Definition – What is Business Process Redesign (BPR)?

POST on Process Improvement by Sonia Pearson

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In business process redesign, vital business processes are overhauled to achieve specific goals such as increased return on investment, service improvements, or cost reduction. Any business process, be it production, sales, or financial management workflows can be reworked to achieve the desired goal or goals. Often, re-engineering one process will have a knock-on effect on other processes within the business.

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all. Peter Drucker

Where Does the Term Come From?

BPR was pioneered in the 1990s following the publication of a book titled “Reengineering work: Don’t Automate, Obliterate.” Author Michael Hammer was a former professor of computer science at MIT, and in his controversial work, he implied that managers had been focussing on the wrong issues, automating processes that should be obliterated since it failed to add value.

Hammer felt that instead of adapting technology to existing work processes, business leaders should be adapting work processes to match technology, shedding obsolete tasks along the way. The deciding factor, he said, was that work performed in an organization should add value, and if it didn’t add value, then it should be eliminated entirely.

The concept implies a fundamental review of processes and workflows. Logical as it may sound, the concept had its critics, but it became extremely popular, with up to 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies adopting business process redesign by the mid-1990s.

The big idea behind BPR is that interlinked work processes contribute to specific outcomes and that each process should contribute not only to those outcomes but serve the overall objectives of the business itself.

You might have heard of business process redesign under several other names, such as business process reengineering, business process change management, or business process transformation.

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How is Business Process Redesign Achieved?

Business process redesign or reengineering is more than just a matter of improving what is already there. It implies some form of radical change. Oftentimes, companies will gather a project team and redesign the organization, its mission, strategic goals, assumptions, and processes from scratch, often with the help of specialized external process consultants. They may be seeking ways to:

  • Increase productivity
  • Reduce cycle times
  • Improve product quality
  • Achieve more efficient client service
  • Implement new technologies
  • Restructure and streamline teams

Thus, business process redesign is distinguished from other forms of change by being a radical intervention.

In its purest form, the process begins with the basics: what is the organization there for, what does it hope to achieve, and who will it help. Although this may sound almost superfluous, many businesses find that they have been laboring under mistaken assumptions. Once the “What should we be doing?” question is answered, it’s time to look at the methods to be implemented to achieve that.

Business processes are put under the microscope. What steps are performed to complete each process that is needed to create a final product or service offering? Even the finest details are recorded and analyzed. Each activity is measured, modeled, and then improved. Entire business processes may be redesigned from the ground up or even discarded altogether as not adding value to either the company or its clients.

Not Just “Set up and Go”

One thing is certain, significant change is never easy for organizations. It’s not the type of situation where a few people get together, make the necessary changes and then run with them forever afterward. After all, new processes may be flawed. Thus, business process redesign follows a cycle that is repeated until the desired result is achieved.

The phases of this cycle are:

Business process redesign hasn’t always been successful. After the failure of several attempts drew attention to this, the factors required for BPR success were identified as:

  • The correct composition of BPR teams
  • Accurate business needs analysis
  • Strong IT infrastructure
  • Active change management initiatives
  • Efforts towards ongoing improvement
  • Organization-wide commitment to the process

Common reasons for BPR failure were identified as:

  • Optimizing a department to the detriment of another department
  • Lack of time to maintain the business process improvement focus
  • Failure to recognize the extent of problems
  • Insufficient skill
  • Poor implementation of information technology tools
  • Lack of the necessary infrastructure to implement change
  • Resistance to change on the part of managers and employees
  • Low motivation to implement change

Information Technology Plays a Leading Role in BPR

Considering that a computer science professor was the originator of business process redesign, it’s hardly surprising that information technology plays a leading role in its implementation. Back in the nineties, business thought leaders began to refer to disruptive technologies that alter the way we do work. These include:

  • Databases with shared access
  • Systems that allow ordinary people to perform specialized work
  • The rise of the mobile phone, allowing businesses to be centralized in terms of authority without having a centralized team to get work done.
  • Support tools that facilitate decision-making across organizations.
  • Compact laptops that act as “offices” for workers no matter where they are.
  • Automated identification and tracking of information that allows records to show where to find information instead of having to hunt for it.

Of course, there has been considerable progress since then. Today, the mobile phone can do anything a 1990s laptop would have done, and cloud computing has made information available – worldwide if need be.

Business Process Redesign Critiques

With businesses happily divesting large chunks of work that failed to add value, the process became synonymous with downsizing and a business culture that doesn’t put its people first. Certain businesses thought leaders criticized BPR because:

  • Ineffective processes are not always the cause of poor organizational performance.
  • The “clean slate” approach has been widely criticized as discarding elements that work well without due consideration.
  • Some argue that the business should focus on constraints rather than be engineered in its entirety.

Yet others simply say that BPR is nothing new and is simply a buzzword for something that has been done for decades. For instance, when Henry Ford first automated production lines, this was essentially business process redesign.

BPR specialists say that the biggest error that businesses applying BPR processes make is to overlook the human element.  It is the human element, they say, that makes a business really work, and employers should keep this in mind when implementing BPR.

Tallyfy as a Valuable Tool in BPR

Since Tallyfy provides a platform for setting up, implementing and monitoring business processes, it is a useful tool for businesses engaged in business process redesign.  Apart from being able to lay out new business process flows, Tallyfy provides real-time monitoring, making testing and implementation responsive and effective.

If you’re considering BPR or simply want to improve existing processes, Tallyfy provides the analytics you need to determine where problem areas still exist, allowing for targeted rectification of any bottlenecks, problems or inefficiencies that still exists in process flows.

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