IT-enabled organizational transformation: a case
study of BPR failure at TELECO
, Allen S. Lee
School of Accounting, Information Systems and Business Law, College of Business and Economics,
Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164, USA
Department of Information Systems, School of Business, Virginia Commonwealth University, P.O. Box 844000,
1015 Floyd Avenue, Richmond, VA 23284-4000, USA
Received March 1998; revised paper accepted for publication by Professor Ramon O’Callaghan March 1999
This case study describes a business process reengineering (BPR) initiative undertaken by a US
telecommunications company (TELECO) in response to imminent survival-threatening competitive
pressures in its traditionally monopolistic market. The case study, ﬁrst, highlights some of the
seldom talked-about problems faced during the redesigning of business processes such as: the
lack of detailed knowledge about functional areas; hidden agendas of top management; lack of
knowledge of (and over-reliance on) computer-based BPR tools; poor choice of metaphors in the
organizational language; and the lack of communication. Thereafter, the case study identiﬁes critical
problems faced in implementing redesigned processes. These problems include: the difﬁculty in
creating an atmosphere of open communication; pressures against selecting IT vendors on merit;
lack of awareness of the lead times associated with IT; uncoordinated implementation of HR and IT
strategies; and discontinuities in the leadership. While we hope that the reader will be sensitized to
the issues highlighted in the narrative and will individually derive lessons for application in familiar
contexts, we nevertheless provide a discussion on three issues that, in our opinion, signiﬁcantly
contributed to BPR “failure” at TELECO. ᭧ 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Business process reengineering; Information technology; Management of information systems;
Organizational transformation; Failure; Case study
Journal of Strategic Information Systems 8 (1999) 83–103
0963/8687/99/$ - see front matter ᭧ 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
The name of the telecommunications company and some minor details have been changed to disguise the
identity of the organization and the informants. The contents of the case are however very real, and the case
narrative has been developed based on extensive ﬁeld notes and interview transcripts.
* Corresponding author. Tel.: ϩ1-509-335-5724; fax: ϩ1-509-335-4275.
E-mail addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org (S. Sarker), email@example.com (A.S. Lee)
Tel.: ϩ1-804-827-0366; fax: ϩ1-804-828-3199.