Business process reengineering is a way in which businesses are modernized and made more efficient. In this process, a given business is changed in ways that alters the daily functions of a particular business.
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In any business or organization, the most important factors are the people who are involved and the processes which run the business. If both the cornerstones do not correlate, there will be poor business performance.
The people need to be motivated as much as it is possible whilst the business processes need to be running smoothly in a way that will not affect the people. The essence of “business process reengineering” is purposely set to change the way people function in organizations or firms.
Some of the changes that are brought along by the concept of business process reengineering are can have very huge effects on the flow of income in any business. Simple things that change the way of doing things in a business like documentation of the processes have been known to improve business efficiency to important magnitudes.
Participative business process reengineering
In business process reengineering, there is a call for fundamental changes in the organization. These changes mostly involve focus on business analysis as opposed to organizational functions and some extra reengineering to these processes such that there is maximized performance.
One issue that is really affecting the exercise of business process reengineering is the increasing of the scope of the concerned factors. Most of the involved factors cannot be put or captured by the abstract processes which are described in the conventional models found in mathematics.
A good example to this aspect is the existence of the considerations which can directly affect the way the processes are executed such as how capable the personnel are and the conditions of the environment and the equipments which are in use.
In process modeling, one must have adequate knowledge of the behavior of the processes in their dynamic and also their static nature (Abrahamson, 1996, 260).
Due to this, for an approach to business process modeling to be defined as well, it should focus its attention to analyzing the processes and in turn help identification of the situations which have problems and also which have fresh opportunities for business.
Business process reengineering is an approach that is mostly focused towards the organization rather than the technical aspect.
The efforts that are raised by business process reengineering try to change the way people think about a certain issue and thus involve their viewpoints and also their expectations. These are two critical issues that can cause conflicts in the organization (Berman, 1994, 18).
In this sense, the participative business process reengineering concept is thus a proposition of answering and correcting the failure rate which are due adopting procedures for modeling that locks out organizational members from participating in the decision making processes.
For the best performance of the processes which have to be re-designed, models which are to be used for analysis of the processes have to be adequate considering that the processes which are being reengineered had been previously engineered (Hammer and Stanton, 1995).
In business process reengineering, it is very important that the concerned stakeholders actively involved in the process of business process reengineering.
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The main importance of business process reengineering is the employment of information and technology systems in the achievement of radical changes in the business processes and obtaining of maximum performance and improvement.
In this realm, the use of empirical modeling brings on the advantage of assisting the management to get the best solutions to the many phases of the business problems. This advantage surpasses the conventional methods which have a phase for abstraction for the purpose of problem analysis and preconception of new systems in terms of objects.
When the systems remain closed in such a manner, end users of the system fail to get represented or involved in the phase of abstraction (Roberts, 1994). In case additional changes are needed in such a system, then it means that the whole process turns out to be very expensive to develop.
In any case, when automating any process, it is always wise to include and support the involvement of human beings as some of the most importantt factors will judged and based on implicit and explicit arguments.
The judgments which are put across due to human intervention are basically due to tacit knowledge by the people. This kind of knowledge is usually very hard to be represented in any way or even very hard to transfer between media (Knights & McCabe, 2001, 631).
According to Davenport (1993), an attempt to transfer tacit knowledge, makes it to lose its distinctiveness as it becomes more explicit. If a transfer was to happen, then there must be a joint mode of learning. In this case, the statements infer that people can share their experiences when they stay together without making their knowledge explicit.
In empirical modeling, participants have freedom of communication and visualization of their thinking by interacting with a computer model for the achievement of organizational learning.
If conventional methods are applied, the person is supposed to conceive possibilities that may arise from the abstraction phase. This makes the tacit knowledge found in the person not to be taken into consideration (Davenport, 1993).
Looking at the above considerations, there is a lot of similarity to the business process reengineering. For the case of business process reengineering, people involved in a business process have personal perceptions of those processes and enough knowledge of the business processes which are aligned to the perceptions.
This means that business process reengineering should consider this knowledge in a real world manner and not in an abstract manner.
According to Thompson (1969), in support of the participative approach, to incorporate computers is more likely to be successful if the process was carried out by someone with an understanding of the problem rather than by someone who has an understanding of the system alone.
This is the same reason that current trends in development of information systems are geared towards making the systems more close to human beings. This is the reason why so many business enterprises have come to appreciate the involvement of end users in development (Thompson, 1969).
