Capability architecture and microservices

The Elements of a Capability Model

The capability model could contain a lot of different elements but the basic ones are:

  • The Capability Areas which serve as a reflection of the functionality needed to run the business.
  • The Capability Groups which serve as blueprints for responsibility.
  • The Business Capabilities which serve as blueprints for business services.
  • The Resource Capabilities which serve as blueprints for microservices.

Frequently I use the capability model to project other elements on it. A very useful projection is visualizing the information ownership (entity groups, entities and sometimes even attributes) and the information responsibilities (business objects).

 

The Capability Information Model

The model below is an example showing ownership of information from a capability perspective. The model is the same as the one further down but it is focused on showing what information a capability group is the owner of.

Zooming into one of the capability groups (claim settlement management) we see that it contains information elements.

The Capability Collaboration Model

The model does not show every business object needed or created by the business capabilities, this is by choice. The  aim here is to show what a capability collaboration model looks like. The main objective on a capability collaboration model is to show the information responsibilities.

Part of an insurance company capability architecture

Whenever you start to develop a capability architecture you will soon need to verify that the boundaries are where they should be.

How to build the model

  1. Start by taking one of the business capabilities and look at what information it need that it doesn’t have in it´s own context. The business capability will need this information to do it´s work and to generate the outputs it is responsible for, as a result you get business object candidates.
  2. Assign the business object you´ve identified to the one business capability that would generate it.
  3. Draw an arrow from the providing business capability through the business object ending up on the consuming business capability.
  4. Continue with tying the string between every other business capability that you found. Follow the steps 1, 2, 3 and 4 until you´ve exhausted all identified capabilities.

Rules of thumb

If you find business objects appearing out of nowhere then it is a fair assumption that either the consuming business capability is wrongly specified or there is a providing business capability that has not been identified yet.

If there is reason for it then you should include business capabilities that belongs outside of your corporate context.

A definition of a business object

A business object is defined as a specifik set of entities representing the total amount of information needed by one business capability from one other business capability.

Business object is part of the information domain in the Inventory Model (EA framework).

When you should use this

  • Whenever you set about designing a capability model of your enterprise
  • When you are set to create a target context map for microservice architectures

What you should consider when you view this

  • This is not “the complete, nor may it be the correct” capabilities of any specific insurance company
  • Continuously refine your capabilities as you go
  • When naming capabilities think of each capability as part of a namespace
  • In the end it’s all about just doing it

Other things to consider from a capability model

The organizational perspective

  • If you work in an agile inspired environment the the capability groups gives guidance to where product managers would be responsible.
  • Teams should be set out to take responsibility for governing the business services realizing business capabilities.

The service perspective

  • The only way to access information governed by a capability group is through the business capabilities inside.
  • Each capability group is the sole provider of it´s business objects.

The realization perspective

Realizing a capability architecture can be done in many ways.

  • The monolith pattern would use the capability areas as system boundaries and capability groups would then be represented by subsystems.
  • The service pattern would use the capability areas as knowledge boundaries and capability groups as information boundaries. Business capabilities would be used to orchestrate access to sets of microservices (resource capabilities).

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Related

Download note:

I’m currently in a process of changing my presentation design (the images shows what the new design looks like) for all my work. When I’ve stabilized the design and applied it across all canvases and related material I’ll link up the powerpoint to Slideshare.

Post change log
2015-06-30: Published initial post

The Capability Inventory

This model is part of my toolbox for working with capability architectures.

The Capability Inventory

I know that there is certain ways of naming a capability and also that there are other principles that people and I promote that you should adhere to when designing your capability map. Here I’ve taken some liberties in regards to those principles to make it easier to relate to the possible content in the boxes. This inventory is basically what I refer to as “functions as capabilities“, now there is certainly a way of mapping proper capabilities into this inventory.

The Capability Inventory Details 

Detailing production
Details of production capability

Philip asked about the production capabilities so I’ve detailed some parts of production (above) to show where they could be situated. The detailed inventory map also shows how one can reuse the original layout to keep things in view.

