4.5 Business Process Reengineering (BPR) 

Business Process Reengineering has been defined as (Hammer and Champy, 1993:32)
"the fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in critical, contemporary measures of performance, such as cost, quality, service, and speed."
BPR is thus concerned with completely rethinking from scratch how a service is provided or a product manufactured, without being constrained by current processes or organization.

Most BPR approaches advocate development of "as-is" and "to-be" descriptions of their work processes as a part of the reengineering effort in order to understand both the current and the envisioned future processes and value chains (Enterprise, 1994b:5). These descriptions often take the form of coarse, high-level process maps. The relevance of BPR to enterprise modeling is through the development of these maps.

One main purpose of enterprise modeling in BPR is to understand the current and the future work processes (Johansson et al., 1993:209). Modeling is often at a high level of abstraction and models tend to be informal or semi-formal. Some proponents of process modeling for computer-assisted analysis (simulation) and enactment exist (e.g., Ould, 1995:7), but they seem to represent a minority. In their state-of-the-art assessment of enterprise modeling, the Enterprise project (Enterprise, 1994b:17) concludes that although there are many tools available (and implicitly languages),

"some techniques or tools which are sold under the BPR banner are little more than yesterday's CASE tools dressed up with the latest terms",
not necessarily paying sufficiently respect to particular needs in a BPR effort.

A discipline closely related to BPR is computerized organizational design (OD), as exemplified by the Virtual Design Team project (Christiansen, 1993; Jin et al., 1994). The fundamental idea is to model organizations, their capabilities and work load, run simulations using the models, and predict performance of the given organization. Based on the analysis, an appropriate organization may be designed for a given kind of work. Brataas (1996) advocates a similar approach in performance analysis of work flow. The Process Handbook project (Malone et al., 1992; Malone et al., 1997) approach organizational design using a pool of process model fragments that can be compared and combined to form a more comprehensive model of a new organization matching some given objective.

Any type of organization may be reengineered or designed, so the concept of BPR (and OD) is not tied to any specific type of work. However, a main thrust in discussion about BPR focuses on the utilization of new information technology (Davenport, 1993:13), and hence, organizations doing information intensive work is assumed to be the prime target of BPR efforts.

A feature of much BPR literature (e.g., Davenport, 1993; Johansson et al., 1993) is focus on informal or semi-formal modeling languages, like IDEF0, flow charting, etc. (in the case of OD, models have to be computational for simulation to be possible). Johansson et al. (ibid.:209ff) provide an overview of a number of techniques for process mapping and their use and appropriateness for various purposes (e.g., in work place studies focusing on time, or road map diagrams to assist in finding barriers and subgoals). The use of models is intended for human interpretation and not necessarily for computer interpretation, and hence, requirements to formality may be relaxed.