the business scope. Examples would include the

American Hospital Supplies ASAP evolution, and the virtual compnay

concept between Apple, IBM and Motorola.

These are the processes through wbich firms plan, organise and

control resources. This involves redesigning tbe organisation and

its roles along business process lines. Eaxmples include National

and Provincial Building Society, Frito-Lay, Texas Instriunents, and

CIGNA Corporation.

Table 1: Typology of BPR Projects (adapted from Earl, 1994)

He believed tbe failure to predict tbe upsurge in demand had been due to basic problems in

tbe existing company processes for dealing with customers. Having recently become aware of

tbe business process reengineering concept, he felt that senior management at tbe company

sbould investigate whether BPR could belp analyse and address tbe problems that had arisen.

The authors were asked to help management in undertaking tbe BPR project. The philosopby

adopted was one of 'think big, start small' and tbe name cbosen for the project was Smart

Moves.

4.2 Select Process to be Reengineered

BPR requires a global view and an integrated approach to business rather than the traditional

reliance on narrow departmental specialisations. Arising from a number of interviews with key

members of management at MDI, a number of processes emerged as candidates for reengineering.

At this stage, a decision was taken that individual process reengineering was more

appropriate than overall business reengineering. Tbis is a more-focused approach and requires

broad acceptance of tbe current overall business strategy, witb the reengineered process linked to

the fundamental business strategy. The specific process chosen for reengineering was Customer

Handling/Support. This process had been identified as a critical process by a number of managers

in MDI, not altogether surprising given the extent to which customer service has become

the dominant force in the supplier-customer relationship in all market sectors. Indeed, Treacy

and Wiersema (1993) identify 'customer intimacy' as one of the key strategic value disciplines

that organisations should focus on. Thus, the customer handling/support process was one which

had the potential to bring some real competitive edge to the business.

PUTTING THEORY INTO PRACTICE 9

The scope of the process to be reengineered must be defined clearly and unambiguously.

Therefore, the specific deliverable from this phase was a 200-word (half-page) preliminary description

of the process to be reengineered. This helped to bound the area, and even though it

was modified later, it helped in the next phase when team members were being selected.

4.3 Establish Process Team

Process reengineering requires improved leverage of people and technologj^ operating within the

appropriate structure. The importance of people cannot be overemphasised and the selection

of the process team has been identified as critical (Caron et at, 1994). Process change is about

challenging even the most basic business assumptions, and may thus require significant cultural

change. The process team must be empowered and this has to come from the highest management

level possible. The necessity of executive support has been empiric^ly determined in

the Caron et al. (1994) study. Thus, an executive sponsor wafi sought at MDI. This person's

role was to initiate the project publicly, ensure that doors were opened, and necessary resources

made available. The general manager at MDI fulfilled the role of executive sponsor. However,

because of the intensive nature of the process reengineering task, it was considered unlikely

that the executive sponsor could be sxifficiently involved on an ongoing basis, and so a process

leadei the IS manager — was appointed by the general manager. This person's role was to

ensure that the project did not fiounder and, for the duration of the project, the process leader

reported directly to the executive sponsor. Additional team members were then chosen — one

of the criteria for selection being that good candidates would probably be those who felt they

were too busy to partake in such a team.

The size of the team posed a problem initially. Members were chosen from all the specialist

axeas relevant to the process, but the large team of experts resulted in meetings dragging on

interminably as minor points of dispute were raised. Also, it was readily apparent that no one

individual had a complete understanding of the overall business process. Compounding this,

each team member represented their portion of the process with different graphical notations

and narrative standards, thus making amalgamation difficult. These difficulties were resolved

by reducing the size of the team to contain just a small number of core people who were able

to elicit any necessary information from other relevant personnel in the organisation. Also, a

scribe was appointed to collate all information into a single repository using a standard graphical

notation with each process component underpinned by complete narrative information.

4.4 Understand the Current Process

This phase involved the team acquiring a clear definition and knowledge of the current process

which several writers have identified as an essential stage in BPR (Bevilacqua and ThornhiU,

1992; Davenport and Short, 1990). In the case of MDI, there was strong evidence that the

various constituents did not fully appreciate the overall business process, so this phase preceded

the redesign of the process. The phase required detailed analysis of the current process. The

nature of the analysis was both top-down and bottom-up. It involved the exaniir^ation of relevant

documentation, interviews with relevant personnel internally, and also externally, since customer

concerns are vital in the product-market strategy.

