Understanding the capabilities required by your business provides a high level overview of the business and can be a very useful exercise as it allows one to take a step back and focus on what the key elements of the business are. You can avoid getting bogged down in the details of ‘how’ things happen and concentrate on ‘what’ does (or needs to) happen. Once you have done this it is possible to identify your key capabilities, for example, the ones that will differentiate your business and you can use this information to ensure that you focus on the areas of importance in your business, whether this is in defining new projects or ensuring business as usual delivers appropriately.
We use Business Capabilities to model the services that a business or enterprise offers or requires. These capabilities are modelled in the Business Conceptual layer and represent what the business does (or needs to do) in order to fulfil its objectives and responsibilities.
The Business Capabilities are the top layer of the business architecture. They belong to a Business Domain and are governed by the Business Principles of the organisation. The capabilities are realised by a business process and performed by a role, i.e. an individual or team in the organisation.
The Business Capability is, therefore, at a higher level than a business process and is in the conceptual layer. It represents a conceptual service that a group of processes and people, supported by the relevant application, information and underlying technology, will perform. The capability represents the what, whereas the process and people represent the how.
The link here shows how you can use a capability model, in this case to map duplication of applications to it - the capability model is the anchor for showing where duplication exists, which is one question your senior management may be asking. If you click on the capability you can see the processes that support it, so you can demonstrate that you realise capability X through the processes that support it.
Business Capabilities can themselves be broken down into supporting capabilities, if this is useful. For example, ‘Order Fulfilment’ is a high level capability that may be broken down into further supporting capabilities such as ‘order approval’, ‘picking’, ‘packing’, ‘despatch’, ‘delivery’ and ‘returns management’, as depicted in the diagrams below. These are all examples of capabilities, or of services, that an organisation needs to perform to enable it to fulfil its obligation to its customers.
You will find that your business capabilities are relatively static because you are defining the ‘what’ which rarely changes whereas, for example, your business processes will constantly be evolving as the ‘how’ things are done changes all the time with the advancement of technology and of customer demand. A very obvious example is retail – twenty years ago the internet did not exist so there were no online sales channels; but the capabilities of a retail channel have not altered, Sales, Fulfilment and Billing are still capabilities, however the process of ‘how’ they sell, dispatch and take payment has altered dramatically.
The level at which you model your business capabilities will depend on your objectives – why you are carrying out the modelling exercise. Sometimes it can be useful to use the capabilities to model the key value chain of the business - the key chain of capabilities, or services, that flow through your business. This is a subset of all the capabilities as it will not include any of the support functions such as IT or HR and is usually modelled at a fairly high level. It can be useful to highlight what the areas of most importance are to the business and to provide some focus. However, if a particular area has been identified as an area for change, you should focus on this area and model the capabilities down to the level where they meet the processes and people that support them. It depends on you objective at the time.
Before entering any information into Essential, it is useful if you can identify all the capabilities in the area you are modelling up front, however, if you can’t do this it is ok to model incrementally and add the information as you get it. You will also need to understand which capabilities are supporting capabilities and which are contained capabilities, for example,’ Order Fulfilment’ contains the ‘order approval’, ‘picking’, ‘packing’, ‘despatch’, ‘delivery’ and ‘returns management’ capabilities. In return, these are capabilities that support ‘Order Fulfilment’. It is easier if you ensure that you are aware of this structure before you start modelling.
Once you have defined the capabilities for the area you are working on, you can enter them into Essential and also, if required, create a capability chain to show the flow of the capabilities.
If we think about the example given above, we would create a capability for ‘order fulfilment’ first, and then for each of its supporting capabilities.
Navigate to Business Capability in the Business Conceptual layer in the Class Browser, and click on the Create Instance button, .
Create a capability for your first capability for example ‘order fulfilment’, completing as much information as you have at this time. If you don’t have all the information to hand it can be added at a later date – the only mandatory field in this form is name, however, it is best to enter as much information as possible. You may find that, depending on whether you are performing top down or bottom up modelling, you may only know the links with domain and principles or business processes at this time.
See Business Capability and Process Naming Conventions tutorial for more detail on naming.
Remember to always use the add instance button first to see if the element you are linking to exists already otherwise you will create a duplicate.
Conceptual Business Events
If required, a conceptual business event can be created to detail the event that triggers a specific capability, or chain of capabilities. A conceptual business event is at a higher level than a business event, for example, a conceptual business event may be ‘Invoice status change’ and the business events that implement this are ‘invoice ready for checking’ and ‘invoice ready for distribution’.
To create a Conceptual Business Event navigate to Conceptual Business Event in the Business Conceptual layer in the Class Browser, and click on the Create Instance button, and complete as much information as you have at this time.
Business Capability Chain
If you find it useful to have a visual of your capabilities in the form of a sequential chain, this can be added once all the relevant capabilities and, if required, events have been added.
Navigate to and expand Conceptual Business Model in the Business Conceptual Layer and you will see Business Capability Chain. Select this and once again click on the Create Instance button, .
Your repository model should now look like this screenshot.
Now, scroll down until you see the Defines Business Capability box as shown.
Here, click on the Add Instance and select the 'holding' Instance, i.e. ‘Order Fulfilment’. You will see that the name in the Instance Browser will change to the new name.
DO NOT use the create instance button if you have already created the capability or you will add a duplicate. What you are doing here is adding a 'usage' of the capability that you have already added.
Now you simply drag on the required artefacts from the palette on the left of the screen. Hover over the artefact until you see a hand and double click (or select it and use the button). Then, complete the boxes highlighted in red which will name the capability. Again, always use 'add instance' if you have already created the capability.
Once you have all your artefacts on the screen, you join them by clicking on the first and dragging to the second, which will draw a line for the relation and build the sequence.
The capability chain is now complete.
If you have not created the required Capabilities and Events, there is an alternative method to creating the model. This is simply a matter of personal choice; there are no particular advantages to either method.
You can navigate directly to the Business Capability Model and follow the instructions above to create your model, but when you have dragged the artefacts you need onto the Business Capability Chain, you click on the Create Instance button, rather than the Add Instance button. This allows you to create the Capabilities and Events whilst you are modelling rather than before hand - creating them on-the-fly.
If you are using this method you need to ensure that you do not create duplicate capabilities and events. It is best-practice to click the Add Instance button first to check that the element you need it is not already present in the repository before clicking the Create Instance button.
Other useful links
Further information on Capturing the Business Value Chain and Business Process Modelling can be found in the relevant business tutorials.
Further information on the meta-model can be found in the Essential Meta-Model Reference documentation.
We have recently delivered two updates to Essential, following requests from the community, which impact on Business Capabilities.
Strategy Management – provides support for defining and managing Architecture States in the repository, for example, current state and future state and for defining roadmaps to move the organisation from one state to another. This is also linked to Change Management in that Strategic Plans can be used to identify the objectives that the change is linked to. The architecture states are linked to the Business Capabilities. For more information see ECP 4 – Strategy Management in the Essential Project Enhancements and Suggestions Forum.
Skills Modelling in the Business Layer – allows the type of skill required to perform a capability to be captured, as shown in the screenshot, with the detail of which roles possess the skill and to what level. For more information see ECP5 - Skills Modelling in the Business Layer in the Essential Project Enhancements and Suggestions Forum.