Understanding the What, Why, and How about Business Process Reengineering

Business Process Reengineering

Key takeaways

  • Staying relevant amidst market changes and technological advancements requires constant changes or improvements to processes. 
  • Business process reengineering requires businesses to go back to the drawing board and break down the basic tasks for review. 
  • Business process reengineering involves the redesign of process workflows by eliminating repetitive and redundant steps from the process workflow. 
  • Improving product and service quality by standardizing and automating work to reduce errors and enable teams to focus on high value activities is the main aim of business process reengineering. 
  • Analysis-design-implementation are the 3 phases in which BPR is carried out in the organization. 
  • Challenges in BPR initiatives include – lack of knowledge, implementation irregularities, inadequate analysis, and improper team formulation. 

What is Business Process Reengineering?

Business process reengineering is the radical design of core business processes for improving productivity, quality, and cycle times significantly. No matter the size or nature of the business, quality and consistent customer service is always top priority. Optimized business processes hold the key to top-notch customer service. Business process reengineering is an effective way to improve business productivity and quality of customer service. How does business process reengineering improve process outcomes? How to go about business process redesign? What are the key components of a reengineering strategy? Learn answers to all these questions through this blog. 

Table of Contents

Irrespective of the nature or size of the business, quality, and consistent customer service are always its top priority. How do businesses deliver top customer service consistently? By having top-notch, updated, and optimized business processes.

Continuous process improvement and optimization of business processes ensure that the products or services delivered by the business are aligned with the latest market trends. Business process reengineering is an effective way to improve business productivity and the quality of customer service by rebooting and redesigning core business processes.

Business Process Reengineering in Detail

For getting ahead in business, it is not enough if organizations limit their capabilities to survival abilities alone, they need to convert every obstacle into learning opportunities. Rather than forcing things to go the way you expect, sometimes you need to step back and reassess core business functions.

Business process reengineering requires businesses to go back to the drawing board and break down the basic tasks.

Business process reengineering (BPR) is the radical design of core business processes to achieve significant improvements in productivity, quality, and cycle times.

The definition of business process reengineering according to Dr. Michael Hammer is a fundamental rethinking and radical design of business processes to achieve significant improvements in critical, contemporary, measures of business performance like cost, quality, customer service, and speed. Companies exploring BPR rethink existing processes to deliver more value to the customer.

The reengineering strategy must focus more on customer needs by using technology to improve data dissemination and decision-making.

Business process engineering involves the redesign of process workflows by removing repetitive and redundant steps by analyzing existing human and automated workflows. In medium to large businesses, process redundancies can build up over time and become legacy snarls that are deeply embedded in the way things are carried out by the business.

BPR is a proven process improvement methodology that enables organizations to cut the legacy snarls that may be restraining organizational improvements and cost optimizations.

The real meaning of business process reengineering lies in taking an analytical and prescriptive approach to evaluating alternative frames of core business processes. The product development process of the business is the one that is redefined by process reengineering. It is not just a change, but a radical transformation for drastic process improvements.

Process reengineering is achieved through a complete overhaul of the organization structures, job descriptions, training models, use of information technology, and performance management systems. Irrespective of the type and scale of BPR, a critical requirement for all the projects of BPR is seamless communication throughout the organization.

Organizations reengineer two key areas of their businesses: first is the use of modern technology for improving data dissemination and decision-making and the second is the altering of functional organizations to form functional teams.

Process reengineering starts with a high-level assessment of the mission, strategy, and customer needs of the organization. Once the organization rethinks what it should be doing will be able to decide the best route to get there.

Need for Business Process Reengineering

The real meaning of process reengineering lies in changes to the 4 main business disciplines – organization, technology, strategy, and people. The need for business process reengineering arises in several ways in a business. How do you know if it is time for a business overhaul? Business processes must be reviewed regularly to determine if process reengineering is required. Why should business processes be reviewed regularly?

  • Somewhere within the business process, an entrenched status quo has been set by employees. These employees may be hoarding knowledge and responsibilities that make them indispensable to the organization.
  • Your competition may be eating away at your customer base due to error-prone business processes within your organization.
  • Despite achieving remarkable business growth, business profits are falling.

If your business shows any of the above signs, it warrants a process overhaul. The next question is how often is a process review required. When any of the above situations are encountered, then it is the right time for process reengineering. Organizations that employ process analysts often make frequent reviews of processes. How do find out which process needs to be reengineered? Depending on the issue, the corresponding process needs overhauling. Common issues that warrant process reengineering are:

  • A rise in customer complaints and refund requests
  • Increase in staff stress, disputes, and turnover
  • Disruptions in business operations after experienced employees quit or go on long leave
  • Rapidly falling profitability
  • Frequent disruptions in cash flow
  • Raising inventory levels
  • Inability to fill customer orders on time
  • Closure of accounts books takes long
  • Sales leads are not being followed quickly

Businesses facing one or more of the above situations must consider reengineering their processes.

