Engineering by its very definition is about allowing you to build, fix or make an object; so how do we define re-engineering? Do we break down the original object and build all over again?
In a word, yes. Think of the business as the object: it cannot stay static and timeless, it needs to evolve and every now and again it needs a substantial amount of maintenance work.
This was a concept that was founded in the early 1990s by Dr. Michael Hammer and James Champy. These forward thinking businessmen recognised the value that could be added to organisations by working smarter, implementing cost saving processes and recognising the need to counteract the growing competition, both locally and internationally across all business sectors.
So why would re-engineering all your processes, the foundations of your business, be such a fruitful exercise? Because “it is no longer a choice, it is an imperative for survival.”2 To increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the internal and external processes it is essential to look at aligning the business model with strategic forecasting.
In order to survive, in order to stand out from the competition, your business needs to have the best structural foundation. Every organisation has a plan, a strategy, and a way of demonstrating and implementing the best practice and the best service. In order to fulfil that plan, processes need to be in place. But business evolves, and so must these processes.
It is extremely easy to descend into a situation of habit, the notion that if something is not broken, why fix it. However, just because it’s not broken, it does not mean it could not do without a service.
Habits are safer than rules; you don’t have to watch them. And you don’t have to keep them either” (Frank Crane). The whole idea of re-engineering your business processes is about taking a leap outside of your comfort zone in order to communicate yourself as a credible organisation to both your staff and your clients – don’t let the power of habit hold you back.
It is easy to identify what it means to re-engineer business processes and why it makes sense to do so, but the next bit of the equation requires a little more depth: how do you go about this architectural process?
Roy Antony Arnold, an intellect and university lecturer wrote one of many BRP methodologies in 2009; being able to identify what you need to do and how you need to do it stage by stage.
Initially one needs to look at the overall business model and identify all the processes that are in place, and then prioritise them in order of redesign. This requires having the objectivity to see what can be improved and what matters the most in your business. Following this, it is essential to understand and measure the existing processes. In order to make any positive changes it is always necessary to start with what you have.
Once you have a solid understanding of the scale of changes that need to occur you must define the process that is being re-engineered and look at how it can be developed. What does it really mean and where does it fit within the overall strategy of the business?
The final stage of the BRP is to develop, design, prototype and evaluate the new processes. A successful business is made up of the organisation, technology, the strategy and the people. When you put all your re-engineered processes together, do they compliment these key elements?
Business Process Re-engineering Cycle
In order to help make sense of this somewhat complex theory, a number of case studies have been created, including the Alliance Consulting Group taking on a project with a national retail bank (http://www.alliancecg.com/business_process_case_study.asp). The bank itself had discovered that they were not adhering to the changing world around them, and did not have effective processes in place to successfully service the emerging market of customers in areas of ethnic minorities.
For example, loan application forms were all in English, and the structure of the business meant that the time allocation of staff was spent looking after more ‘standard loans’ than any others.
Having recognised these fundamental flaws in the process, Alliance Consulting worked in partnership with the bank to define where new branches could be opened to maximise the service provided to areas of high ethnic minorities, they modified the ratio of staff working on sales to those working on loans, and they clarified the roles and responsibilities expected of the existing staff.
The new processes were rolled out across the organisation, and the results were increased capital for the bank and greater client satisfaction.
So what are the negative effects of re-engineering business processes because surely there must be some? When Hammer and Champy first publicised the notion of BPR, it was met (as with everything) with a certain amount of resistance. The critics believed that to change the original processes of a business dehumanises it, it makes it sound purely functional rather than personal.
Some believed it increased managerial control and others went so far as to insinuate that the whole concept was put in place to justify downsizing. Improve processes and cull staff was the view of those too naïve to understand that with change comes improvement and sometimes yes, that does equal casualties.
The world we live in is ever changing. Life evolves around us and of course by association, business does as well.
“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement and success have no meaning” (Benjamin Franklin). In the last 60 years, certainly since the development of electronic computers, each and every one of us has had to learn to adjust our mindset at some point. If we don’t, we will simply get left behind. The more modern ways to re-engineer processes are highly focused on online functions and adapting features of the business to become more IT/user friendly. Forms are not yet a thing of the past but one day they may well be.
The re-engineering of your business processes does not need to be something that changes the face of your organisation and its values. It is simply a tool that allows you to progress and grow, both internally and externally, within your chosen field. It can allow you to combine logic with creativity, practicality with imagination. It forces you to constantly re-evaluate the path your business is taking and the ways in which you can make it better than the rest.
- 1 Re-engineering the corporation: A manifesto for business revolution, Hammer & Champy 1993
- Five Step Methodology to Implement BPR, Roy Antony Arnold, 2009