Benchmarking of the existing process took place at this stage and other metric data on

the existing process was gathered to assist later evaluation of the reengineered process. The

analysis from this phase produced a graphical model of the current business process (see F'igure

3). The compleMty of this model surprised the team, with one member commenting that having

been used to viewing business fimctions in vertical terms, the scale of the hotissontal process

dimension was striking. The model helped to reveal several problem areas which had not been

previously articulated. For example, the timing of the computerised production scheduling

and planning tasks followed a rigid timescale which was somewhat arbitrary afld did not offer

sufficient flexibility to the customer. This was very obvious from the model, and so a decision

was taken to delay the computer run to the latest possible time to allow fine-tuning of customer

orders.

10 B. FITZGERALD AND C. MURPHY,

MICROELECTRONIC DEVICES INC

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PRINT PROFORMA INVOICE

I—1 VERIFY ACTUAL AGAINST PRICELIST

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INFORM TRAFFIC OF ERROR

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Figure 3: Graphical Model of the Current Business Process

PUTTING THEORY INTO PRACTICE 11

4.5 Develop a Vision of the Reengineered Process

The articulation of the current process in a graphical model helped to surface jassumptions that

needed to be challenged. To further stimulate desirable changes, the existing domain knowledge

was supplemented by a strategic benchmark of similar processes in relevant industries and from

world leaders in the process. This type of benchmarking is typical of reengLneering exercises

(Earl, 1994).

The team also identified a general need to flatten managerial and functional hierarchies and

to align the process away from a bureaucratic structure to a more customer-focused one. For example,

corrective action reports, which gave customers feedback on the status of returned goods,

were not being given adequate priority, with little inter-depaitmental co-operation. One person

was being employed full-time to collate these reports from the relevant departments. However,

this person was experiencing major difficulties as individuals in the various depjMrtments did not

devote adequate priority to this task. Thus, there was a clear need to promote the avirareness

of the importance of this task in the organisational culture. To facilitate the process, a Lotus

Notes database was established which allowed individuals in relevant departments an easy and

structured medium for accessing and updating these reports.

4.6 Identify the Actions Needed to Move to the New Process

The actions needed to move to the new process must be detailed and prioritised. A nuimber of

basic flaws had been identified in core operations related to the process being studied at MDI,

and these hadi to be rectified. For example, some problems emerged in relation to the working

practices in the quality control section. Firstly, the quality control deparfiment did not operate

in a shiftwork system. However, receipt of incoming materials followed a continuous flow in

other departments that operated a shift, and materials which were undeirgoing; quality control

inspections were consequently being buried under new material received during evening shifts

and from early morning deliveries.

In addition, the investigation of the quality control process revealed a basic flaw in how the

company dealt with goods being returned under warranty. Typically, when a customer returned

goods as faulty, it was assumed to be genuine and the customer's description of the fault was

taken to be bona fide. However, it em.erged that the product Ufespan for some products was

shorter than the warranty period. Thus, customers were using their return of goods under

warranty option to reduce stock levels by simply shipping back surplus stock on the pretext that

it was faulty. In. some cases, products still in their shrink-wrapping were returned as faulty!

A major problem was also identified in relation to stock levels. Too much stock was being

held out of "natural optimism" according to the general manager, and so sm "mibuying" policy

was put in place to create some impedance in the procurement process. There was a need to

change the prevailing culture in the company so that not having something in stock was seen

as a "lesser sin" than having huge excesses. Reducing stock in a coherent fashion was a major

problem in that accurate stock levels were not available. A very simple solution to this problem

presented itself, however. The company were already putting bar-codes on all products to satisfy

customer requirements, and these bar-codes could be used to automatically update stock levels.

This required a change to the stock control system in use in the cx>mpaay. The 'clean-up' of the

stock area had a major impact. The general manager estimated that the stock value has been

reduced by US $5m., giving rise to annual savings of US $500,000.

Also, at this stage it was considered important to set auda<;ious goals or ''stretch targets"

to use Davenport and Short's (1990) terminology. This is necessary to avoid a half-hearted

approach being taken, whereby BPR can lapse back into an incremental improvement pro,gram

without any radical substance. Visible metrics were established wherevЂir possible, so .as to

verify that the reengineered process is meeting expectations. If the efficacy and value of the

reengineered process cannot be reliably assessed, then it is difficult to tell if BPR has been

successful.

12 B. FITZGERALD AND C. MURPHY,

4.7Negotiate/Execute a Plan to Accomplish these Actions

The plan must be negotiated, and again the executive sponsor plays a critical role here in ensuring

that any cultural change will not be impeded. This is a vital but delicate stage and it

is imperative that negative effects on employee morale be avoided. Relevant support mechanisms

and management processes must be aligned. A formal presentation of the plan should

be conducted to help win over those vital to ensuring its success. This step can be anticipated

to be difficult. The organisation must present a 'business as usual' front, while at the same

time accomplishing a smooth transition to new processes which must then be institutionalised.