In participative business process reengineering, end users and other people who are involved should participate in business process reengineering in a manner that their personal efforts can create inputs into the process of business process reengineering which eventually leads to organizational learning and interaction with the environment.
In such a case, the people who participate in the process should get a feedback from the way that they interact with the other stakeholders and also from global environmental responses. Through this, they can be able to learn an also update their cause and effect relationships.
Due to the dynamic status of business processes and the change processes, they cannot be described and model sufficiently using abstract notations. For a successful participative approach, the model should have a flexible framework due to the ever changing situations.
Also, people, who obviously perceive the business process differently, should be allowed access to their environment during the process of modeling. In this participative approach, the person who is modeling should have the capacity to get partial solutions and be able to explore the near solutions and use them experimentally.
This is different from the conventional manner in that it follows up the construction of the solution from its definition to its proposed solution. This case seems to follow a focus on the situation based on experience rather than a process which is a series of steps (Johansson et al., 1993).
In this paper, the sample case will be an adoption of a different perspective on the use of the computers while constructing models that are based on computers for the support of the tasks found in business process reengineering. In this realm, the critical issues lie between circumscribed actions and situated actions.
According to Mumford (1994), “there is a need to address problems which are not precedent, engage ourselves in interactions which are creative and serendipitous in nature, and consequently cut off the cues for the interaction of processes from a world in which sensation is at times overwhelming and the actions which take place are not constrained”.
This is a critical factor that really affects business process reengineering; there is a need to consider the nature of the individual’s perception that is subjective and also their individual capabilities.
The most important thing which should be considered is the disclosure of the tacit knowledge which is in the participants. This knowledge is supposed to play a very important role if the business processes were to be executed in a successful manner (Mumford, 1994, 320).
If this paper was to consider a warehouse where forms are being processed, the processes’ description can be represented by actors who interact with the filing and the distribution of forms. In this case, it is evident that the participants are human and thus it is possible to identify and possible understand their motives and perceptions to a certain point.
The processing of the forms is a representation of the real world activities in the warehouse. There is involvement of items’ movement, location observation, and status monitoring. A situation like this is situated in essence.
It is in association with the multifaceted perception of the personal participants of the many aspects found in the various current states. In such a case, to have an internal insight into the operation of the warehouse, it is required that a good account of the activities of each participant based on direct individual environmental response.
This means that a successful business process reengineering process requires a model which can be computer based. This is essential for comprehension and the reengineering process through participative modeling.
Looking at the above explanations of the importance of the tacit knowledge which is found in the individuals, it holds that the participative process is quite a very important aspect in the process of business process reengineering.
It should be integrated with the participatory approach which helps in averting conflicts which may arise if individuals are not involved. Teamwork is important in solving the deep rooted problems of any nature.
Case study for a business undergoing business process reengineering
This part of the paper will focus on successful implementation of business process reengineering in an organization of choice.
It will first present a case study that will be the guideline to how participative business process reengineering was efficiently used to cut on the company’s expenditure and also improve the efficiency of the company. The presented case will be the redesign process at Bristol city council.
Background of the organization
Bristol city council located in the south western side of England is a unitary authority. The council serves a very big population closing up to almost 400, 000. The annual budget for the council goes up to over 700 million pounds.
This money is used both on goods and services which the council offers. The council was among the initial users of the e-procurement systems. It uses an electronic market place. This is implemented through a process commonly referred to as e trading in the organization. It also uses the government purchasing card (GPC).
Owing to the above mentioned initiatives, the company has successfully some procurement with great significance and saving of time which has resulted in reducing three full time equivalents, reallocation of four full time equivalents and reduction of costs by up to 160, 000 Euros.
The mentioned savings were made by just as ingle department that was well aware of the technological changes, the “corporate finance and procurement division”. This department became keen to have a review on the benefits that were achieved by the process of e trading and the consecutive effects of the e procurement process on the process of making purchases.
The “corporate finance and procurement division” made a decision to have a review on hoe the concept of e trading was used in one of the departments in the council and observed whether there was any time which was saved in that department.
As a sample, the “central support services” department was chosen. In this project, some of the key cornerstones of the project were;
- Was there a way to make the purchasing process more efficient?
- If the process was improved, what time will be saved?
- How will it be possible to quantify the time that is consequently saved?
In order to review this department, the project was cut out as a short one. According to the project’s nature, the reengineering of an existing process, it was important to have a viewpoint which was objective such that it could be of benefit to the project (Hammer and Champy, 1993).
