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How to start fresh with business process reengineering

Sarah Laoyan contributor headshotSarah Laoyan
February 6th, 2024
6 min read
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If you’re looking for a major business transformation or a complete overhaul of your current processes, business process reengineering may be the strategy for you. Business process reengineering is the act of overhauling current business processes in order to improve outputs like profits, product quality, costs, or speed. Learn how to implement this process in 6 steps.

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it—right? But if something isn’t working as efficiently as it could, sometimes the only way to make it better is to take it all apart and put it back together a little differently. That’s the concept behind business process reengineering. 

What is business process reengineering (BPR)?

Business process reengineering (BPR) is the complete overhaul of existing core business processes in order to improve outputs such as profits, product quality, costs, or speed. BPR is an extremely involved process that requires buy-in from the entire organization, precise planning, and a dedicated team to move forward. Depending on the size of your business, BPR can take anywhere from a few months to years to complete.

Business process reengineering vs. business process improvements

These two process improvement strategies both have the same end goal: to make changes to business processes with the goal of improving performance. The main difference here is the size and scale of the changes being made. 

Business process improvements are smaller scale changes intended to improve a specific process within an organization. If your team uses a continuous improvement model, you’re probably familiar with business process improvements. 

Business process reengineering is the act of changing processes at a much larger scale. Instead of looking at smaller individual steps, BPR assesses the company as a whole and reconfigures how the entire business operates. 

Let’s imagine a car is representative of a business, and the car has a leaky gas tank. If the team were to use process improvements to fix the leaky gas tank, they would create a process to help switch out the old gas tank for a new one without a leak. Business process reengineering would look at the gas tank and consider if there’s an alternative fuel to use instead of gas. 

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When to use business process reengineering

Business process reengineering is a large and all-encompassing process. It can be very expensive—and the bigger your company, the more challenging the process becomes. Consider the difference between a startup of about 25 employees versus a corporation with 2,000 employees. The larger company will have much more established processes and workflows, whereas the smaller company can make changes more quickly. If you’re having trouble deciding if the effort is worth it, consider using a cost-benefit analysis framework to determine if BPR is right for your company. 

If your team goes through the decision-making process and discovers that the only solution is to go through the BPR process, do it early on in your team’s growth process. One good reason to initiate the BPR process is to ensure scalability of your core business operations. BPR implementation can help by creating a foundation for your company to scale, instead of building on top of inefficient and complicated processes. 

The 6 steps of business process reengineering

The business process reengineering process follows approximately the same steps as regular process improvements. The goal of both operations is the same—to ensure that your business improves outputs. However, the scope of BPR is bigger, and that may impact your timeline and approach. Here’s how you can start the business process reengineering process in six steps.

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1. Identify the reason for change

Overhauling how your business process functions is a large, challenging, and expensive task. It’s important to identify your reason why and examine if the BPR process is worth the time and effort. What is the end goal? What would you like your business to accomplish with this reengineering process? Establishing a clear and definable goal is a good place to start. Use a framework like the SMART goal methodology to ensure that your reason for change is concrete and actionable. This will also make it easier to choose a success metric later in the process. 

Your reason why should be extremely clear for your entire team. For example, you may have to restructure part of your business to make way for a new research and development team. Your team should understand that the reason for the reorganization is to make way for the new team.

Before you start the reengineering process, it’s important to set a benchmark with your already existing processes. This allows your BPR team to get a baseline of current business operations before making any dramatic improvements. Analyzing and measuring the baseline of your business operations also gives the BPR team an opportunity to look at any bottlenecks in the current state that can influence the business process redesign.

