A Critique on Business Process Reengineering

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A CRITIQUE on

Reengineering Work:

Don’t Automate, Obliterate

by Michael Hammer

Harvard Business Review July-August 1990

Summary

Hammer emphasises the futility of using Information Technology to mechanise the existing processes. He believes in necessity for breaking away from the outdated rules and fundamental assumption that underlie operations to keep up with the quickly changing, growing competitiveness. To achieve this, companies should use the power of modern Information Technology to radically redesign their processes to achieve dramatic improvements. He implies that the result is uncertain but sees reengineering as the only hope for breaking away from the antiquated processes that threaten to drag many companies down.

Ford’s and Mutual Benefit Life’s successful reengineering experiences are presented in the paper to show that there are some rules of thumb for others.

The paper also covers the essence of reengineering: Reengineering aims to change the outdated rules for dramatic improvements by removing old assumptions. Quality, innovation and service are new targets rather than cost, growth, control. The paper also includes reengineering the organisational structure with the cross functional perspective. To ensure that reengineering has a cross-functional perspective, a team should be assembled. This team must find out what is fundamental to the process. Use of information technology is vital not to automate an existing process but to enable a new one.

Hammer gives some principles of reengineering: He suggests having one person to perform all steps in a process. He expresses that having different people at different steps of a process causes problems. Giving the example where departments can make their own purchases, he makes the second principle clear ‘Have those who use the output of the process perform the process’. He suggests that an organisation that produces information should also process it. Use of shared...
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