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StrategyNov 07, 2013

3 Tips for Successful Business Process Re-Engineering

Allison Howard

Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) involves rethinking and adapting business processes to achieve higher productivity and increase competitiveness. BPR experienced a wave of popularity in the 1990s but quickly fell out of favor when the majority of initiatives were unsuccessful. Today, however, BPR is resurfacing as a means to adapt in the ever-changing landscape of business.  With new technologies on the horizon, companies are faced with the reality that their processes are outdated and slow. They reach a point where they must choose to re-engineer. For these businesses, BPR success is critical.

So why is the rate of failure so high? Much can be learned from past BPR initiatives.

1. BPR Must Be Necessary

BPR initiatives have been unsuccessful because organizations decide to implement an initiative that isn’t necessary. BPR requires a large financial and time commitment. The investment must be worth the input. Before moving forward with major change, organizations must make certain they have great cause – the company should re-engineer because of a need to adapt their processes in order to prevent failure or to enable competitive advantage. The company’s leaders must consider the cost of investing in BPR, the cost of operating before and after the change, and whether the needs of clients or customers are being met by the current system.

2. BPR Requires Planning

Many BPR initiatives are launched without proper planning, which is an integral piece of the re-engineering process. After measuring the existing processes against goals, companies must carefully plan the implementation of the new processes, how they will communicate with staff about upcoming changes, and how they will ensure that management and employees will support and uphold the changes. Leaders must work to understand how the changes will affect the roles of employees and communicate clearly. Many times this includes communicating to them about new responsibilities, developing training, and providing incentives for adopting these responsibilities. Clear planning is essential for employee adoption and BPR success.

3. BPR Relies on IT

Finally, misuse of IT is a common cause of BPR failure. IT is a key component of enabling the new processes. IT tools enable companies to streamline their processes, access key reports and data, and reduce inefficiencies.  However, organizations often fail because they don’t have the expertise to select the proper tools and implement them. Companies should utilize experts to aid in tool selection and implementation. They must learn how to use the tool and clearly define the role of the tool in the new process. IT tools are only useful if they are utilized. The success of new processes will likely hinge on the tools selected.

The Path to BPR Success

Benchmarking, planning, and successful use of IT tools are integral to the BPR process. Throughout each phase of the BPR process, leaders and managers must communicate consistently to manage change and adjust expectations. Following these steps will greatly increase your BPR initiative’s success.

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Photo credit: Derek Gavey