What is Business Capability modeling?

Business capability modeling is the basic process of recording what a business does to reach its objectives. In other words, business capability modeling is graphically representing the abilities of the company, as well as its potential. When business architects and analysts engage in business capability modeling, their work results in the creation of a capability model. This forms the core of business capability mapping, which enables adaptive, sleek architectures that can respond quickly to changes in today's competitive business landscape.

 

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The first stage of the mapping process is identifying the highest-level capabilities of the business. Typically, these are oriented towards the operational side. After they’re all documented you can start decomposing these top-level capabilities into lower-level capabilities. At this point you may choose to create an exhaustive model and keep every single sub-capability. Alternatively, you could discard all but the ones most relevant to the achievement of business goals. This doesn’t automatically entail negative consequences. Keeping your eyes on the whole business landscape is laudable during this process but capabilities that aren’t critical may safely be omitted during the mapping process. This of course also depends to a large degree on the timeframe of the project and the number of allotted personnel.

Once you have an agreed upon capability model, you and your team should start listing attributes for each individual capability and service level expectation. These may differ from company to company, but usually what you’ll be looking at are things such as performance requirements, capability owner, customers, inputs and outputs, as well as general information on the elements that compose it – people, processes, and technology. All this knowledge captured as part of the business architecture will later help you derive the exact requirements for the IT infrastructure.

The goal of this practice is to model the business around its most stable elements. This is because although the way in which a company powers its abilities may change dramatically with time (the How), the actual abilities are usually unfluctuating even on long time scales (the What). For instance, it’s very plausible for a manufacturing company to have had a capability called Deliver Product for the past century. The way in which this capability might have been fulfilled throughout the years however will have varied immensely (i.e. horse-drawn carriage, train, truck etc.).

The main benefit of having a model based on the most resilient elements of the business is its longevity. Changes to how capabilities are implemented don’t necessarily alter the base model. What’s more, with a stable business model the IT infrastructure of the enterprise is more likely to actually support the business instead of constantly showing up as an ongoing cost. Consequently, business capability mapping promotes a strong connection between the business model and the infrastructure supporting the business requirements. This also means that when professionals model business capabilities they are helping to bring together business and IT figures. As part of your business transformation effort you will undoubtedly need to engage in business capability mapping. So remember – modeling business capabilities is about defining your organization’s ability to execute.

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