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

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Change log

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 Capabilities of the Enterprise

There seems to be as many ways of talking about capabilities as there are ways of putting a shoe together. To add to the confusion functions, processes and other concepts of enterprise architecture is widely used as capabilities. Here I refer to capabilities as the core skills that we must master as a social system (the organisational level).

Capability litmus test
To figure out if the concept we have before us could be a capability we need some way of testing the concept. The easy way of doing this is to run through the step process of

  1. A capability gets better or worse every time you use it
  2. A capability is something which by the way it is used can provide:
    • the same results in different ways in the same environment
    • different results in the same and different environments
  3. A capability can briefly be described by:
    • A name
    • A description (with emphasis on the expected value)
    • An environment (in the context we expect to find the ability)

Capability principles
A capability can in some sort of detail be described by its constituent components
A capability is an organisational skill that requires the will of a superior system to be used.

Capability concepts
The purpose is to capture the capability concepts used in the enterprise.
Constituent components
Rules and Regulations

A collection of advice received on Capability architectures

I work a lot with capabilities and in my sports interests capabilities are hold up as the single unique differentiator among people. However on the web there is not much information to be found on this simple but rather elusive concept as so far as it is related to Enterprise Architecture. So to extend my own knowledge I asked a question on

The Question
@greblhad Working on capability models any experience, info, smpls, frmwks, ref.models you like to share? #entarch, #bizarch #togaf #soa

The Answers
@tetradian gave these hints

Other sources I touched point with

@Architecture and Governance have published a series of articles on capability architectures

@Harvard Business Review had published an article

@Jonathan Shapiro had published on the subject from another angle

@IASA has published an article in its learning library

@Forrester has published at least six research reports on the subject (I do not have access so I’ve read none of them)

@wikipedia collects a bunch of stuff on capabilities most of it related to the military use of the concept.

@Canada or at least the military in Canada released their big capability work just recently.

@Microsoft Operations Framework defines a function as a specific type of capability. In the text on page 6 from “Cross Reference ITILL v3 and MOF 4.0” it says “MOF defines a process as interrelated tasks that, taken together, produce a defined, desired result. A function is an organizational capability, a combination of people, processes (activities), and technology, specialized in fulfilling a specific type of work, and responsible for specific end results. Functions use processes

@TOGAF 9 defines capability in various ways but in chapter 34 under the section “Core Metamodel Entities” a definition is made “Function describes units of business capability at all levels of granularity. The term “function” is used to describe a unit of business capability at all levels of granularity, encapsulating terms such as value chain, process area, capability, business function, etc. Any bounded unit of business function should be described as a function.”

In the end

I’ve read a lot of reports and white papers and my conclusion so far is that not one of these can tell me the difference between a business function and a business capability. I’ve still to see a definition of the concept of business capability that could convince me that they are right. I have however found one instance where they used capability based planing and capability maps that are worth studying and that is the English Civil Service. What makes them special that I separate them from the rest of the sources; well first of all its the fact that they are the only ones using real capabilities and not disguised functions. They have managed to create a small set of capabilities and have actually followed up on them which shows that their framework is functional.

In my own work I usually refer to capabilities as a broad concept that truly needs to include parts from every column of the Zachman Framework.