Why do companies go for Business Process Reengineering?

Why do businesses use business process reengineering? The obvious reason is that companies use business process reengineering to improve the performance of key processes that affect business performance. Here are the main reasons why businesses go for the reengineering process – 

Reducing costs and cycle times by cutting out unproductive activities and locating work in the most efficient and effective environment. 

Reorganizing the workforce by teams to decrease the need for multiple management layers, accelerate information flows, and eliminate errors and rework resulting from multiple handoffs. 

Improving product and service quality by standardizing and automating work to reduce errors and enable workers to focus on higher-value activities. Automation also reduces the fragmentation of work and establishes clear ownership of processes. 

Phases of Business Process Reengineering

Before we get into the phases of process reengineering, let us first understand the objectives of BPR. The following are the main objectives of BPR:

  • Reduce business costs and process times drastically: BPR reduces costs and cycle times by eliminating unproductive activities and freeing the employees who perform them. Reorganization by teams reduces the need for management layers, accelerates information flows, and eliminates errors or rework due to multiple handoffs.
  • Improve the quality of customer services significantly: BPR improves the quality of work by reducing fragmentation of work and establishing clear ownership of individual tasks. This way employees are made aware of their output and can measure their performance based on process feedback.
  • Reinvent the basic rules of the business: ill-planned and implemented business processes result in resource and time wastage. The basic rules of business upon which the processes are built need to be reinvented to keep up with the evolving market and business needs.
  • Improve customer satisfaction: BPR streamlines business processes for improved productivity. Improved productivity translates to better customer satisfaction.
  • Enhance the effectiveness of organizational learning: BPR creates new learning opportunities for employees.

Business process reengineering is implemented in 3 phases, analysis, design, and implementation phases. Implementation of all these phases should be followed by communication throughout the organization.

The analysis phase of BPR starts with the analysis of the process to be re-engineered. The requirements for the new process are forecasted by focusing on the current and future needs of the customer, analyzing what is currently accomplished by the old process, creating a vision of what is to be achieved by the reengineered process, and zeroing in on the distinction between the two.

The main aim of the analysis phase is to give the reengineering team a deep understanding of reality. If a pressing need for process change is revealed in the analysis phase, the reengineering team proceeds with the design phase.

The design phase of BPR deals with the design of the reengineered process that begins with the mapping of the new process to the development of a change management plan. Between the mapping step and the change development plan step, the jobs are redefined and redesigned and the available technology and organization resources are evaluated.

The implementation phase of BPR involves reengineered process/steps execution, testing of the new steps/processes, and gathering performance feedback. The new process is tested, and the performance is evaluated through feedback. Continuous improvement of business processes promotes a better customer experience.

Business Process Reengineering Steps

Simply put, business process reengineering means altering the way an individual performs work so that better results are accomplished. BPR redefines workflows to improve customer service, achieve higher levels of efficiency, and cut operational costs. BPR implementation needs to be planned and executed systematically.

Here are the steps to successful BPR implementation:

Step 1

This step focuses on preparation and coordination for implementing BPR. The main objective is to establish strong management support and communicate clearly to the implementation team about their project details and their roles.

Step 2

This step focuses on the business diagnosis and performance measurement of business processes. The main objective is to diagnose and identify problematic areas in the current processes. The performance of current processes is evaluated based on measurable factors like average cycle time, number of errors, average cycle times, and number of customer complaints.

Step 3

Choosing the process for change and modeling is the second step in business process reengineering tools implementation. The strategic processes that are feasible for change are identified. Redefining and modeling the selected processes are the main objectives of this step.

Step 4

Technical design of the solution is the main objective of this step. Workflow automation is a tested way to improve operational efficiencies. Ways to automate modeled business processes using workflow tools and networks is the main objective here. Redesigning and modeling of the selected processes are done using workflow automation tools.

Step 5

Training and allocation of personnel for implementing the changes are carried out in this step. The new ways of working with new processes and ways of using IT in the redesigned process need to be explained to the project team. This step focuses on training personnel on the usage of new processes and allocating the right person for newly defined tasks.

Step 6

Change management and employee empowerment are important steps of BPR. Efficient change management helps establish a positive attitude towards change among employees. To minimize resistance from employees against change, they are empowered with position-based performance appraisal and bonus systems.

