Business process re-engineering is the analysis and design of workflows and processes within an organization. According to Davenport (1990) a business process is a set of logically related tasks performed to achieve a defined business outcome. Re-engineering is the basis for many recent developments in management. The cross-functional team, for example, it has become popular because of the desire to re-engineer separate functional tasks into complete cross-functional processes. Also, many recent management information systems developments aim to integrate a wide number of business functions. Enterprise resource planning, supply chain management, knowledge management systems, groupware and collaborative systems, Human Resource Management Systems and customer relationship management.
Business process re-engineering is also known as business process redesign, business transformation, or business process change management.
Different definitions can be found. This section contains the definition provided in notable publications in the field:
"... the fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in critical modern measures of performance, such as cost, quality, service, and speed."
"encompasses the envisioning of new work strategies, the actual process design activity, and the implementation of the change in all its complex technological, human, and organizational dimensions.
Additionally, Davenport (ibid.) points out the major difference between BPR and other approaches to organization development (OD), especially the continuous improvement or TQM movement, when he states: "Today firms must seek not fractional, but multiplicative levels of improvement – 10x rather than 10%." Finally, Johansson provide a description of BPR relative to other process-oriented views, such as Total Quality Management (TQM) and Just-in-time (JIT), and state:
"Business Process Reengineering, although a close relative, seeks radical rather than merely continuous improvement. It escalates the efforts of JIT and TQM to make process orientation a strategic tool and a core competence of the organization. BPR concentrates on core business processes, and uses the specific techniques within the JIT and TQM ”toolboxes” as enablers, while broadening the process vision."
In order to achieve the major improvements BPR is seeking for, the change of structural organizational variables, and other ways of managing and performing work is often considered as being insufficient. For being able to reap the achievable benefits fully, the use of information technology (IT) is conceived as a major contributing factor. While IT traditionally has been used for supporting the existing business functions, i.e. it was used for increasing organizational efficiency, it now plays a role as enabler of new organizational forms, and patterns of collaboration within and between organizations.
BPR derives its existence from different disciplines, and four major areas can be identified as being subjected to change in BPR - organization, technology, strategy, and people - where a process view is used as common framework for considering these dimensions. The approach can be graphically depicted by a modification of "Leavitt’s diamond".
Business strategy is the primary driver of BPR initiatives and the other dimensions are governed by strategy's encompassing role. The organization dimension reflects the structural elements of the company, such as hierarchical levels, the composition of organizational units, and the distribution of work between them. Technology is concerned with the use of computer systems and other forms of communication technology in the business. In BPR, information technology is generally considered as playing a role as enabler of new forms of organizing and collaborating, rather than supporting existing business functions. The people / human resources dimension deals with aspects such as education, training, motivation and reward systems. The concept of business processes - interrelated activities aiming at creating a value added output to a customer - is the basic underlying idea of BPR. These processes are characterized by a number of attributes: Process ownership, customer focus, value adding, and cross-functionality.