Frequent monitoring is essential to ensure that the project does not fail at this stage, as this is

where many BPR projects go on the rocks as radical change may not be fully undertaken.

In the case of MDI, this phase was iterated with the previous one. As actions were identified,

meetings were held with the general manager, and he gave full and public support to the actions

mandated.

5. LESSONS LEARNED

A number of lessons have been learned from the research at MDI. Firstly, BPR, while perhaps

inevitable, is not an easy or automatic activity. If true reengineering is to take place it is certainly

not about half-measures taken by the half-hearted. The early phases of the methodology: select

process to be reengineered; establish process team; understand current process were found to work

well. The selection of the appropriate process — one capable of adding value and which can

be clearly and concisely defined — was found to be a key issue, and like systems development,

mistakes not detected at this stage could prove costly to rectify later in the exercise. The team

must be established and empowered, and to this end, an executive champion/sponsor must

be found. Achieving a thorough understanding of the current process and representing this

clearly and unambiguously in a graphical format can be tedious. However, the rigour of such a

methodological approach can result in significant benefits.

The latter phases of the methodology from the develop a vision of the reengineered process

phase to the negotiate/execute plan phase are fraught with difficulty. While a radical change may

be identified by the team as necessary, it is very difficult for management to commit themselves

to a high-risk project, especially one which fundamentally alters the status quo. In the case

of multi-national companies radical changes in business operations often cannot be mandated

locally, but require head office approval. Also, the literature indicates that BPR projects have

almost always involved "downsizing" (cf. Caron et al., 1994; Hammer, 1990). This dranaatic

reduction in head-count — "skimming management's midriff' to use Drucker's (1986) phrase

— may not be palatable in many organisations or cultures (Murphy, 1994). For example, in

the European context, lateral transfer is more widely used than dismissal as a means of dealing

with personnel problems, but such a policy is anathema to BPR. In the BPR project presented

here, the general manager explicitly stated that he was not interested in reducing head count,

nor did he consider it a priority that expenditures be cut. Rather, his objective was to achieve

more value from current resources. Thus, the radical changes that might have been required

by business process reengineering were not going to be automatically supported by the general

manager.

The question arises as to whether, given these constraints, it is worth initiating BPR projects

in the first place. However, the answer must be in the affirmative. Firstly, a thorough understanding

of the current process, which is a key deliverable from the methodology used in this

study, can help identify certain basic problems, some of which can be rectified without radical

change. Also, it may be possible to identify stages in the process where a richer approach

could add value for the customer without too much extra effort the delaying of the production

scheduling process as described above, for example. Finally, the BPR exercise can give rise to

serendipitous benefits, such as the quality control one mentioned earlier.

Ptolemy long ago declared that there was no royal road to geometry, and the same could

be equally said of business process reengineering. However, as can be seen from the evidence

PUTTING THEORY INTO PRACTICE 13

presented above, the journey may be just as important as the destination, ass there are potemtially

significant benefits to be gained from undertaking the exercise along the way. Furthermore, the

rewards of a successful BPR project are great, including the very suirvival <md prospering; of the

organisation.

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experiences and lessons learned from the first five years, MIS Quarterly, 18, 3, 233-250.

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October, 95-104.

12. Earl, M. (1994) The new said the old of business process redesign, Journal of Strategic Information

Systems, 3, 1, 5-22.

13. Evans, K. (1993) Reengineering and cybernetics. American Programmer (Special issue on BPR),

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14. Gane, C. and Saison, T. (1977) Structured Systems Analysis: Tools and Techniques, Improved

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Myth & Reality, Kogan Page, London, 201-210.

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14 B. FITZGERALD AND C. MURPHY,

Brian Fitzgerald is a lecturer in the Depeirtment of Accounting, Finance and

Information Systems at University College Cork, and is also senior researcher with

the Executive Systems Research Centre (ESRC) where he is actively involved in

research and consultancy in the areas of business process reengineering, executive

information systems, and systems development approaches. His work in these areas

has been presented and published in various international journals, conferences and

books. Having worked in industry prior to taking up a lecturing position, he has

more than 15 years experience in the computer field.

Ciaran Murphy is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Accounting, Finance

and Information Systems at University College Cork where he heads up the Information

Systems Group. He is Director of the Executive Systems Research Centre

which is Ireland s largest research group in the area of information systems for

management. Dr. Murphy has had papers published in a number of Emropean

and American journals and has presented his work in many comitries. His research

interests sure Decision Support Systems, BPR and Executive Information Systems.



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