Sunday, September 30, 2018

2018-09-30 Sunday - Business Functions vs. Business Capabilities

My view is that a Business Capability is the higher, stable, abstract concept of what a business does (e.g. Marketing, Sales, etc.) - independent of the organization's structure, processes, people, or domains.

The Business Functions are the implementation decomposition/breakdown of the Business Capabilities into processes/activities/roles in how a Business Capability is delivered. 

A great article: Rethinking the Function of Business Functions
  • "Business units come and go, but finance, HR, IT, marketing, legal, and R&D are forever. Nonetheless, many CEOs and top executives struggle with their functional organizations, and some question whether the established functional model is still relevant. In their view, functional priorities are all too often in conflict with — or not fully supportive of — the strategic needs of the business."
  • "The challenge for the functional model today is that companies don’t need to build generic functional strengths. They need to build more specific, bespoke capabilities that are part of the inherent identity of the company, and hard for anyone else to duplicate."
  • "The most distinctive, differentiating capabilities are almost always cross-functional"

Another great article: Leveraging business capabilities for strategic planning
  • "Business capabilities are an integrated set of processes, technologies, and deep expertise that are manifested as a functional capacity to capture or deliver value to the organization. They outline “what” a business does, as opposed to “how” a business does it. They are the definition of your organizational skills, best represented in a landscape map that allows you to evaluate the full spectrum of capabilities against each other."
  • "Business capability maps are not just about technology; these tools are designed to improve an organization's holistic ability to improve a business outcome, and in many cases, it is not the technology that is the constraint, but rather a process, skill, or policy issue."
  • "...often challenging in an organization that thinks and acts in functional silos, but a capability-driven approach will bridge that gap."

Gartner is often engagd to help businesses define their Business Capabilities (L0, L1, L2 - for example) 
  • "This webinar provides practical advice for mid-market IT leaders on using business capability modeling to bring clarity and insight to their IT strategy"
  • "Business capability modeling is used to represent how enterprises deliver strategic value to customers. These models represent the future-state capabilities of the business and illustrate how current capabilities need to change to support strategic opportunities and threats"
  • "Focus on Future-State Business Capabilities First and Foremost"
  • "Build Your Business Capability Model Based on Your Business Strategy, Not Generic Reference Models or Templates"
  • "Don't Confuse a Business Capability Model With a Business Process or Other Type of Model"
  • "Label Each Capability With a "Verb-Noun" Combination to Emphasize Action"
  • "Limit Business Capabilities to Eight to 10 Capabilities at Each Level"
  • "Use Capability Labels to Convey the Value Delivered to External Stakeholders"

  • "Business capability modeling is a technique for the representation of an organization’s business anchor model, independent of the organization’s structure, processes, people or domains. "
  • "A business capability is an abstraction of a business function, answering the question what a company needs to be able to do to be successful."

  • "Capability: Aability that an organization, person, or system possesses. For example, Enterprise Architecture, marketing, customer contact, or outbound telemarketing.:"
  • "Business FunctionDelivers business capabilities closely aligned to an organization, but not necessarily explicitly governed by the organization."

  • "A business function offers functionality that may be useful for one or more business processes. It groups behavior based on, for example, required skills, resources, (application) support, etc. Typically, the business processes of an organization are defined based on the products and services that the organization offers, while the business functions are the basis for, for example, the assignment of resources to tasks and the application support."
  • "A business function is a collection of business behavior based on a chosen set of criteria (typically required business resources and/or competencies), closely aligned to an organization, but not necessarily explicitly governed by the organization."
  • "Just like a business process, a business function also describes internal behavior performed by a business role.However, while a business process groups behavior based on a sequence or flow of activities that is needed to realize a product or service, a business function typically groups behavior based on required business resources, skills, competencies, knowledge, etc."

