Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) has been touted in literature as a dramatic improvement necessary for organization competitiveness, but in practice, there are many unsuccessful cases. Thus, the need for a more systematic and rigorous assessment of the factors deemed important to project success. The main objective of this paper was to examine this issue.
Success was defined as the benefits that organizations derive from the BPR project, according to top managers’ opinions. A sample of 90 top managers who had participated in BPR projects in Kenya in the last five years was considered. They shared their organizations’ experience with their last BPR project implementation.

In general the findings indicated that BPR projects implemented in Kenya are not emphasizing some of the most important activities and tasks recommended in BPR literature, such as changes to customer and market-related business processes, the value-added element of every business activity and applying the right innovative technology.

Background

Most organization processes are simple and efficient when initially designed. Nevertheless, with passage of time, addition of sub-processes to handle exceptions, changes in the business environment and increase in customer expectations and demands, the same processes become more complex and inefficient.  Solution design to such complex, inefficient and costly business processes has brought about Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) into the subject of academic research. BPR has been sold as the new silver bullet to address whatever ailed business organizations since the early nineties and the years forward (Caccia, Guimaraes and Guimaraes, 2005). The need for BPR arose with increasing power of customers, competitors and today’s constantly changing business environment. These have forced many organizations to recognize the need to move away from focusing on individual tasks and functions to focusing on more communicated, integrated and co-coordinated ways of work by looking at operations in terms of business processes (Davenport, 1993a; Parker, 1993; Hammer and Champy, 1993; Linden, 1993).

While the promises from BPR implementation have been impressive, the encountered problems have also been numerous. Few organizations reaped the benefits they expected from BPR (Cummings, 1993). Approximately one quarter of 300 BPR projects in North America failed and the authors speculated industry wide figure at closely 70 percent (Cafasso, 1993a, b; Hammer and Champy, 1993). Specifically, many managers said that the actual BPR project benefits fell short of expectations along the dimensions of customer service, process timeliness, quality, cost reduction, competitiveness, improved technology and revenues (Hayley et al., 1993). With more accumulated experience, however, there is growing realization that Information Technology is a critical BPR enabler, but implementing BPR involves complex socio-technical change in an organization (Davenport and Stoddard, 1994; DeLone, and McLean, 1992; Grover, Jeong, Kettinger, and Teng, Fall, 1995). Reengineering is becoming an increasingly popular option for corporations seeking radical process change. Central to the success of reengineering is the coordination of information technology (IT) through the organization.

Essentially, IT represents the core mechanism of information flow. When companies improve core IT processes, such as gathering data only once, integrating cross-functional systems or increasing information speed to customers, radical business process change is possible. However, for IT to be an enabler of re-engineering or organizational change, it is imperative that managers are conversant with the various methods by which IT can help advance process change. At the same time, management needs to be aware of the numerous pitfalls that may doom any change effort using IT (Peng S. Chan and Carl Land 1999). The most frequent and harsh critique against BPR concerns the strict focus on efficiency and technology and the disregard of people in the organization that is subjected to a re-engineering initiative.

Objective of the study
1)    To establish the most important determinants of BPR project success in Kenya;
2)    To determine the extent to which the BPR project benefits have been derived in Kenya;
3)    To test the relationships between BPR success factors and BPR project benefits; and
4)    To determine BPR implementation challenges in Kenya
 
Importance of the study

1) The study will incisively inform the management of companies intending to undertake BPR projects in the future for successful BPR project implementations.
2)Others for which the outcome of the research would be of interest are the companies that have implemented BPR projects in Kenya like Kenya Power and Lighting company (KPLC) and Bidco among others. The results will point to the factors that the companies did not accord due consideration and thus inform organizational learning and reference in future BPR projects.
3)The results of the study will also act as the reference for BPR practitioners and consultants in their day-to-day work as they advice businesses on BPR projects. 
4)To the academicians and researchers in organizational management, the results are likely to spur into great heights, the next line of scholarly works as a basis for further research.

The Concept of BPR

Varieties of terms have been used to describe BPR. These include core process redesign (Heygate, 1993; Rigby, 1993; Kaplan and Murdock, 1991), process innovation (Davenport, 1993a), business process redesign (Davenport and Short, 1990), organizational re-engineering (Lowenthal, 1994), breakpoint business process redesign (Johansson et al., 1993), and business restructuring (Talwar, 1993). Besides these, several authors have defined BPR in different ways with different emphases. Hammer and Champy (1993) defined BPR as the fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in critical, contemporary measures of performance, such as cost, quality, service and speed.

Alter (1990) defined it as a methodical process that uses information technology to radically overhaul business process and thereby attain major business goals while Teng. Et al (1994) theorized it as the critical analysis and radical redesign of existing business processes to achieve breakthrough improvements in performance measures. Despite variations in definitions of BPR, what seems to be the emphasis is on redesigning of business processes using a radical IT-enabled approach to organizational change to achieve substantial benefits. The quest behind BPR is to radically enhance organizations’ chances to differentiate themselves and satisfy customers’ demands, while maintaining competitive cost structures and flexibility in the market place. This is done by redesigning business processes.

