A Guide to Business Process Reengineering (BPR)

Proper execution of business process reengineering (BPR) can significantly change the trajectory of any organization. BPR revives businesses by improving efficiency and cutting costs.

However, implementing BPR is no small task. It goes beyond vague ideas of how things should work, calling for precise analysis, documentation, and implementation of critical performance standards in your business processes.

When business process reengineering is done right, it creates well-oiled systems that produce excellent quality output and satisfy your customers' needs. Reengineering processes involve:

  • Tearing apart old systems
  • Creating new processes
  • Implementing sustainable change

BPR is critical for forward-thinking organizations in the post-COVID-19 economy. Businesses must adapt to technological advancements and market changes to maintain relevance and keep customers satisfied. 

In the following sections, we'll answer the question "What is BPR?" and delve into its benefits, challenges, methodologies, tools, and examples. We'll also share how Wrike can help you manage business process reengineering in your organization. 

What is business process reengineering (BPR)?

Business process reengineering is a complete redesign of core business processes in an organization. Its objective is to eliminate obsolete or redundant operations and improve employee productivity, efficiency, and workflows. 

You can think of BPR as a business management strategy that intently focuses on revealing and eliminating all organizational weaknesses, using modern technology to cut costs and improve efficiency. Business process reengineering starts from the ground up to rethink existing processes. It does not build on the current operations of a business.

The BPR strategy was inspired by a seminal article by Michael Hammer published in the Harvard Business Review in the early 1990s. Hammer claimed that it is more transformational for managers to eliminate non-value-adding work instead of ignoring or automating and building new tasks on top of them. 

While BPR goes hand-in-hand with continuous improvement principles (also known as Kaizen), there is one main difference. Kaizen proposes an incremental approach to quality and output, whereas business process reengineering pushes a complete redesign of business processes to achieve significant, long-term gains.

What are the benefits of performing business process reengineering?

Business process reengineering improves organizational efficiency, cuts costs, and creates clarity and direction for employees and managers. It ensures that every task within your business's workflows and systems adds value to all who come into contact with the company.

When BPR is done right, it creates more opportunities for collaboration, harmony, balance, and intention from employees. Other benefits of business process reengineering are:

  • Reduced costs
  • Reduced production times
  • Improved overall quality

What are the challenges of business process reengineering?

The intensity and scope of business process reengineering come with several challenges. Your organization size, managerial skills, and vision have a significant impact on BPR. Some challenges you may face include:

1. Misunderstanding of business process reengineering

The first obstacle to reengineering processes may be stakeholders' objections, expressed in statements like:

"Things work well enough this way."

"We cannot do that now."

"That's a good plan, but it's impractical."

"We can put that on a back burner for now."

It's important to communicate clearly to your stakeholders that investing in business process reengineering does not mean your company has been doing things wrong. Your organization may need BPR because the business landscape evolved or operations expanded into multiple locations. You may have developed new departments and product lines. 

These developments call for business process reengineering to move your company forward efficiently. In situations like this, outline the industry or competitive landscape to explain why BPR is critical for your business to keep growing.  

2. Disapproval from the company board or management team

Despite a detailed proposal for a BPR strategy, you may face objections from the company board or key stakeholders who have reservations about the organization's ability to pull off successful processes reengineering. In this situation, they may hinder your efforts or limit the advocacy you need from other stakeholders. 

Even employees may raise objections and act as roadblocks to the organization's reengineering plans. There's often a possibility that a reengineering initiative may impact their jobs or roles within the company. 

3. Not having the right facilitators or skilled personnel

The team in charge of your business process reengineering efforts makes or breaks the outcome. You must put together a team that is keen, objective, and experienced in working with business processes. 

Include an overseeing team with members from all departments in the company. This ensures both strategic and tactical clarity in every business process and workflow. 

4. Rushing through the reengineering process

This challenge stems from a lack of thorough processes while reengineering your business. It may also be caused by estimating inadequate time to see the BPR initiative through.

While reengineering, there is often the challenge of distractions. If business operations move quickly, your team may not give the reengineering process enough attention. They may rush through it to focus on business as usual, but the key to reengineering success is doing it carefully, with adequate time, measures, and goals in place. 

5. Lack of clear goals

Without clarity on what your organization is trying to achieve, your reengineering efforts can turn into a case of a mouse chasing its tail. You must define clear goals for the reengineering process to keep stakeholders informed and teams and employees aligned.   

