1. Who are the actors in this process? 2. Which actors can be considered as customers in this process? 3. What value does the process deliver to its customers? 4. What are the possible outcomes of this process? A key element in this case study is that a problematic performance issue (i.e., an excessive amount of time and resources spent on checking documents in accounts payable) is approached by considering an entire process. In this case, the accounts payable department plays an important role in the overall purchasing process, but the process also involves tasks by staff at the purchasing department and at the warehouse, and by the vendor. Regardless of these barriers, changes are made across the process and these changes are multi-pronged: They include informational changes (information exchanges), technological changes (database, terminals), and structural changes (checks, policies). This characteristic view on how to look at organizational performance was put forward in a seminal article by Tom Davenport and James Short [ 31 ]. This article urged managers to look at entire, end-to-end processes when trying to improve the operations of their business, instead of looking at one particular task or business function. The article discussed various cases where indeed this particular approach proved to be successful. In the same paper, the important role of IT was emphasized as an enabler to come up with a redesign of existing business processes. Indeed, when looking at the Ford-Mazda example it would seem difficult to change the traditional procedure without the specific qualities of IT, which in general allows access to information in a way that is independent of time and place. 1.3.3 The Rise and Fall of BPR The work by Davenport and Short, as well as that of others, chiefly Michael Hammer, triggered the emergence and widespread adoption of a management concept that was referred to as Business Process Redesign or Business Process Reengineering , often conveniently abbreviated as BPR . Numerous white papers,
14 1 Introduction to Business Process Management articles, and books appeared on the topic throughout the 1990s and companies throughout the world assembled BPR teams to review and redesign their processes. The enthusiasm for BPR faded away by the late 1990s. Many companies terminated their BPR projects and stopped supporting further BPR initiatives. What had happened? In a retrospective analysis, a number of factors can be distinguished: 1. Concept misuse: In some organizations, just about every change program or improvement project was labeled BPR, even when business processes were not the core of these projects. During the 1990s, many corporations initiated considerable reductions of their workforce (downsizing) which, since they were often packaged as process redesign projects, triggered intense resentment among operational staff and middle management against BPR. After all, it was not at all clear that operational improvement was really driving such initiatives.
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