Yesterday I was accused — with some humour I may add — of being a “grumpy old man.”
Please let me explain.
My family and I decided to go into town for lunch. On the way I dropped by the bank to pay in a cheque. There are no tellers, just machines. “No problem”, I think. I have my debit card and the cheque. I join a queue and wait my turn.
When I reach the front of the queue I can’t pay-in my cheque. I need a paying-in slip! “Okay”, I say. “Where’s the paying-in slip and a pen?” I leave the queue.
A few minutes later I’ve rejoined the queue. And in another minute I’m done. My cheque has gone and I’ve the receipt with images of both cheque and paying-in slip included.
So why was I grumpy?
Quite simply, my expectations were not met. The bank promised automatic paying-in facilities that were quick and convenient. The bank failed to deliver. What’s more, I could see through the façade. Introducing new technology had not altered or improved the underlying business process.
We laughed it off and went on to have a great lunch.
Business Process Re-Engineering
New technology is not a silver bullet. In itself it rarely leads to improvements. Indeed improvement comes from an effective vision and not a new twist on an old idea. New technologies do not significantly increase productivity when businesses rely on them to speed up existing processes.
To achieve productivity breakthroughs, organisations must abandon their outdated processes and create entirely new ones. Ideally, combining new working practices with technology and significant changes in organisational structure.
This radical change is called business process re-engineering or BPR. However, it’s not about reflecting on the past. It’s about having a great vision of the future.
Successful businesses are continually looking forward, not backward.
When should business process re-engineering be used?
For radical change, continual improvement or both?
Creative Commons image courtesy Mark Hillary.