Establish your organization's goals before embarking on a BPR project so that everyone knows when the success factors are being met. 

What are common business engineering steps and methodologies?

Business process reengineering is different in every organization and industry. For example, a construction company and a technology company have different systems, workflows, and challenges – all of which influence the reengineering process efforts. 

Generally, BPR begins with a blank sheet of paper. The team in charge starts from scratch to rethink the existing business processes. They may adopt a new value system that emphasizes customer needs, quality output, or efficiency.

The BPR process typically contains the following steps:

  • Identifying and communicating the need for change
  • Creating a comprehensive reengineering plan involving leaders from different departments
  • Putting together a team of experts
  • Redesigning core processes, using modern technology to enhance improvements
  • Finding and eliminating inefficient processes, unnecessary tasks, outdated systems, or technology stacks
  • Improving business processes across the organization
  • Defining key performance indicators
  • Refocusing on customer needs

There are two conventional ways to map out BPR processes:

  • Process flowcharts: The most straightforward way to start is by mapping out your processes step-by-step in flowcharts.
  • Business process management software: More tech-savvy teams use business process management software to visualize processes. Wrike is an excellent BPR tool that helps to streamline and centralize the reengineering process.

Your business process reengineering implementation plan

Your BPR implementation plan should include:

  • Documentation of current processes and procedures
  • An infrastructure migration plan
  • Technology requirements
  • Areas of training for employees
  • Communication of changes
  • Implementation of performance measures
  • Your organizational transition plan, which addresses how the organization will continue to carry out business operations during the transition

Your reengineering team may tackle the BPR implementation and transition plan in the following three ways:

  • Pilot: The reengineering team creates a parallel organization from the ground up, reengineering the business processes carefully while the existing business continues uninterrupted. When the pilot starts operating well, the existing organizational processes are eliminated and absorbed into the pilot.
  • Phased: In the phased approach, the reengineering team implements new processes within the existing organizational structure, developing new components as fast as possible.
  • Cold turkey: The cold turkey transition plan involves a unified, radical redesign of the entire organization's business processes. This plan leaves very little room for error and must be handled by skillful and experienced business process managers.

Business process reengineering examples

These days, business process reengineering is known by various terms: digital transformation, change management, restructuring, process reinvention, even total quality management. These are all business strategies to keep up with technological advancements and changing customer preferences.

Companies on the cutting-edge continue to reengineer their processes to stay ahead. One example is Wrike customer Airbnb. In 2016, the accommodation rental company redesigned its processes to create a more user-centric mobile app. 

"We were trying to rethink the Airbnb experience as if it started in the mobile era," Alex Schleifer, former design head at Airbnb, shared in this Wired article

The initial problem was that their design, engineering, and research teams worked in silos. Designers waited on engineers to write code before sharing mock-ups. Engineers waited on researchers to validate product ideas before writing code, only to sometimes find at the end that their project assumptions were off-base.

These problems made the Airbnb mobile app unintuitive for users. Their product development process needed to be re-engineered. The solution? Create a digital workspace where all contributing teams could work and communicate, showing updates and data in real-time. 

Instead of each team working in silos and seeking inputs and validation at the end of a cycle, the centralized digital environment enabled them to work together, shrinking their product development time to under an hour.

Is it possible to get BPR training?

Starting with this series of five video tutorials, you can convince your team and train them in business process reengineering. These videos include seminars delivered by one of the founders of the management theory of business process reengineering, Dr. Michael Hammer. FCB Partners also offers a Process Mastery certification program. There are other BPR training courses developed and offered online by consulting firms and e-learning platforms. 

Who needs to be involved in business process reengineering?

Project management professionals (PMPs) offer invaluable skills and expertise to improve business process reengineering in any organization. 

You’ll also need a dedicated project facilitator and department heads to contribute operational knowledge and experience. Involve a company board or senior management member to give authority for critical points during the BPR process. 

Why use Wrike as your business reengineering tool?

Wrike provides a central platform and workspace for managers and teams to outline and assess the current business processes, analyze issues and opportunities, capacity planning, and design new processes. 

Using Wrike as your BPR tool, you can develop an implementation and transition plan, keep communication lines open, and review results over time. Wrike provides a secure collaborative workspace to reengineer your business processes and reach maximum efficiency. Are you ready to streamline your processes and boost productivity in your organization? Get started with a two-week free trial of Wrike's BPR software.

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