Business Process Reengineering and Agile Transformation

I recently wrote an article on a “Business-centric Approach to Agile“. Have you ever thought about how similar Business Process Reengineering and Agile Transformation are? The similarities are amazing but I suspect that many people don’t think of any relationship between BPR and Agile.

What Is Business Process Reengineering?

Business Process Reengineering (BPR) was very hot in the 1990’s. One of the catalysts that precipitated the need for BPR was the advent of new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems.

  • ERP systems enabled many companies to much more completely automate their business processes. However, it was a gut-wrenching change for many companies because, in many cases, implementing an ERP system required rethinking their business processes and take a much more cross-functional approach to their business.
  • Another important catalyst was “lean manufacturing” which seeks to eliminate the use of any resource that does not create value for the end consumer.

Does that sound like an Agile enterprise-level transformation? Here’s how Bain and Company defines “Business Process Reengineering”:

“Business Process Reengineering involves the radical redesign of core business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in productivity, cycle times and quality. In Business Process Reengineering, companies start with a blank sheet of paper and rethink existing processes to deliver more value to the customer. They typically adopt a new value system that places increased emphasis on customer needs. Companies reduce organizational layers and eliminate unproductive activities in two key areas. First, they redesign functional organizations into cross-functional teams. Second, they use technology to improve data dissemination and decision making”

Source: Bain & Company: Insights – Management Tools, Business Process Reengineering

Understanding Business Process Reengineering

Let’s take this definition one step at a time:

Radical Redesign of Core Business Processes

The first statement is

“Business Process Reengineering involves the radical redesign of core business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in productivity, cycle times and quality”.

There is no question in my mind that that statement could apply to an Agile transformation, but do companies really realize that and do it that way?

Start With a Blank Sheet of Paper and Rethink Everything

The next statement is

“In Business Process Reengineering, companies start with a blank sheet of paper a2nd rethink existing processes to deliver more value to the customer.”

There’s also a good fit with that statement. You may not start with a “blank sheet of paper” and throw out all your existing management processes, but it is definitely important to rethink many existing stereotypes and misconceptions that exist about both Agile and traditional management approaches before you launch into an Agile transformation.

Adopt a New Value System

The statement that

“They typically adopt a new value system that places increased emphasis on customer needs”

is very relevant to an Agile transformation but is probably not given the attention that it deserves. When a company implements an Agile transformation, it is often done from a limited development perspective focused on how it improves the development process. However, that needs to be done in a larger context of how it improves the customer value that the company delivers to its customers.

Reduce Organizational Layers and Eliminate Unproductive Activities

The last statement is absolutely very relevant to an Agile transformation:

“Companies reduce organizational layers and eliminate unproductive activities in two key areas. First, they redesign functional organizations into cross-functional teams. Second, they use technology to improve data dissemination and decision making”

Additional Resources

You will find much more detail on this in my Online Agile Project Management Training.

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