Using information technology to improve performance and cut costs. Its main premise, as popularized by the book "Reengineering the Corporation" by Michael Hammer and James Champy, is to examine the goals of an organization and to redesign work and business processes from the ground up rather than simply automate existing tasks and functions.
Driven By Competition
According to the authors, reengineering is driven by open markets and competition. No longer can we enjoy the protection of our own country's borders as we could in the past. Today, in a global economy, worldwide customers are more sophisticated and demanding.
Modern industrialization was based on theories of specialization with millions of workers doing dreary, monotonous jobs. It created departments, functions and business units governed by multiple layers of management, the necessary glue to control the fragmented workplace.
In order to be successful in the future, the organization will have fewer layers of management and fewer, but more highly skilled workers who do more complex tasks. Information technology, used for the past 50 years to automate manual tasks, will be used to enable new work models. The successful organization will not be "technology driven;" rather it will be "technology enabled."
Customer Oriented and Radical Improvement
Although reengineering may wind up reducing a department of 200 employees down to 50, it is not just about eliminating jobs. Its goals are customer oriented: it is about processing a contract in 24 hours instead of two weeks or performing a telecommunications service in one day instead of 30. It is about reducing the time it takes to get a drug to market from eight years to four years or reducing the number of suppliers from 200,000 to 700.
Reengineering is about radical improvement, not incremental changes.
The primer on the subject is the best-selling book "Reengineering the Corporation" by Michael Hammer and James Champy, (HarperBusiness, 1993, ISBN 0-88730-640-3). It is "must reading" for anybody who wants a basic understanding of the subject.
"BPR Wizdom: A Practical Guide to BPR Project Management" by Dennis E. Wisnosky and Rita C. Feeney (Wizdom Systems, Inc., 1999, ISBN 1-893990-03-6). Considered extremely helpful for top managers, it includes a blueprint for reengineering from start to finish.
"The Great Transition" by James Martin is a massive tome that elaborates on seven disciplines for engineering the enterprise, (AMACOM, 1995, ISBN 0-8144-0315-8). Martin was one of the most prolific writers in the information field.