Information Technology and Business Process Reengineering

In 1990, Michael Hammer published an article in the Harvard Business Review, in which he claimed that the major challenge for managers is to obliterate non-value adding work, rather than using technology for automating it (Hammer 1990). The article was perhaps the first attempt to draw the attention of the scholarly community to the problem of information technology (IT) role in BPR. Hammer implicitly accused the management of contemporary businesses of the wrong application of IT which has been used mostly for automating existing practices than rather than revising the obsolete non-value adding ones.
Hammer (1990) claims that the potential of IT makes it the most essential enabler of BPR in the modern environment, but in order to fulfill the enabling function it must be used as a tool to challenge the traditional conceptions of the business processes that had emerged in the past before the advent and expansion the computer and communications technology. This will result in recognition and breaking away …from the outdated rules and fundamental assumptions underlying operations… These rules of work design are based on assumptions about technology, people, and organizational goals that no longer hold (p.105).
Each element of this model highlights the relationship between IT and BPR suggesting that IT is not an automating or mechanizing force but rather a tool to fundamentally redesign the business practices. A similar set of views on the role of IT in BPR efforts is also expressed in the publications of Davenport amp. Short (1990), Davenport (1993. 1995) McDonald (1993), Hammer amp. Champy (1993), and many other renowned scholars. Consequently, since the early 1990s on, the practitioners and researchers have increasingly considered IT-related factors as a critically important element of effective BPR though opinions on how exactly IT enables and enhances the reengineering process vary significantly. McDonald (1993) also argues IT can best enhance a company’s position by supporting a business-thrust strategy which must be detailed and clearly formulated by the management. The strategy should exactly define and describe the role of IT in reengineering business processes and infrastructures. The key issue is the process of integration between business strategy and IT strategy while the effectiveness of using IT in BPR depends upon the following elements: identification of information resource needs, deriving the IT infrastructure strategy from the business strategy, examining the IT infrastructure strategy against the BPR strategy, the active involvement of management in the process of IT infrastructure planning and IT managers in business planning, and by the degree of synchronization in formulating the two strategies (La Rock, 2003).