BPR is 30!
Next year will mark the 30th anniversary of the first publication of the pioneering business book “Reengineering the Corporation” by Michael Hammer and James Champy which introduced us all to the concept of Business Process Reengineering (BPR), the precursor to Digital Transformation. This article discusses how BPR concepts can readily be applied to augment DX presentations and proposals.
As technologists, we are well-served to remember and appreciate those who did the pioneering work that brought us to where we are today. Most think of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Some add David Hewlett and Bill Packard. A few of us may even still pay homage to Gary Kildall, Bob Frankston, Dan Bricklin, Robert Metcalfe, Vint Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee, and Marc Andreesen. Mobile and UI specialists may include Alan Kay, whose pioneering work at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) brought us the Dynabook, the predecessor to today’s smartphone, and the Smalltalk environment, a precursor to both Windows and the Macintosh interfaces.
Where BPR started
It’s valuable to remember where things came from. Provides perspective and context. Helps us appreciate how things got to be the way they are, and suggests where we can take them next. That’s the real fun in technology, right?
Next year will be 30 years since the introduction of concepts that have led to what may be the most prevalent strategy we engage in today, digital transformation! We could spend a few thousand words here to define digital transformation, but that has been done and is being done all around us, so we’ll just take a look back to where it all really started.
Business process reengineering (BPR)
It probably hasn’t escaped you that BPR is what we really do when we’re performing digital transformation projects for our customers. We look at what they do, how they’re doing it, and we apply technologies to help make the way they do it better. Faster. Simpler. More cost-effective.
One of the first, maybe one of the best, and certainly the most popular source of the thinking that pioneered BPR came from Michael Hammer and James Champy in their towering 1993 book, Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution. In its day, it was required reading along with In Search of Excellence, Good to Great, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and so many other great works by insightful, innovative geniuses.
Reengineering the Corporation suggested that profound performance improvements could be produced by achieving a radical redesign of a company’s processes, organization, and culture. Sounding familiar?
7 Principles of BPR
Hammer and Champy shared seven core principles of BPR as they saw it:
1. Organize around outcomes, not tasks.
2. Identify all the processes in an organization and prioritize them in order of redesign urgency.
3. Integrate information processing work into the real work that produces the information
4. Treat geographically dispersed resources as though they were centralized
5. Link parallel activities in the workflow instead of just integrating their results.
6. Put the decision point where the work is performed and build control into the process.
7. Capture information once and at the source.
Anyone who has performed digital transformation projects may feel ghosts sneaking up on them as they read this. Some may argue that Agile methodology flies in the face of some of this, and maybe it does. Ideas like beginning with the end in mind, prioritizing, tight integration, placelessness, linkage, putting decisions as close to the performance point as possible, and eliminating redundancies, especially in data capture, are all important parts of how we do what we do.
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What are we transforming?
Plenty of us argue that digital transformation is really business transformation, and what it takes to get there really is business process reengineering. These principles are as fresh today as they were 30 years ago, and worth renewing in our planning. We apply technologies innovatively to make business processes run more quickly, more smoothly, and more reliably. We help people transform the way in which they approach the work they do, making them more productive which hopefully improves their working experience and makes them more fulfilled.
So ultimately what we’re transforming are people’s lives. That’s kinda cool, isn’t it?
About the author
Senior Resultant Howard M. Cohen is a 35+ year executive veteran of the Information Technology industry, an authorized CompTIA instructor, and a regular contributor to many IT industry publications. After 35 years as an IT industry executive, Howard has been writing for and about the channel since 2009.
He has served on many vendor advisory panels including the Apple, Compaq, HP, IBM, and NEC Service Advisory Councils. He has also served on the Ingram Micro Service Network board and as a U.S. Board member of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners.
Howard is a well-known frequent speaker at IT industry events including Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (now Inspire), Citrix Synergy/Summit, ConnectWise IT Nation, ChannelPro Forums, Cloud Partners Summit, MicroCorp One-On-One, and CompTIA ChannelCon.
Howard refers to himself as a “Senior Resultant” because he has always understood that we are all measured only by our results. Connect with Howard at email@example.com and review his portfolio at www.authory.com/howardmcohen.