Read: Setting business goals: The first step to a successful business

2. Establish your BPR team

Business process reengineering is a complex process that should be handled by a competent and experienced team. Your BPR team should be composed of people who are already familiar with how your business functions and understand the ins and outs of key processes. Business process reengineering teams commonly consist of:

  • Senior management

  • Operations managers of business critical teams

  • A reengineering expert or leader

  • Experienced project managers

Your BPR team will be responsible for managing a lot of different expectations from different stakeholders, so it’s important that both your team and stakeholders can easily share and access key information. To make stakeholder management easier, use a collaborative work management tool to compile and share all of the information you need for the reengineering process. 

3. Set key performance indicators to analyze performance

This step ties closely with step one, when you determined the ultimate goal of your business process reengineering endeavor. Identifying the goal of your reprocessing helps you pick the right metrics for success. Choosing a KPI. Helps you measure performance before and after your process change, so you can determine the actual impact of BPR. 

For example, if your team is choosing to go through a business process redesign with the goal of decreasing the amount of time it takes to produce a certain product, the key metric your team would measure would be development time. Remember, benchmarking your goals before making changes is how your team can measure success.

4. Design a future state

After taking the time to analyze core business processes and benchmark the current state, it’s time to take that information and develop a future state of your business operations. Think back to the goals you wanted to achieve—what are some strategies you can implement to achieve those goals?

Take a look at your current processes and think about what can be changed to achieve those goals. Use process mapping to visually display workflows and processes in one place. A process map of the current state can also help you during the decision-making process—with it, you can clearly identify where you can alleviate any bottlenecks with automation or other forms of redesign.

It’s important to note that while business process reengineering does require a complete overhaul of your business operations, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get rid of every aspect of your current operations process. Some of those core business processes could still be a viable part of your workflow, but it’s up to your team to decide how and where to implement them in your new future state.

5. Test the new process at a small scale 

Once you figure out exactly how your business process redesign will look, the next step is to test out the process on a small scale before rolling it out for the entire company. This test is similar to quality control testing of a product. Just like how you want a final product to satisfy your customer needs, look at your business to see if this business process satisfies the goals you wanted to achieve. 

Testing the process at a small scale is an opportunity for mistakes to happen in a safe environment—and you want them to. A small pilot is low-risk and gives your team an opportunity to easily make changes before implementing the process at a larger scale. The pilot stage can help prevent unexpected issues from becoming complete business operation failures.

Read: Risk matrix template: How to assess risk for project success (with examples)

6. Use change management to roll out the new business process redesign

Rolling out the new business process redesign is a crucial step that can make or break the success of your BPR project. Use a change management strategy to help alleviate any friction you may have with your team about implementing new business processes. Change management is the process of prepping your team for organizational change. As humans, we are naturally averse to change, so it’s important to help your team along the way. In the BPR process, you can start early by clearly stating the business strategy behind your team’s reengineering efforts. 

Once you implement the redesigned process, the next step is to monitor and measure the same KPIs you established in step three. Maintain contact with core members of your business operations team to keep a pulse on how the new process is performing and if any team members have issues. From here, you can implement a model of continuous improvement for your core business operations. 

Business process reengineering in action

Before implementing a new solution, the Digital Studios content team at Discovery Inc. used to track video production with spreadsheets and email threads. Videos were never  completed, others sat lost in drives, and reporting was challenging. It was hard for them to share information with cross-functional teams because information was scattered in different tools.

Senior Director of Global Creative Operations, Mike Singer, used this as an opportunity to implement a new process to get their production flowing

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Before Asana, there was no clean, consistent process and projects weren’t getting updated in spreadsheets as they moved along. Sometimes, they would fall off and vanish. We’d hire contractors to do massive six-month cleanup projects.”
Mike Singer, Senior Director, Global Creative Operations

The Digital Studios team at Discovery Inc. implemented Asana to manage their content production process. It has helped them automate steps, manage production for thousands of videos at once, and significantly improved collaboration.

The radical redesign of their content production process allowed for their team to quickly shift from working in-office to working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic without missing a beat. 

With their new content production workflow, the team has clarity on the status of their projects and can efficiently produce thousands of videos each month. 

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