The economic environment surrounding organizations in
virtually every industry is undergoing change at a pace that has never been
experienced before. This is caused by several factors, including the fast
development of new technologies, the emergence of new competitors, and market
pressure for changes. New technologies enable increases in productivity,
customer satisfaction, and market reach. As capitalism spreads throughout the
world, new competitors emerge from unlikely quarters, such as firms from other
industries or countries that were not previously major competitors in world
trade. Information about features of highly competitive services and products
is quickly disseminated, driving market pressure for change (Kock, 1998).
These forces not only push suppliers to continuously redesign their business
process to keep their acquisition process effective and competitive but also
push buyers into similar patterns of change so they can take advantage of new products and forms of delivery (Davenport, 1993; Deming, 1986; Harrington, 1991).
In addition to the accelerated pressure for change, the nature of work has become more complex and specialized as new knowledge is continuously created and incorporated into the production of goods and services (Davenport et al., 1996), mirroring a larger-scale trend towards knowledge specialization and fragmentation (Hayek, 1996). Products and services are, thus, increasingly more sophisticated and knowledge intensive, requiring the involvement of a variety of experts, each holding a key piece of specialized knowledge to be produced and delivered. It has been shown that, as knowledge becomes more specialized and fragmented, the information flowing among individuals holding different types of expertise increases substantially (Kock and McQueen, 1996; 1998) and, in many cases, leads to an "information overload" (Evaristo et al., 1995; Kock, 1999).
Current business process redesigning, which focuses on work flows (or activity flows), is inconsistent with the above trends. In fact, many aspects of the current trend have been referred to as modern-day versions of older techniques. These older methods include the mechanistic methods, based on the "time-and-motion" analysis developed from the early notions of Adam Smith (1910; 1910a), and the subsequent development of scientific management methods by Taylor (1911). New process redesign methods are needed. These new methods should focus on knowledge management and information flow. While their main goal is to fill a methodological gap, these new methods can complement and potentially replace existing methods based on work flows.