Step 7

The final step in the implementation of EPR is the introduction of new processes into business operations. A time and date are decided for introducing new processes into the business. Emphasis is given to making the employees understand that working under old processes is not possible anymore.

Step 8

Continuous improvement of business processes is a must for sustaining the market. The best way to capitalize on BPR implementation is to develop an internal team of experts that offers guidance on future BPR implementations.

Effective BPR implementation requires the timely execution of the above steps. The most important factor in successful BPR implementation is having a clear goal and coming up with clear strategic improvements to existing work processes. BPR is all about implementing new ideas that change the way you engage and interact with customers.

Team Member Roles in Business Process Reengineering

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that business process reengineering is an invasive process that cuts through several business process operations simultaneously. This is a radical change that requires serious commitment from top management. During the mid-1990s BPR implementations took the team approach that reflected the movement’s top-down management philosophy.

The various roles in the team approach to BPR are –

Team leader

A senior executive who will drive the entire reengineering process is designated as the team leader. This person essentially envisions and authorizes the overall reengineering effort. The team lead is the one who appoints the process owner for the reengineering effort. 

Process Owner

The process owner is usually a senior-level manager in charge of a specific business process or unit. The responsibilities of the process owner include assembling the team together and overseeing the reengineering effort. 

Reengineering team

A group that is formed by insiders whose work involves the process that is being re-engineered and outsiders whose jobs are not affected by the changes to the process. This team is responsible for analyzing the existing process and supervising its redesign. 

Steering committee

This committee is formed by a group of senior managers who have championed the concept of reengineering within the organization. These managers have clear ideas and set specific goals for improving performance. The team leader leads this committee and is responsible for arbitrating disputes and aiding process owners in making decisions about conflicting priorities. 

Reengineering Czar

An individual who is in charge of coordination of all the ongoing reengineering activities on a daily basis is the Czar. The primary responsibility of the Czar is to facilitate and develop the techniques and tools required by the organization to reengineer the workflow. 

The team approach to business process reengineering is a simple one that is easy to follow and implement. Just as following the 7 steps in BPR leads to successful implementation, following the team approach in defining roles and responsibilities for the reengineering process avoids confusion and duplication of effort. As mentioned earlier, business process reengineering entails complete overhauling of existing processes, therefore, such initiatives require careful planning and clarity in implementation. 

Challenges in Business Process Reengineering

Once a business has decided to implement business process reengineering, several factors must be considered to ensure successful implementation. There are several reasons why a perfectly fine BPR decision can fail. For successful BPR implementation, adequate IT infrastructure and clarity in implementation procedures are a must. Despite careful planning of BPR, why is it that nearly 50% of the projects fail?

Let us consider the top 5 challenges that might mess up BPR initiatives:

1. Lack of knowledge:

The why, when, where, and how of business process reengineering must be clear to the implementation team. In scenarios where there is a lack of clarity or knowledge of the BPR implementation, the scope for confusion, redundancy, and repetition is greater. BPR projects that lack knowledge and awareness result in a waste of business resources. To overcome or avoid such scenarios, the team must be properly trained and guided all through the implementation.

2. Irregularities in implementation:

BPR cannot be considered a trigger for instant competitive edges, instead, a thorough process must be followed from start to end for visible growth. In some scenarios, BPR may not be suitable for many processes. Moreover, BPR practices cannot be considered one-off implementations, they must be made part of the business strategy for continuous improvement. Irregular BPR practices hinder the growth opportunities that come with it.

3. Improper team formulation:

Must-have requirements for the formulation of the BPR team are well-defined, well-structured, knowledge of operation and process management and the right set of business process knowledge and expertise. Any team that lacks these characteristics is bound to mess up the BPR implementation.

4. Shallow analysis and lack of support:

An in-depth analysis of existing business processes is the backbone for BPR implementation. The process milestones must be established and analyzed before the implementation. The inadequate analysis is a recipe for disaster.

5. Insufficient and Inappropriate Resource Utilization:

Lack of essential resources like skilled human resources, adequate budgeting/funding, knowledge of BPR tools, availability, timely approval, and correct set of BPR tools results in the failure of BPR implementation.

To achieve success through BPR implementation, businesses need to ensure that the above challenges are addressed or avoided during the analysis, design, and implementation phases.

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Pros and Cons of BPR

Business Process Reengineering is a task that has a mix of positive and negative repercussions for a business. Although it seems like a straightforward process, there some several pros and cons that come with BPR implementation.

