What is business process re-engineering?
Business process re-engineering (BPR) is the act of changing an organization’s major functions with the goal of increasing efficiency, improving product quality, and/or decreasing costs. This starts with an in-depth analysis of the business’ workflows and identifying key areas that need improvement. People who do this kind of work, often referred to as BPR specialists, are hired by companies to facilitate transitions to more standardized processes.
It’s important to differentiate between this and business process improvement, which focuses on simply updating an organization’s current processes. BPR, on the other hand, aims to make fundamental changes to the entire scope of a business’ systems. BPR professionals exist in all kinds of industries, so the specific day-to-day duties will vary from job to job. However, all BPR experts will follow these general steps:
Step 1: Identify and communicate the problem
This is a key part of growing any business. You need to figure out what issues are holding the company back and what’s causing them. For example, let’s say you’re a BPR specialist who’s hired by a cereal company, with the main goal of increasing its revenue.
The company’s production process starts at a farm, where grain is harvested and then shipped to a factory, at which point it is mixed with other ingredients and turned into the final product.
While analyzing this process, you notice a logistical problem: Over 20% of the grain is lost during the truck ride from the farm to the factory. By fixing this problem, your employer can increase its product output substantially. As the BPR specialist, it’s your job to communicate this problem to executives and detail the benefits of resolving it.
Step 2: Build a team
Now that you know what the problem is, you’ll need a team of experts to help you come up with a solution.
The senior manager will supervise your BPR project and make sure you have the necessary resources to get the job done. It’s important that a senior-level employee supervises the project, since they may have the power to do things that you don’t, such as approving large budgets.
The operational manager will provide the in-depth expertise when it comes to the process you’re reengineering. Continuing with the example from earlier, this could be whoever’s in charge of the grain transportation portion of the process. Their understanding of the specifics, such as how the grain is loaded and which routes the trucks take, will play an important part in coming up with a solution.
Additional BPR experts might be necessary as well, depending on the scope of the project.
Step 3: Identify the inefficient process and define key performance indicators
Perhaps you discover that the reason why the trucks are losing so much grain during transport is because the road between the farm and the factory is too long and bumpy. Now, you can set up specific key performance indicators (KPIs) for your team based on that part of the process. A KPI is a type of performance measurement used to help achieve business goals.
In this case, the KPI could be cycle time, or the amount of time from the beginning to the end of the production process. If you can cut down cycle time, you can save some grain and increase the company’s output.
At this point, you’ll start developing different solutions, organizing them into process flowcharts, reviewing them with your team, and acknowledging the pros and cons of each one (paying extra attention to any new expenses that will be incurred).
Step 4: Re-engineer the process
Finally, it’s time to implement your solution. How are you going to cut down cycle time? What’s the most efficient way to get the grain from the farm to the factory? Will you upgrade to faster trucks and/or try to fix the road?
In the real-life scenario that this example is based on, the BPR reduced cycle time by cutting trucks out of the process entirely. They built a new factory directly next to the farm, so no grain was lost between harvesting and factory production.
How to pursue a career in business process re-engineering
If you’re thinking about going into BPR, you’ll need a good education, industry experience, and relevant skills. Jobs in different industries will have varying qualifications. For example, if you have a background in manufacturing, you probably won’t be a good match for a BPR job in IT. However, every BPR specialist is expected to have at least a bachelor’s degree and to be proficient in the following:
- Project management
- Problem solving
- Team building and collaboration
- Statistical analysis
Keep in mind that if you want to build the strongest BPR career possible, you’ll need more than an undergraduate education and a few years of experience.
Get a master’s degree
The Online Master of Business Administration program at Northeastern University can give you the skills and experience necessary to be competitive in the BPR field. Once you complete the program, you’ll be eligible for more opportunities with higher salaries.
Also, if you already know the field you want to work in, Northeastern allows you to choose from a variety of concentrations, including finance, healthcare, and high technology management. There are a number of courses in the Online MBA program that will prepare you for real-life BPR scenarios.
For example, if you choose high technology management as your concentration, you’ll take a course called “Virtual, Vicious Teams: Building and Leading High Performance Teams.” As mentioned earlier, Step 2 of the BPR process involves putting together and managing teams. This course will help prepare you for that aspect of the job, since you’ll be studying real-life cases and engaging in collaborative projects.
You can learn more about Northeastern’s online MBA program by speaking with an enrollment advisor.