Business process reengineering (BPR) seeks to help companies restructure their organisations by focusing on the workflow design of their business processes

According to Davenport (1990) a business process is a set of logically related tasks performed to achieve a defined business outcome. Re-engineering emphasised a holistic focus on business objectives and how processes related to them.

business Process Reengineering involves the  redesign of core business processes to achieve  improvements in productivity, cycle times and quality

In Business Process Re-engineering, companies adopt a new value system that places increased emphasis on customer needs.

Companies reduce organisational layers and eliminate unproductive activities in two key areas.

  • First, they redesign functional organizations into cross-functional teams.
  • Second, they use technology to improve data dissemination and decision making.


    Business Process Reengineering is a change initiative that contains five major steps. Managers should:

      • Refocus company values on customer needs
      • Redesign core processes, often using information technology to enable improvements
      • Reorganize a business into cross-functional teams with end-to-end responsibility for a process
      • Rethink basic organizational and people issues
      • Improve business processes across the organization

    The Guidelines for Process Reengineering summarize key ideas about process improvement and reengineering

    Managing Change:

    • Build a solid case for change
    • Communicate the vision and case for change to all employees
    • Always focus on the needs of the customer or other significant stakeholders, work backwards from there in the design of the process
    • Try for win, win whenever possible to reduce resistance to change
    • Help people overcome their natural resistance to change
    • Expect resistance from middle managers or others who will personally lose if changes are made.
    • Help managers change to coaches were appropriate

    Design of Jobs:

    • Build empowerment, decision authority into jobs at lowest levels possible
    • Make jobs holistic and meaningful
    • Strongly consider if one person can handle the whole customer interaction, if not a person, a team
    • Allow the worker to get natural feedback on the quality of their outputs
    • Remove unnecessary checking, reconciling, monitoring and tracking by others or management


    • If jobs are significantly re-designed as suggested above, select people who are self-disciplined and motivated to please the customer. Hire for attitude, train for skills.
    • Think carefully about the supervisory and management competencies needed by the new process.

    Structural elements:

    • Focus on the process not function, watch out for artificial boundaries.
    • Responsibility for activities and resources of a function should reside in one organization, to establish a single point of accountability and increase efficiency.
    • Placement of an activity or set of activities should align with the overall organization’s mission and key functions.
    • If a step does not add value for the customer, does it really need to be done?
    • Strongly consider case teams, to focus attention on needs of customers
    • Reduce handoffs and complexity in the process
    • Minimize paperwork and just in case activities
    • Eliminate redundant or repeated activities
    • Help workers do it right the first time, reducing avoidable activities and rework.
    • How can we change the sequence of activities to improve the process?
    • Should some activities be done in parallel that are now serial?
    • How to avoid having to wait for another person or department to complete something before work can proceed?
    • Should we eliminate batching from a particular activity, because it causes system delays?
    • How are prioritization schemes of one organization impacting other parts of the organization and the overall process effectiveness and efficiency?
    • Are unavailable information or materials causing delays in the process?
    • Co-locate (same area, floor, building) people who need to work together regularly
    • Minimize layers of management
    • Can we allow the customer to self-interface with the system, putting in orders, checking on orders, etc.
    • To reduce time, plan around main sequence, do other items in another sequence
    • Should there be a few different paths through the systems, which allow smaller, less important items (etc.) to be handled differently?
    • Measure people, teams on results for their customers, since work is more holistic.
    • Tie pay to results achieved for customers.

    Use of Technology:

    • Make the technology serve the needs of the business, business should drive usage.
    • Streamline the process before you computerize it.
    • Engage business partners in conversations about how you can exploit the power of the technology to create customer value or improve productivity, etc.?
    • Think through the full impact of the technology on the business, its people and organizational elements, before you make the final decision on the technology to use.
    • Can we use wireless communications, portable computers, the Internet, video disk or other communication mechanisms to allow people to speed connectiveness, taking time out of the
    • process. Can these systems improve efficiency of existing ways of connecting?
    • Are there simple tools we could use to make the process more effective and efficient that we are not currently using? (time stamps, faxes, pagers, etc.)

    Information/Knowledge Management:

    • Encourage sharing of information through use of technology, structures like teams and co-location
    • Design jobs so that doing a very good job does not require unnecessary sharing of information and coordination
    • Can we use expert systems or knowledge sharing of some kind to enable non-experts to do more complex work effectively.
    • Document procedures so that we know why we do things and can train people how to do a task
    • Structure reports so that people at many levels can see if customer requirements are being met and the process is in control.
    • Train people to use reports effectively to control and improve the process


    • Make it very specific to the job, much more effort is required here than typically planned if major changes are occurring in the process.
    • Train people to exercise judgment, so they can be empowered. Provide decision criteria to help improve quality of empowered decisions.
    • What checklists do we need to help people do their job effectively?
    • Develop effective models or examples to help people understand key issues or handle difficult situations?
    • How effective are the online help menu’s? How can we make them more effective? Have we trained people to use these effectively and have confidence in them?
    • Educate people to understand the overall process, its impact on customers and how they impact the process and customer
    • Cross train people to handle more than one role, building robustness into the system

    Selected references

    Al-Mashari, Majed, Zahir Irani, and Mohamed Zairi. “Business process reengineering: a survey of international experience.” Business Process Management Journal, December 2001, pp. 437-455.

    Carr, David K., and Henry J. Johansson. Best Practices in Reengineering: What Works and What Doesn’t in the Reengineering Process. McGraw-Hill, 1995.

    Champy, James. Reengineering Management: The Mandate for New Leadership. HarperBusiness, 1995.

    Davenport, Thomas H. Process Innovation: Reengineering Work Through Information Technology. Harvard Business School Press, 1992.

    Frame, J. Davidson. The New Project Management: Tools for an Age of Rapid Change, Complexity, and Other Business Realities. Jossey-Bass, 2002.

    Grover, Varun, and Manuj K. Malhotra. “Business Process Reengineering: A Tutorial on the Concept, Evolution, Method, Technology and Application.” Journal of Operations Management, August 1997, pp. 193-213.

    Hall, Gene, Jim Rosenthal, and Judy Wade. “How to Make Reengineering Really Work.” Harvard Business Review, November/December 1993, pp. 119-131.

    Hammer, Michael. Beyond Reengineering: How the Process-Centered Organization Is Changing Our Work and Lives. HarperCollins, 1997.

    Hammer, Michael, and James Champy. Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution, revised and updated. Collins, 2003.

    Keen, Peter G.W. The Process Edge: Creating Value Where It Counts. Harvard Business School Press, 1997.

    Sandberg, Kirsten D. “Reengineering Tries a Comeback-This Time for Growth, Not Just Cost Savings.” Harvard Management Update, November 2001, pp. 3-6.


    Guidelines compiled by: