Pleased to announce that I’ve now added a new article to the Methods section of Design for Services, on Business Process Re-engineering (BPR).
BPR has been around since the early 1990s and is still cited on many a business transformation project. Often this is in relation to the use of technology, but BPR is about a lot more than this; and indeed the originators, Michael Hammer and James Champy, warned people against such an emphasis.
The original themes and characteristics of BPR were set out by Hammer and Champy in their book “Reengineering the Corporation, A Manifesto for Business Revolution”. Today, these still form an important element in my personal approach to the design of services and service operations.
BPR and Recent Trends in Service Design
If we look at recent trends in service design, it could be concluded that, rather than moving away from the manufacturing practices of the industrial era, as argued by Hammer and Champy, the service sector has grasped them with both hands.
Overall, the trend appears to be for services to become highly standardised, scripted and proceduralised, to the point where workers have little decision making powers; and any variation in customer demand is ignored.
Many functions are centralised, but not always well integrated with the end-to-end process.
Operations are split into front and back office – the division of people, skills and systems.
Functions and processes are outsourced and sometimes off-shored – although often only to be quickly brought back again!
Troupes of performance managers are employed, with a focus on activity rather than results, using arbitrary measures and targets.
Finally, Technology is all too frequently applied to existing processes and ways of doing things, and/or applied on the basis of the latest technological trends, irrespective of its suitability.
Within the private sector, it can be argued that these trends ignore Hammer and Champy’s point that the nature of the market has changed and that such practices will simply lead to a company’s demise, as the business fails to respond adequately to customer needs, is unable to change quickly enough and simply cannot compete with more agile companies. In the public sector, the effect of these trends is somewhat different (not being subject to the same market forces), which I will return to in a future post.
There are more positive developments, very much in the spirit of BPR. There is more design thinking being applied to services, reflected not least by the number of new service design companies formed in recent years, centred on the customer and the simplification of services.
But the biggest trend has been driven by the Internet. The ability to deliver services on-line has transformed many services and has enabled services to be designed in highly creative and innovative ways, due to the inherent flexibility and agility of the technology. New services have also emerged, only made possible by the technology. And with the recent developments in mobile technology, this is now being taken to another level again.
But many services cannot be delivered on-line; and so we see a great divide opening up – great on-line (or digital) services and then back in the, rather more messy, physical world, services that are often far from great.