The Implications of Information Technology Infrastructure for Business Process Redesign

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Business process redesign (BPR) is a pervasive but challenging tool for transforming organizations. Information technology plays an important role by either enabling or constraining successful BPR. This paper explores the links between firm-wide IT infrastructure and business process change. IT infrastructure is the base foundation of the IT portfolio, which is shared throughout the firm in the form of reliable services, and is usually coordinated by the IS group. IT infrastructure capability includes both the technical and managerial expertise required to provide reliable physical services and extensive electronic connectivity within and outside the firm. Exploratory case analysis of four firms (two in retail and two in petroleum) was used to understand the ways IT infrastructure contributes to success in implementing BPR. The finding was that all firms needed a basic level of IT infrastructure capability to implement BPR. The firms that had developed a higher level of IT infrastructure capabilities, before or concurrent with undertaking business process redesign, were able to implement extensive changes to their business processes over relatively short time frames. The higher level of infrastructure capability was provided in the form of (1) a set of infrastructure services that spanned organizational boundaries such as those between functions, business units, or firms, and (2) the ability of the infrastructure to reach particular constituencies inside and outside the firm to transfer information and process complex transactions. The more extensive business process changes were more innovative and radical, crossing business and functional unit boundaries, and resulted in more significant business impact. The practical implication of the study is that before embarking on any form of BPR, managers should complete a business audit of their IT infrastructure capabilities, as these capabilities have an important impact on the speed and nature of business process change.
Additional Details
Author Marianne Broadbent, Peter Weill, and Don St.Clair
Year 1999
Volume 23
Issue 2
Keywords IT infrastructure, IT services, business process redesign and reengineering, business strategy, IT alignment, exploratory case analysis
Page Numbers 159-182
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