Pros of BPR

  • More focus on customer needs: Provides focus to business by making core processes customer-centric. One of the main reasons businesses go for BPR is to improve customer experience by streamlining existing processes with a focus on customer and market requirements.
  • BPR helps build a strategic view of operational procedures by delving into radical methods to improve business processes. BPR focuses on how business processes could be done for better outcomes.
  • Elimination of repetitive and redundant steps is possible with BPR. When these steps are eliminated from the process, the complexity and length of business processes are significantly reduced.
  • Improves coordination and integration between various business functions.
  • Cuts out the delay and non-essential phases of operation and process management to improve viability and adequacy across the organization.
  • The number of reconciliation processes, checks, and controls is greatly reduced with BPR.
  • Checks on short-sighted approaches that are due to the excessive focus on functional boundaries.

Cons of BPR

BPR implementation does not always go as expected. Certain disadvantages come along with BPR revolving around its inception, objectives, outcomes, etc. The main cons of BOR are:

  • BPR may not suit all types of businesses because it depends on factors like size and availability of resources. It is most beneficial to large-sized organizations. Moreover, BPR may not work for all types of business processes.
  • There are chances of a BPR implementation improving the efficiency of a department or team at the cost of overall process efficiency.
  • BPR does not provide instant resolution of business outcomes, it contributes more towards the long-term business benefits. Long-term collaborations require more effort and time.
  • Requires significant investment of IT resources along with proper planning, exceptional execution, and strong teamwork.

The advantages of implementing BPR outweigh the disadvantages, which is convincing enough for BPR specialists to implement it for improving business outcomes.

Difference between Business Process Reengineering and Business Process Improvement

The terms business process reengineering and business process are often used interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing. There are fundamental differences that distinguish the two approaches. The first point of difference arises in the terms itself, improvement is an act of making something better, while a reengineering process means redesigning the structure or business process completely. 

Business process reengineering (BPR) efforts are usually restricted to the project and focused on building processes from scratch. These efforts are spread across the organization and require a change in the fundamental mindset. Business process improvement (BPI) on the other hand is an ongoing effort spread across projects. The main aim of process improvement efforts is to tweak the existing process to optimize it. Process improvement efforts are not spread across the organization and require an incremental change in mindset. BPR looks at the broader picture of business productivity. BPI helps identify process bottlenecks and recommends changes in specific functionalities. 

Another comparison is between business process reengineering and continuous improvement. Continuous improvement is an ongoing effort to improve a product, service, or process. The efforts towards continuous improvement include incremental improvement, where the improvement may reflect gradually over time. Business process reengineering is considered as part of continuous improvement, as teams look for ways to improve business processes as part of the overall scope of continuous improvement.

Exploring the BPM and BPR Link

Another comparison that is worth discussing is the difference between BPR and business process management (BPM). BPM is a management discipline that focuses on defining and automating existing processes. BPR on the other hand completely reimagines the way businesses operate and designs the reengineering process from a customer experience perspective. BPR has higher stakes because current processes and roles may be entirely shelved by the reengineering initiative. 

An interesting perspective here is that a good BPM strategy reduces the need for BPR. Any BPR initiative demands a lot of effort and time and temporarily affects the productivity of the organization. A good BPM results in the smooth and effective running of processes, which in turn brings down the need for process reengineering. 

A well-designed business process management strategy takes care of current business needs as well as future needs that arise as a result of business expansion. Strong BPM defines roles within the process clearly so that each stakeholder knows exactly what is expected out of their role. A poorly designed BPM on the other hand throws up bottlenecks and issues that are difficult to track and resolve. When business process management is not properly planned and executed, the need for reengineering processes arises very often. When you carry out BPM initiatives with the help of a no-code workflow automation tool like Cflow, the rate of success improves substantially. A visually steeped automation tool like Cflow provides a better understanding of the process, which in turn makes it easy to define the BPM initiative clearly. 

IT Dependency of BPR

Information technology plays a significant role in the success of BPR. It improves the efficacy of BPR implementation. From shared databases to telecommunication networks to decision support tools – IT provides several tools for BPR implementation. Business process management automation is a very useful tool for BPR implementation.

Workflow automation helps improve process efficiencies by eliminating redundancy and repetition from business operations. Cflow is a workflow automation tool that can automate key business workflows within very short time frames. The workflows can be fully customized according to unique business requirements.


The decision to go for business process reengineering must be taken after considering all the factors described in the above sections. The reengineering strategy must focus on the use of technology to improve customer service and engagement. Workflow automation tools like Cflow can be extremely useful in the successful implementation of BPR. To explore Cflow, sign up for the free trial today.

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