Details of the sales capability
Details of the sales capability

 

Details of the marketing capability
Details of the marketing capability

 

I have some more of these laying around in different formats and states of publicity. When I find the time I’ll update this post with more of these.

Download note: I’m currently in a process of changing my presentation design (the images shows what the new design looks like) for all my work. When I’ve stabilized the design and applied it across all canvases and related material I’ll link up the powerpoint to Slideshare.

When you should use this

  • Whenever you set about designing a capability model of your enterprise
  • When you need to understand what types of capabilities an enterprise can have
  • When you are set to create a target context map for microservice architectures

What you should consider when you use this

  • This is not “the complete, nor the correct” inventory of capabilities
  • There is no known right way of designing or describing a capability of an enterprise
  • There is techniques like reversing the names of processes and then consolidating them that could give you a fair hint of what capabilities you have in your enterprise
  • Look at other peoples capability inventories and take inspiration from those
  • The “best” capability inventory is the one you get enough people to use in their work
  • Develop the capabilities and the capability inventory in as wide spread community as possible
  • Continuously refine your capability inventory as you go
  • When naming capabilities think of each capability as part of a namespace
  • In the end it’s all about just doing it

License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Related

Post change log
2015-06-15: Published initial post
2015-06-20: Added the detailing view of production
2015-06-22: Added the detailing view of sales
2015-06-23: Added the detailing view of human management
2015-06-23: Updated the basic inventory of capabilities to reflect the sales capabilities directly
2015-06-24: Added the detailing view of marketing

The Inventory Model

This model is part of my toolbox for working with business architectures.

The Inventory Model

THE ENTERPRISE INVENTORY

 

The important thing to remember is to be agile minded in use of tools like this. So, when I say extendable I mean that this is definitely not all things that could or should be in the inventory. Reconfigure it in the X, Y or Z axis as you see fit for purpose and make sure to deliver something of value.

Note: I’m currently in a process of changing my presentation design (the image shows what the new design looks like) for all my work. When I’ve stabilized the design and applied it across all canvases and related material I’ll link up the powerpoint to Slideshare.

When you should use this

  • Whenever you set about depicting the greater enterprise

License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Post change log
2015-05-19: Published initial post

The Strategy Model

This model is part of my toolbox for working with strategic architectures.

The Strategy Model

The Strategy Model

 

Note: I’m currently in a process of changing my presentation design (the image shows what the new design looks like) for all my work. When I’ve stabilized the design and applied it across all canvases and related material I’ll link up the powerpoint to Slideshare.

When you should use this

  • Whenever you set about understanding the greater enterprise

License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Post change log
2015-05-12: Published initial post

The Scenario Canvas

This little canvas is part of my toolbox for detailing and documenting scenarios.

The Scenario Canvas

The Scenario Canvas

 

Note: I’m currently in a process of changing my presentation design (the image shows what the new design looks like) for all my work. When I’ve stabilized the design and applied it across all canvases and related material I’ll link up the powerpoint to Slideshare.

When you should use this

  • When designing target architectures I tend to use scenarios in conjunction with capabilities to help navigate the uncertainties of the future. (How this is done will be covered in a later post)
  • In the HBR article Living in the futures, Angela Wilkinson and Roger Kupers highlight how Shell has used scenarios.
  • In the McKinsey article The use and abuse of scenarios, Charles Roxburgh highlights some great insights into when and how to work with scenarios.
  • In the Forbes article Scenario planning and strategic forecasting, Jan Ogilwy presents a way of doing scenarios and also an interesting graph on what tools people use to peak into the future.