  • "Capability management is the approach to the management of an organization, typically a business organization or firm, based on the "theory of the firm" as a collection of capabilities that may be exercised to earn revenues in the marketplace and compete with other firms in the industry. "Capability Management" seeks to manage the stock of capabilities within the firm to ensure its position in the industry and its ongoing profitability and survival."
  • "A process is how the capability is executed."
  • "Dave Ulrich makes a distinction between capabilities and competencies: individuals have [Functional] competencies while organizations have [business] capabilities."

  • "The Business Capabilities view describes the primary business functions of an enterprise and the pieces of the organization that perform those functions"

  • "Business capability is the expression or the articulation of the capacity, materials and expertise an organization needs in order to perform core functions."
  • "Capability is an attribute of a system - so it is used largely as an abstraction of a system. The capability is used in the context of assessment - capacity to realize an outcome, existing or intended, or potential - which is in stark contrast to the use of the process. With the capability view, being more abstract, no detail is provided as to the means by which the transformation occurs, nevertheless, the system has external interfaces which deal with inputs and outputs. With the process view, being more logic and detailed, the process shows the receiving processes, the distributing processes, and the transforming processes."
  • "What vs. How: Capabilities are WHAT abilities/ competencies an organization has/needs. Processes are HOW an organization does something."
  • "The business capabilities are the top layer of the business architecture. They belong to a business domain and are governed by the business principles and outcomes of the organization. The capabilities are realized by a combination of business process, people, and technology and are, therefore, at a higher level than a business process and sits in the conceptual layer."
  • "Capability represents what the organization can do."
  • "Function represents what the organization is doing with that capability."
  • "Process identifies how the organization is performing the function."
  • "Organization Unit identifies the department responsible for performing the process."
  • "Business capabilities are sometimes confused with other concepts in business process management such as business processes and business functions. Business processes describe the methods an organization employs in order to provide and leverage business capabilities. Business functions describes the roles that individuals and units within the business play in regards to meeting business objectives."
  • "While functions and roles tend to change rapidly as new employees enter the business, business capabilities remain relatively stable. High-level business capabilities include concepts such as sales and supply chain management that can be met by a number of various business processes, which in turn can incorporate a variety of business roles. Business capabilities can also be broken down into more granular levels. Supply chain management, for example, could be split into product flow, information flow, and finances flow."

Capability Attributes
  • "Each capability is unique. A capability is a fundamental element of the organization and as such is clearly different from other capabilities. A capability might be applied throughout the organization and can be applied in different ways to affect different outcomes but it is still a single capability."
  • "Capabilities are stable. Well-defined capabilities rarely change. They provide a much more stable view of organizations than do projects, processes, applications, or even strategies. Capabilities only change when there is a significant shift in the underlying business model or mission which might occur through a business transformation initiative or in conjunction with a new merger or acquisition. This stability is a major part of their appeal."
  • "Capabilities are abstracted from the organizational model. Capability models are not just a simple restatement of the enterprise’s organizational model. They are organizationally neutral which means that changes in the organizational structure don’t require a change in the capability model. In simple organizations, the capability model may indeed look similar to the corporate organizational structure; however, in more-complex organizations capabilities both common to and unique to organizational units are found."

Enterprise Architecture at Work, Fourth Edition, Springer, (2017) by Marc Lankhorst et al
5.8.2 Business Behavior Concepts, page-91
" processes of an organisation are defined based on the products and services that the organization offers, while the business functions are the basis for the assignment of resources to tasks and for the application support."

A few additional definitions from various Google searches: 

  • "Business capability is the expression or the articulation of the capacity, materials and expertise an organization needs in order to perform core functions. ... Businessfunctions describes the roles that individuals and units within the business play in regards to meeting business objectives."

  • "Business capability mapping focuses on what a business does and provides a crisper view of an organizations objectives by eliminating the inherent complexity of discussing the how or the who."

  • "Defining Business Capability. A business capability is what a company needs to be able to do to execute its business strategy. Another way to think about capabilities is as a collection of people, process, and technology gathered for a specific purpose."

