What is Business Process Reengineering?

Malcolm Tatum

Business Process Reengineering is an approach to the positioning of a business enterprise by essentially redesigning the structure of the business from the ground up. This radical approach seeks to interpret the standard business model in a new way, making more efficient use of available resources by seeing the function and purpose of those resources in new ways. The working structure for Business Process Reengineering is examined in great deal in a 1993 work entitled Reengineering The Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution.

Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone
Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone

The architects of Business Process Reengineering are Michael Hammer and James Champy. Throughout the later 1980s, Champy and Hammer worked to define the process that would allow businesses to depart from using a time-honored but possibly no longer timely model, and build something new and radical. This approach did not necessarily call for the complete abandonment of all aspects of the standard business model. However, the approach did call for redefining each component in the model and altering the function in a manner that would produce a business structure relevant for a new age.

Over the years, Business Process Reengineering has been known by many different titles. In some instances, the process is known simply as BPR. At other times, the approach has been called Business Process Redesign, Business Transformation, and Business Process Change Management. All these titles do speak to the foundational tenet of the process, in that the idea is to free a business from following the same old structure, simply because that is the way it has always been done. Instead, Business Process Reengineering, under all its different names, supports tearing down the business structure to the foundation and building it anew.

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One of the main tools that Business Process Reengineering identifies as an agent for change is the technology of the new millennium. This means that much of the computer technology that became readily available to even small businesses during the 1990s would help business owners to rethink how to structure their businesses. Some examples of how this has proven to be true include shared databases, communication networks that allow real-time interaction with multiple company sites, and wireless devices that allow work to take place outside the office.

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