License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Post change log
2015-04-26: Published initial post

On business capabilities, functions and application features

Working with architecture as a way of designing and cataloging the relationships between business and IT has always been a challenge. I recently attended an IASA meeting where we discussed the challenges of designing and maintaining a business architecture. At the meeting I talked about capabilities, what I think they are and how to actually go about identifying the key set of capabilities in a business. I also talked about my view of how these capabilities relate to other elements of an architecture. My view is as I’ve understood a bit different from the common view amongst architects. I promised the participants that I’d release some of my writings on this topic, so here is a preview of the work I’m doing right now.

One Simple Way

The basic assumption I work from is that one should try not to confuse functions (functionalities of a business) with capabilities. If one take a good look at the way I prefer to design the connection between information systems and the business one would see that there are no “functions as capabilities” in that architecture.

Functions are a really good way of structuring one view of the architecture but it is not the same as my view of capabilities. Functions are easy to break down in an hierarchical architecture that can serve as excellent requirements of an IT-architecture, if you pare it with a service architecture it’s even better. The best way of doing this functional break down that I’ve seen so far is by Cutter Consortium and it’s documented in the article “The Business Capability Map: The “Rosetta Stone” of Business/IT Alignment“. The functional maps can easily be created for a whole business, a segment or some other subset. One really good thing with them is that if you have excellent architects and knowledgeable subject matter experts then you can start in any corner of the white space and flesh out the map as the projects comes along. I’ve done a lot of these types of maps for various businesses and in my mind they are essentially functional maps and not capability maps. Rest assured that the maps alla Cutter Consortium are effective and brings with them great value, however I believe there is an even greater value to be gained from creating another type of capability maps.

The capability map I describe is on the other hand not used on anything but the business as a whole, and they don’t break down hierarchically.

This definition of business capabilities

I’m in the process of creating my complete writings on this topic so here is a draft of a sample capability map. Each one of these capabilities I would detail using The Capability Canvas.

Sample business capabilities

 

When you should use this

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You can download the slides from slideshare here.

Change log
2015-06

Added the initial post and three images of the slide package from the up and coming courseware.

2015-09

Moved the article from a page format to a post format.

Rewrote some text and also rearranged some of the text.

The Capability Canvas

Designing businesses is not a trivial activity. Having a simple structure that one can use to design and / or understand a capability makes designing business architecture so much easier.

The Capability Canvas

The Capability Canvas 2015-02. Click image to view powerpoint presentation on Slideshare
The Capability Canvas 2015-02. Click image to view powerpoint presentation on Slideshare

When you should use this

License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Change log
2015-02

I’ve cleaned up the descriptions of the elements to make it easier to work with.

  • PROCESS – Renamed “using” to “associated with ”.
  • SERVICE – Renamed “enabled” to “associated with ”.
  • INFORMATION – Renamed “produced, consumed and manipulated by” to “associated with ”.
  • TECHNOLOGY – Renamed “supporting” to “associated with ”
  • ORGANISATION – Changed spelling to US format.
  • VALUE – Renamed “attributed to” to “associated with ”
  • INVESTMENT – Renamed “we have done, do or plan to do on” to “associated with ”

The Brand Canvas

Designing and understanding brands and how the behave as figments of their own is hard enough. Having a simple structure that one can use to design and / or understand a brand makes designing businesses so much easier.

The Brand Canvas

The Brand Canvas 2015  – Click image to view powerpoint presentation on Slideshare
The Brand Canvas 2015 – Click image to view powerpoint presentation on Slideshare
When you should use this

  • In the HBR article 7 Steps to Deliver Better Customer Experiences Denise Lee Yohn gives excellent advise on designing for and from a customer perspective. The Brand Canvas and The Customer Journey are tools that will help you work through the 7 steps Denise is writing about.
  • In this article from IDEO about Brand Architecture you can understand how to consolidate and connect brands. The brand canvas can be used as a tool in the design of the architecture.

License
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The Change Canvas

As a teaser for the new year I thought I’d release The Change Canvas (TCC). Much more to come on this and related topics during 2015.

The Change Canvas

The Change Canvas 2015
The Change Canvas 2015 – Click image to view powerpoint presentation on Slideshare

License
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