Davenport and Short (1990) define a business process as “a set of logically-related tasks performed to achieve a defined business outcome”. A business process has structure, inputs, outputs, customers (internal and external) and owners (Davenport and Short, 1990; Hinterhuber, 1995), and is built up by integrating fragmented functions that contribute to its operations and internal and external flows (Hammer, 1990). As business processes are the manner in which work gets done within an organisation, they are a distinguishing characteristic among organizations (Venkatraman, 1994), and thus a significant factor leading to competitive edge (Hinterhuber, 1995).

BPR results in a number of benefits including upgrading processes; significant reductions in costs, errors, and times; increased customer satisfaction; and better overall organizational efficiency and effectiveness (Bergeron and Falardeau 1994; Bhatt and Stump, 2001; Eckerson 1991; Ramani, Yap, and Pavri 1995; Smith and McKeen 1992; Wilder 1991). Other benefits include increased productivity (Eckerson 1991; Smith and McKeen 1992; Wilder 1991); a higher quality of goods and services offered (Barton 1993; Keen 1991; Rivera 1992); and a simplified organizational structure (Davenport and Beers 1995; Stanton, Hammer, and Power 1993).

Since the discovery of BPR, many approaches, methods, and techniques have been proposed and implemented and these constitute the foundations of BPR as it is currently known. Davenport (1993) notes six areas which influenced the emergence of BPR: the total quality approach, industrial engineering, the systems approach, the socio-technical approach, the diffusion of innovations, and the use of information systems for competitive advantage. The recent interest in BPR closely follows the “productivity paradox” observed by Roach (1987) concerning information technology. Productivity paradox arises from the fact that despite massive investments in these technologies between the middle of the 1970s and the early 1990s, neither researchers nor practitioners had yet been able to clearly demonstrate that major productivity gains had been made. The concept of BPR was thus seen as a way to change this situation. In this respect, BPR would be expected to succeed where other approaches had failed in making IT investments profitable. Davenport and Short (1990) research project found out that the implementation of modern information technology in organizations means not only automation of managerial and production tasks but that it also has a direct effect on the quality of the work done.

Research results

In view of the results, implementation of BPR projects in Kenya going forward should focus attention and resources on factors important to BPR project success. It thus behooves top management of companies not to engage in BPR before ensuring the presence of the success factors found to be important in this research.

From the foregoing, it can be recommended that BPR project managers pay special attention to factors related to project functionality. It is important that the project team is focused on accomplishing BPR project results not worrying about the politics within the BPR project team or within the particular department which the individual team members are representing. Further, the team should have representatives from all the departments related to the process being reengineered, and these representatives must be taught to communicate freely, receive and provide feedback on work progress and what is working (or not) according to the project work plans. BPR project members should also be made aware that accountability for accomplishing their tasks and goals is an important ingredient for ultimate team success.

Equally significant in deriving BPR success is the BPR process implementation- what the BPR project team must do in order to effectively and efficiently perform and deliver their duties. These groups of prescribed factors are strongly correlated with the extent to which BPR projects are derived, therefore the project team should:
?    Clearly define the  roles of, tasks and expectations for the project team members and the project team as a whole;
?    Perform a thorough process analysis to identify and eliminate non-value-added activities as integral part of the process design effort;
?    Have regularly scheduled meetings between project managers and team members, and for larger projects, meetings between managers and each level of project organization structure;
?    Develop a detailed plan covering specific requirements such as personnel, tools, software, procedures, schedules, maintenance, system user interfaces, quality before the project implementation phase starts;
?    Keep in mind that technology alone is never to be accepted as a solution but as an   enabler for new and redesigned business processes.

The other three sets of factors studied (process expertise, technical support and project leadership and motivation) were not as strongly correlated with the extent to which organizations derived BPR benefits. A prima-facie interpretation of the finding is that these factors are not as important as team cross-functionality and how BPR project team works. However, a more likely explanation may be that the standard deviations for two of these factors (process expertise and project leadership/ motivation) are relatively low, indicating that most organizations performed along these factors “to a moderate extent” or higher.

In that case, the reason for lower benefits from BPR must be explained by something else, such as how team cross-functionality and how the BPR team worked. Nevertheless, it is important that organization top leadership continue to strive to improve their BPR team performance in terms of proper expertise; not attempting to reengineer large collection of processes all at once. They should work in close cooperation with IT department in general, and particularly with BPR project IT requirements planners; provide top down leadership and commitment to continuous improvement for organization business processes, and select BPR projects that have strategic importance.

Conclusion

The scope of the study was limited to the responses of managers of companies that have implemented BPR projects in the country for the last five years. Future research could expand this scope to include vendors, consultants and end users of BPR. Further, new BPR success factors may emerge in the future due to changes in regulations, managerial policy and new technologies. Researchers must continue with their efforts to identify such success factors and empirically test their importance in practice. In addition, there is need to for longitudinal studies to establish clearly the cause and effect relationships between the main variables in this study. Further, multivariate statistical analysis should be conducted to identify variables, which may have mediating and/ or moderating effects in the relationship between the determinants of BPR success studied and the actual BPR benefits.

Overall, despite these limitations, this research study makes significant contribution to empirically testing the factors determining organization BPR implementation success in Kenya
Figure 1: Sectors where BPR has been implemented 

Professional qualifications of respondents
Variable    Measurement scale    Frequency     Percentage
Profession     Engineering                22         34.9

Computer science                         19         30.2
 Accountancy                               9          14.3
  Law                                          7          11.1
  Economics                                 4           6.3
 Management/ business                 2           3.2
    Total                                      63          100
Source: Survey Data (2009)

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