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How business process reengineering can support performance improvement

business management (Alexander Supertramp/Shutterstock.com) 

The Army is one of the most successful organizations in the world at balancing costs, schedules and quality. No one would disagree that its mission is absolutely critical, effecting human life in a very direct way. Army officials recently decided to start a Business Process Reengineering Center of Excellence in Aberdeen, Md.

The industry-standard definition of a COE is a team or entity that provides leadership, best practices, research, support and/or training for a focus area. The Army has chosen a tried and true BPR methodology and toolset to realize these goals. This team is well versed in how to bridge gaps between organizational functions such as human resources, finance and IT. 

Why choose BPR?

Many people think BPR is a toolset typically used for saving money or getting rid of staff. While this can be true in some cases, BPR as a capability gives organizations tools and methods to improve their performance. More modern and proven use of BPR frequently results in cost savings but does so through focus on problem definition and clarity of roles and responsibilities vs. people's individual performance. It's very people focused!

How it works

Start with a traditional framework such as the one below. Effectively working with executives to carry out purposeful strategic planning is critical to defining exactly what problems they want to solve, what value they see being realized, and how success will be measured. At the outset, be careful that focus on cost-reducing IT solutions does not cloud your vision. BPR must be focused on discovering and delivering value to customers.

1. Develop the business process strategy. Understand whether the goal is simply capturing the value of current processes or a more ambitious business strategy. Make sure there are clear boundaries for what's in and out of scope.

2. Conduct as-is modeling and analysis. Start interviewing stakeholders across the value chain to document and depict how things work today. Identify key problems, their root causes and impacts to the organization. Ensure customer voice clearly captured for each step.

3. Design a to-be state and plan a transition to implementation. Conduct design sessions that map out a future state that not only compensates for identified pain points and eliminates waste, but also accounts for a bold new future with highly adaptable people and artificial intelligence.

4. Initiate and pilot the change. Pilot the newly designed process but ensure commitment to change by executives and middle managers. Giving users and customers of the process a chance to provide feedback and actually see their feedback integrated provides the best chance of adoption of the new process.

5. Set up continuous improvement. Last, but perhaps most forgotten in a BPR initiative, is allocating the budget and time for defining controls and measuring performance of processes to enable continuous improvement.

Technology, and even new processes, are tremendously tempting solutions these days. But ironically, truly valuing people above process and technology is the sweet spot because reducing human risk is the critical success factor in an initiative achieving its intended benefits. Being laser focused on roles and responsibilities, performance metrics and organizational culture is what will enable the change senior leaders seek. An approach that uses multiple data gathering techniques to design a solution that is unique and effective for the customer is required. The ultimate goal is to provide a self-sustained solution that executives can sponsor, middle managers can enable and staff can leverage for high performance.

About the Authors

Emad Elias is a principal with Evans Incorporated.

Bob Etris is a partner and director with Evans Incorporated.

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