  • "A Capability is a higher-level solution behavior that typically spans multiple Agile Release Trains (ARTs). They are sized and split into multiple features so that they can be implemented in a single PI. SAFe describes a hierarchy of artifacts that define functional system behavior:"

  • "A business function is defined as any set of activities performed by the department that is initiated by an event, transform information, materials or business commitments, and procedures an output (e.g. order fulfillment, invoicing, cash management, manufactured batch, customer response tracking, regulatory "

  • "Business Capability modeling is a technique for the representation of an organization's business anchor model independent of the organization's structure, processes, people or domains. ... Business Capability mapping allows companies to clearly see what a business does to reach its objectives."

  • "Note that business functions are distinct from capabilities. Capabilities represent the current or desired abilities of an organization, realized by its people, processes, information, and technology. They are focused on specific business outcomes, and are used for strategic planning purposes. In contrast, business functions describe the work actually done by the organization; they are often explicitly managed, and are more closely aligned to the organization structure. Each capability occurs only once in a capability map, whereas in a functional decomposition of the enterprise the same sub-function can occur multiple times."

2019-12-07 Update:

I happened upon this blog post by Aaron Rouse post today:  

2018-12-19 Update:

I recently noted another interesting article that somewhat touches on this topic...

  • Ability, Capability, Capacity and Competence (and Reality)
    • "A capability on the other hand is a feature, ability, faculty or process that can be developed or improved. A capability is a collaborative process that can be deployed and through which individual competencies and abilities can be applied and exploited. A capability can refer to an ability that exists in an individual but can be improved upon."
    • "Within a business setting a Business Capability is the articulation of the capacity, materials and expertise an organisation needs in order to perform its core functions. Defining the Business Capability does not mean that the organisation can deploy it. It must have the capacity to do so."
    • "A Capacity is the ability that exists at present whilst capability refers to the higher level of ability that could be demonstrated under the right conditions."

2019-03-08 Update

An interesting write-up from December 2012 that I missed in my original research (tip of the hat to Gerben Wierda for his comment on a LinkedIn post that brought this to my attention):

A more recent Deloitte article, mentioned in the LinkedIn post:

2020-02-16 Update

    • "A capability defines what the business does or what it can do, not how it does that or who is doing it. They are different from business processes, functions, services, organization units, or IT systems, although these may all contribute to a capability. The same capability may be implemented in different ways, e.g. manually, IT-supported or fully automated.

2020-05-05 Update

I've also started assembling links to Business Capability Model exemplars here:

2020-05-14 Update


2024-03-27 Update

OMG Business Architecture Core Metamodel (BACM) v1.0 (beta, October 2023)

"Its primary concept is the business capability - an abstraction representing what a business does but not how.



Tuesday, September 11, 2018

2018-09-11 Tuesday - Ideas to Reignite Passion in Your Work, Career, Field of Endeavor

1) Envision: Write a bit of fiction - imagine where you want to be, what you want to be doing - [x] months or years in the future. Then prepare the outline of steps, actions, investments you will need to execute - and the relationships, skills, experience, and knowledge you will need to acquire. Then, as Zig Ziglar once said: "Plan your work, work your plan".

2) Expand: Attend meet-ups in your area (or form one, if one doesn't exist) on topics of interest relevant to your field.

3) Bridge: Offer to help a non-profit - in ways that will leverage the skills you want to acquire or hone.

4) Explore: Make a list of the people you respect and admire in your field - then reach out and ask them if you can interview them for a profile article you wish to submit to a news site, or professional journal, related to your industry. Probe for what drives them, Ask 'why' questions.

5) Speculate: Find a struggling start-up that you think is worthy - and offer to provide some of your time and expertise (ideally in exchange for some form of an equity stake - but if not, then offer on a Pro Bono basis).

6) Plant Seeds: Connect with educators and guidance counselors in your local high schools and community colleges - offering to give talks on your field/profession, as a career choice.

7) Fertilize Your Mind: Read inspiring biographies of inventors, builders, creators, makers.

8) Change your Latitude: For me, it took a month of sailing along Baja Mexico - and it was like a light was switched "on" again.

