Dustin Wheeler

Dustin Wheeler
Dustin is a technology-driven CPA in Orem, Utah.

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Business Process Obliteration

Even though more than two decades have passed since it was written, the principles in the article “Reengineering Work: Don’t Automate, Obliterate” by Michael Hammer are still relevant to business process reengineering today.  It was published in the July-August 1990 edition of the Harvard Business Review.  Like my last post about the article “IT Doesn’t Matter”, this is required reading in my MBA class at UNLV and I found it worth sharing (and I’ve found blogging to be an effective way of learning the material, so thanks for studying with me).

Accountants seem to have the reputation of sticking with the status quo and doing everything the same as last year, so there is a lot that I (and you, if you are an accountant) can take away from this article.  Hammer explains that many companies apply new technology to “automate” old business processes, but in many cases, those processes should be reengineered or completely “obliterated.”

Hammer promotes the idea of discontinuous thinking – meaning that managers should challenge old rules and eliminate inefficient and obsolete processes.  An interesting example that Hammer provides is Ford Motor Company’s implementation of an invoiceless processing system in the 1980s to eliminate paper matching and payment authorization procedures in its accounts payable department.  This radical change resulted in big savings and efficiency improvements.

Fast forward twenty years.  With today’s technologies, including mobile devices and cloud computing, there are more opportunities than ever before for reengineering.  I hope to be able to break the accountant stereotype by thinking outside the box and seeking out innovative ways to use technology.  One of these days, my conversation when I return home will go like this:

“Hi honey, I’m home!”

“How was your day?”

“It was great.  I obliterated a few old processes today.  How was yours?”

4 comments to Business Process Obliteration

  • Nice post, Dustin. This mindset and practice is so crucial when companies address moving their business and processes to the cloud. I find one of the greatest challenges when moving a company from desktop software to online software is that companies bring with it all of the “desktop” business processes. Obliteration has to happen.

  • I completely agree, Kara. When a company makes a change as big as moving software and data to the cloud, it is a perfect time to examine, change and obliterate processes.

  • Obliterate…what a word! “Yes, we’re simplifying our operations through obliteration…”

    Good food for thought, Dustin — thanks!

  • I think you’re going to start an obliteration revolution! I love this idea – Don’t Automate, Obliterate. So often companies think they are becoming so efficient by automating their old processes. While in reality new technology should allow these businesses to think outside of the box and obliterate these wasteful procedures. Thanks for the great post Dustin!

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