business process reengineering (BPR) definition

Business process reengineering (BPR) is the analysis and redesign of workflows within and between enterprises in order to optimize end-to-end processes and automate non-value-added tasks.

The concept of BPR was first introduced in the late Michael Hammer's 1990 Harvard Business Review article and received increased attention a few years later, when Hammer and James Champy published their best-selling book, Reengineering the Corporation. The authors promoted the idea that sometimes-radical redesign and reorganization of an enterprise is necessary to lower costs and increase quality of service and that information technology is the key enabler for that radical change. 

Hammer and Champy suggested seven reengineering principles to streamline the work process and thereby achieve significant levels of improvement in quality, time management, speed and profitability:

1. Organize around outcomes, not tasks.
2. Identify all the processes in an organization and prioritize them in order of redesign urgency.
3. Integrate information processing work into the real work that produces the information.
4. Treat geographically dispersed resources as though they were centralized.
5. Link parallel activities in the workflow instead of just integrating their results.
6. Put the decision point where the work is performed, and build control into the process.
7. Capture information once and at the source.

By the mid-1990s, BPR became popular as a justification for downsizing. According to Hammer, lack of sustained management, commitment and leadership; unrealistic scope and expectations; and resistance to change prompted managers to abandon the concept of BPR and embrace the next new methodology, enterprise resource planning.

This was first published in June 2014

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