9) Change your Attitude: Get your blood flowing on a regular basis with some kind of exercise. Even better, couple that with learning a new physical skill.

10) Change your Altitude: Get up into the mountains - see the valleys and views from a different perspective. It will open your senses - and open your mind.

11) Write for Yourself: Write a journal, with one clear intention: In what way have I expanded my knowledge/expertise today?

12) Write for Others: Submit ideas for articles, on speculation, to professional journals or industry news sites - topics that would be interesting to explore/learn - and when accepted, you'll be forced to dive into the material.

13) Exercise Your Idea Muscle: If you feel stuck, stagnant, powerless - it probably has more to do with your attitude - than lack of opportunity - than you might think. Invest an hour a day to practice writing business cases for new business ideas (or changes/improvements to your existing company) that you would implement - if you had the budget, time, and resources. Submit those you connect strongly with to your management team (or, consider as the basis for launching your own company).

14) Reflect: Consciously set aside time to reflect and explore how each part of the work that you do goes into the assembly of the whole - and how what you do affects the final product or service, who it affects, how it affects them, and the value that you add and create. Consider how what you do can be done better, faster, more efficiently, at lower cost. Practice #Mindfulness

15) Network with Intent, Outward. Find ways to continually expand your network of professional connections - related to your field. Seek ways to introduce, connect, help others - and don't worry if/when there might be some pay-off. Practice #Selflessness

16) Network with Intent, Within: Organize a weekly lunchtime brown bag session with your company - seeking to invite people from different divisions, departments, groups - with a rotating responsibility for picking a topic for discussion. Use this time to focus on how such a diverse group can generate a sustained synergy for the creation of new ideas to remove roadblocks to the development of new products/services - eliminate bureaucracy and waste - streamline operations - and reduce costs.

17) Apply Shu-Ha-Ri: Return to the source - immerse yourself in the study of the basics and fundamentals of your field, detach from your assumptions of how things must be - breaking from tradition, seek to transcend by evolving new ideas that escape from the staid boundaries of what has been.

18) Transpose Your Frame of Reference with New Coordinates: If you feel you have been in a particular industry for too long - spending time seeding new problems/ideas may be just the ticket to re-ignite your passion. Try allocating some time to reading recent research papers in completely different fields to expose your mind to different contexts. This is my favorite site for such inspiration:

19) Play: Give yourself permission to explore useless things - just for fun. in "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!", Richard P. Feynman tells of reaching a point of burnout - and how he recovered his zest for his work:
Then I had another thought: Physics disgusts me a little bit now, but I used to enjoy doing physics. Why did I enjoy it? I used to play with it. I used to do whatever I felt like doing — it didn’t have to do with whether it was important for the development of nuclear physics, but whether it was interesting and amusing for me to play with. …
So I got this new attitude. Now that I am burned out and I’ll never accomplish anything, I’ve got this nice position at the university teaching classes which I rather enjoy, and just like I read the Arabian Nights for pleasure, I’m going to play with physics, whenever I want to, without worrying about any importance whatsoever.
Within a week I was in the cafeteria and some guy, fooling around, throws a plate in the air. As the plate went up in the air I saw it wobble, and I noticed the red medallion of Cornell on the plate going around. It was pretty obvious to me that the medallion went around faster than the wobbling. …
I went on to work out equations of wobbles. Then I thought about how electron orbits start to move in relativity. Then there’s the Dirac Equation in electrodynamics. And then quantum electrodynamics. And before I knew it (it was a very short time) I was “playing’’ — working, really — with the same old problem that I loved so much, that I had stopped working on when I went to Los Alamos: my thesis-type problems; all those old-fashioned, wonderful things.
It was effortless. It was easy to play with these things. It was like uncorking a bottle: Everything flowed out effortlessly. I almost tried to resist it! There was no importance to what I was doing, but ultimately there was. The diagrams and the whole business that I got the Nobel Prize for came from that piddling around with the wobbling plate.  


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