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The Discovery Phase: Envision New Processes


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"Discovery" is the first phase of the business process reengineering (BPR) cycle. It refers to envisioning or discovering of new, more improved processes. The phase substantiates the idea of using process analysis as the key tool for identifying improvement opportunities and determining enabling technologies. Envisioning new processes means performing a series of activities to foresee what present processes can be improved and what technological solutions (equipment, systems, machinery, software) are required for reaching improvements.

The first phase of the BPR cycle carries out the following main activities:

  • Obtain authorization
  • Identify reengineering opportunities
  • Determine enabling technologies

The key of BPR methodology is that every process can be presented as a series of simple tasks linked to each other. Following this idea, it is convenient to divide the main activities of the phase into tasks. Furthermore, the whole phase can be regarded as a project consisting of tasks. Then you can launch a BPR project to radically rethink and rebuild the business process environment of your company.

VIP Task Manager can be used as a tool to plan, manage and do tasks of your project. You can use this software to create to-do lists, checklists and templates. Let’s find out how to plan the key activities of the Discovery phase and what tasks can be created to do these activities.

Obtain Authorization
The first activity means that in order to start planning for successful process reengineering, there is a need to obtain authorization from senior management. Therefore, when you decide to start a process reengineering project, first you need to get management support and ensure that you have all necessary permits for project launch.

Most likely, the seniors of your organization are interested in improvements and changes that your project can deliver to the existing process environment. But you can’t initiate and do the project without permissions. That’s why you need to step through a formal procedure of authorization to obtain senior management backing. Below you can see three questions to be addressed by the procedure:

  • Why do we want to make changes? (reasons)
  • Which managers do we need to get support from? (authority)
  • Why should those managers support the project? (benefits)

So these questions are about reasons for initiating your project, authority level sufficient for project ratification, and benefits expected by the managers upon successful project completion. Prior to requesting for project authorization, you must answer these questions. Your answers should be formulated in a clear and unambiguous manner. When you’re ready, you need to create an authorization request form and then submit this document to senior management.

The management team of your organization receives the document, reviews your project and makes a decision on approving or rejecting. If the project was rejected, then perhaps you weren’t persuasive enough. You can try to redesign the content of the document and submit it for reconsideration.

Identify Reengineering Opportunities
When the project is authorized for initiation, you can proceed with performing the next activity: identify opportunities for process reengineering. This activity requires you to create classification of processes being performed within your company. Classifying the processes means dividing them by strategic objectives they are supposed to be achieved. For example, the sales process is intended for reaching leadership in sales; the manufacturing process is meant to produce certain goods; the customer service process is aimed to maintain customer satisfaction at an appropriate level. You need to examine all possible processes and classify them by strategic objectives.

The process classification will help you review all present processes and focus on those having some problems, for example deferred performance and lack of resources. For this purpose you need to create a set of evaluation metrics to investigate and measure every process classified. Below you can see four examples of process evaluation metrics:

  • Sustainability: it shows whether a process promotes continuation within available resources and existing environment.
  • Capacity: it determines a process’s ability to be implemented under a unique combination of tools, materials, techniques, and people involved in the implementation.
  • Performance: it shows how a process uses available resources to produce desired results and accomplish preset objectives.
  • Effectiveness: it explains whether a process does right things in the right way.

There can be other metrics. The number and type of metrics depends on how deeply you want to investigate your business processes.

By using all your metrics you can evaluate current processes and determine those having a potential for modernization and upgrading. For example, if the sales process shows deferred performance or ineffectiveness, there may be a potential for improvement. Another example: if the manufacturing process is less capable of producing an expected amount of products, then perhaps you can identify some opportunities for improving this process through increasing its capability.

You must evaluate every process and identify what improvement or reengineering opportunities can be applied. When this activity is done, you can design a matrix of reengineering opportunities showing processes by names, their potentials, and possible ways of improvement.

Determine Enabling Technologies
After you have identified reengineering opportunities for your business processes, your next step is to figure out what technologies are necessary to enable those opportunities for realization. It actually means you need to find out what systems, equipment, tools and methodologies (alone or in combination with each other) provide the means to generate the opportunities and apply them to desired processes.

For instance, joint use of telecommunication technologies, Internet, groupware and computers allows you to improve the customer service process through providing the support team with capabilities that help communicate with customers online, receive and handle customer requests immediately, reply to complaints in real time, and so on.

Here’re some tips that can help you identify enabling technologies for your reengineering project:

  • Use the matrix of opportunities as the primary condition for determining technologies.
  • Figure out what systems and software are required to enable reengineering opportunities (e.g. you want to improve the sales process, and thereby communication, client accounting, and billing will be key criteria for choosing necessary systems/software).
  • Evaluate existing technologies and find out if they are sufficient to your project.
  • Brainstorm engineers ad technicians to get more ideas.
  • Identify ways for acquiring enabling technologies.
  • Calculate an amount of funds required to make the deal.

When you have identified enabling technologies and ways for utilizing them, next you need to make sure that these technologies and reengineering opportunities can be used in conformance with the corporate strategy of your organization. It means that every technology or opportunity should not constitute a danger or risk to the company’s business environment and workers. For this purpose you can use corporate policies, technical standards and other documentation specifying process and technological requirements.

Using VIP Task Manager
Below we present a checklist of tasks referring to the key activities of the Discovery phase. You can use VIP Task Manager to create such a checklist as well as add new tasks and groups. The software allows you to plan and manage your BPR project.

Envision New Processes:

  • Obtain Authorization
    • Identify reasons and benefits of process improvements
    • Make a plan for you BPR project
    • Determine authority level required for approving the project
    • Create an authorization request form
    • Submit the form to senior management
    • Receive approval/rejection
  • Identify Reengineering Opportunities
    • Analyze current process environment
    • Separate processes from each other
    • Determine strategic objectives of every process
    • Classify processes by strategic objectives
    • Design process evaluation criteria
    • Compare processes with each other
    • Determine processes having a potential for improvement
    • Identify improvement opportunities for the processes
    • Create a matrix of improvement opportunities
  • Determine Enabling Technologies
    • Identify systems and software required to enable reengineering opportunities
    • Find out if existing technologies are sufficient to your project
    • Request engineers and technicians for technical support and advice
    • Allocate budget for acquiring and utilizing enabling technologies
    • Make sure enabling technologies and improvement opportunities comply with corporate requirements.

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