Business Process Reengineering (BPR) has traditionally operated on the principle that business needs should drive technology decisions, with technology acting as a tool to execute and enhance established processes. However, the proliferation of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications, enterprise platforms, and cloud infrastructure has ushered in a significant shift. We are witnessing a new era of technology-driven business process reengineering, where technology advancements are reshaping business processes.
A New Era of Technology-Driven Business Process Reengineering
The crux of this shift lies in the transformational potential of new technology. SaaS, enterprise platforms, and cloud infrastructure offer capabilities that were early in their lifecycle and not well adopted just a few years ago. Today they are not only streamlining and automating existing processes but also enabling entirely new ways of working, communicating, and delivering value. In this sense, technology is not merely serving the process but leading and redefining it.
Business Process Reengineering and The SaaS Impact
With their subscription model, SaaS applications are changing how businesses interact with software. They come with predefined best practices and workflows, influencing how organizations shape their processes. These applications can be easily customized to suit individual businesses’ needs, and they continuously evolve, driving organizations to regularly reassess and adapt their processes. SaaS applications also come with predefined data models, which (upon adoption) become inherently part of your company’s architecture metamodel.
Enterprise Platforms and Their Influence
Enterprise platforms like Salesforce, Workday, Service Now, or SAP offer a suite of integrated applications that allow businesses to connect various functions such as sales, marketing, HR, and finance. While they may not provide truly “best in class” features for all of the capabilities the platform supports, the integration and automation capabilities of these platforms provide a “partially baked solution” that is more easily configured and used, thus discouraging companies from assembling solutions from multiple vendors. In short, they encourage rethinking and redesigning away from traditional siloed and manual processes towards out-of-the-box processes enabled by the platform. Enterprise Platforms make it easier to develop streamlined, end-to-end processes that enhance efficiency, transparency, and collaboration.
Cloud Infrastructure and Its Power
Cloud infrastructure has revolutionized the scalability, accessibility, and security of IT systems. It has enabled an unprecedented level of connectivity and data sharing, giving rise to processes that are more collaborative, data-driven, and customer-focused. With the ability to quickly spin up resources, it also promotes an iterative, experimental approach to process design, allowing businesses to try new process models and quickly scale them if they prove effective. In traditional business process engineering, the acquisition cost, implementation time and capital depreciation of physical infrastructure provided a powerful force encouraging business processes to stay stable and constant (the opposite of agility). Cloud infrastructure enables process evolution, scalability and adoption of new technologies to take place almost uninhibited within modern organizations.
Business Process Reengineering and Implications for Business Leaders
While the shift towards technology-driven business process reengineering holds tremendous potential for organizations to adopt new technology rapidly, it also presents challenges and the potential for continuous business process churn. Business leaders must consider effectively leveraging these technologies to deliver value while managing associated risks and disruptions to ongoing operations.
- Strategic Alignment: Technology is becoming a process reengineering driver, but it should still align with the overall business strategy. Leaders should ensure that technology investments and process changes support strategic objectives and create business value. There is still an operational cost to making changes, whether process- or technology-led.
- Change Management: Technology-driven BPR often results in significant changes in roles, skills, culture, and working methods. Leaders should proactively manage these changes, providing additional training, communication, and support to help employees adapt. Resistance to change is especially problematic in reengineering efforts driven by technology organizations without adequate consultation with business teams and individuals whose job roles are changing.
- Governance and Control: As businesses become more reliant on external technology providers, they must maintain strong governance and control. This includes managing data privacy and security, ensuring service level agreements are met, and monitoring the performance and risks of technology providers. Developing a strong set of policies, processes and controls that are applied consistently across the technology partner ecosystem is essential.
- Customer-Centricity: Technology should enhance, not detract from, the customer experience. Businesses should design processes that leverage technology to deliver seamless, personalized, and engaging customer experiences. It is very easy for business process reengineering efforts (whether process or technology led) to focus on operational efficiencies and neglect to consider the impact on customer experience adequately. Be sure you don’t inadvertently outsource your business operations to your customers under the disguise of “self-service.”
The arrival of SaaS applications, enterprise platforms, and cloud infrastructure has turned the tables, with technology now driving business process reengineering. This shift offers exciting opportunities for businesses to reimagine and reinvent their processes. However, it requires a thoughtful approach to ensure that technology drives business value, positive change is effectively managed, governance and control are maintained, and customer-centricity is prioritized.