Due to the need to make the response rate very rapid, Bristol city council involved an external consultant. This helped by making the process gain from some procurement expertise which was specific.
Is there a way that the process of purchasing can be made to be more efficient?
To answer this question, the external consultant needed to have very comprehensive information about the existing process of purchasing in use at the central support services. To have a rough idea of how the system works, some of the buyers and managers of the council were questioned by the external consultant.
The members of staff were also involved in giving details of how they make their purchases. They also gave information on the time that it took to complete a purchase once a process was initiated.
To make the process participative, the consultant collected information from the staff that aimed at making the purchasing process easier from their own perspective. In this phase of consultation, some of the critical factors involved were highlighted;
- There was duplication of work. There was a possibility that some of the orders were raised in a hand written format and the consequent approval system was repeatedly raised on the e trading system.
- It was so easy to use the e trading system. The members of staff who used the e trading system said that they found it to be more convenient and also simple to use. It was thus stated that lack of proper training on the usage of the system or its ease in use were not to be treated as excuses if the system was not used.
- There was a divisional management of orders. The way orders were handled was a sole decision of the division in which the orders were handled. Due to this division of order management, orders were not being handled in an efficient manner.
Getting back to the participatory nature of this reengineering process, suggestions were put forward based on the results of the consultations with the staff. The suggestions included;
- Devolution of the purchasing responsibilities to the buyers. This is due to the way the current system of approval which was a double process prevented the achievement of saving time.
- Making the use of the e trading system a mandate
- With proper use of the e trading system, thirteen minutes would be saved as compared to the present process.
- If rising of the orders is done by the finance system of the council, four minutes of time are saved.
What are the savings that are made?
In order to establish the prospective savings in time that could possibly be achieved by the department after changing the process of purchasing, it is important that the data which was transacted in the previous year was analyzed. This data was extracted from the e market place and also from the general ledger in order to determine;
- The number of transactions that are already placed through the e trading process
- The number of transactions in the process of being placed through the e trading process
By making use of the information that was gathered through the consultations with the staff and the data that was extracted from the e market place and the general ledger, some suppliers were identified who would not have been possible to trade with at the moment through the e market place.
Seven suppliers who would be adopted into the e market place were adopted in the central support services department. The importance of this adoption of the seven suppliers on to the e market place was a projection calculation of the number of extra transactions that would be enabled by the e market place.
On comparing the transactions that were in actual sense being processed through the e trading system as compared to the amount of transactions that would have been placed and processed through the same e trading system, it clearly emerged that there was underutilization of the system.
When the staff was used to raise the orders using paper work, the department gained a mere 50 % benefit from the e trading system. With the setting up of e trading as a mandate, it was possible for the department to have 100 % benefit realization from the e trading system.
In projection, the benefit to be attained by the company would be twenty fold of the current benefits resulting from the e trading system if the department got the 100% gain of savings in time. This would also be maximized by adoption of the 7 key suppliers.
How to recover the time savings
In this kind of a project, the hardest part of the process is recovery of the savings of time. This surpasses the theoretical process reengineering or time savings calculation. Mere calculations do not account for the places where the savings are obtained. This means that the time savings were stretched throughout the department.
There was no division which was being able to relocate the time that was saved. If the business and the finance units were restructured, and some of the responsibilities redistributed, the savings which would accumulate through the changes in the purchasing process would be directed to the business and finance units.
The central support services after restructuring was able to garner half of a full time equivalent in the business finance department. This saving can be reallocated to some other department.
Discussion and conclusion
This is a clear and concise case has been used to depict the importance of participation in business process reengineering. According to the case, the company saw a need to have some of the processes reengineered in order to make them more efficient.
The purchases process was chosen. The company went ahead to hire an external consultant to speed up the process. The reengineering team was formed led by the managers and the consultant.
The process that followed is used to depict the importance of participation in business process reengineering. On getting a rough idea of the purchasing process, the consultant went back to the staff members and inquired on the way the processes were undertaken, in the first place, this was an important step considering that this were the people involved in real time handling of the processes.
He also inquired of their ideas on how the process could be improved. In the course of the case, it is evident that the researcher based his reengineering on the perceptions of the staff. This is a direct use of the concept of participation.
The staff was able to participate in giving ideas on how the process could be made better which led to the final achievement of the process. It was possible to save a lot of time at the end of the day.
The participative approach to business process reengineering is thus a very important and working approach which should always be adopted as it supports employee activity (Knights & McCabe 2001:625).
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