Improve Your Business Capability Modeling: Add People to the Picture

25 Feb 2020

by Ian Stendera

Business Capability Modeling: Explaining “What” Your Business Can Do

Business Capability Models help explain your business possibilities. They help you understand and evaluate your business and, more importantly, connect the strategic “what” you do with the more tactical “how” it’s done. 

Connecting these points to your strategic goals can tell a straightforward story that, even though you might want to do something, you might need to do more preparation first to have a successful outcome.

Why Start With Business Capabilities?

There are no hard and fast rules about having to start with business capabilities. When working with clients we advise that the best place to start is where you have the need and, potentially, the data. 

However, business capability modeling can be a great starting point if you need a common framework to analyze performance across the business and IT. Modeling your capabilities can quickly bring the following benefits: 

  1. Capabilities are an achievable and, more importantly, an understandable asset that you can use across your entire business.
  2. While many businesses have a strategy and IT architecture, a Business Capability Model is a bridge that connects the two and helps you speak the same language. 
  3. From a capability model, you can “follow the data” to gain insights into many different areas across your organization.
  4. Capability models also help you evaluate your business, such as measuring the success of change projects or analyzing performance.

To learn how to get started, read our 6 Best Practices for Defining Your Business Capabilities

Business Capability Modeling for Enterprise Architects

Business Capability Modeling is very much the “bread and butter” for most Enterprise Architects (EAs). With this in mind, we have improved and standardized our best practices for Business Capability Modeling. There are a few noticeable differences in using Ardoq for mapping business capabilities. For one, we have added support for modeling your capability experts. This extra feature can add huge value when it comes to challenges well-known to Enterprise Architects, like understanding who is impacted by a change, who should be consulted, where innovation networks exist, and how we can drive engagement beyond the enterprise architecture (EA) team. 

Our latest product updates mean that you can start your capability model from a pre-configured module including:

All of these features are dynamically updated by your data.

Understanding Drives Better Decisions

We are the first to agree that it’s easy to get stuck arguing over the nuances of what a capability is. However, a good reference model and the motivation for progress mean that capabilities can provide a quick win for building an understandable vocabulary of what your business does. 

The business capability model does not need to be fully defined or complete to start adding value. However, those first discussions on “what do we value as core to our business?” and “how do we differentiate ourselves from our competitors?” can be useful. While many in the business might have an unspoken understanding, setting these things “down on paper” makes them clear and actionable. 

Once you start building your business capability model, you should be sharing it with your colleagues, stakeholders, and managers. This will help you to have more meaningful discussions and tell better stories. At the end of the day, this is really what visualizing data is all about: Telling meaningful stories to drive better decisions.

Bridging Strategy and IT

Bringing the strategy out of the boardroom and connecting it to your architecture is no easy feat. 

The translation and operationalization of a strategy is the key to successfully achieving your goals. Too often, this is left to the Enterprise Architect or the change-makers placed between business and IT. This can mean that things are sometimes lost in translation. Business capability models can, therefore, be a highly effective tool for communicating and building alignment across the organization. 

business capability modeling

An example of a capability model from Ardoq

It is not always easy for domain experts to see how they are positioned to deliver on the strategy. Bringing the discussion up a level to talk about the capabilities they might support provides that clarity. 

Evaluate Your Business and Organically Grow Your Architecture

Capabilities can be the evaluation point of how well you as a business are doing something. Where it gets interesting is when you combine it with other parts of your architecture. 

By adding the technology or applications that realize your capabilities, you can:

  • Identify cost savings through redundant or duplicate systems.
  • Identify risks where you are dependent on underperforming tech.
  • Find opportunities where the right investment can increase your ability to differentiate in the market. 

Connecting your capabilities to people allows you to identify domain expert networks critical to your business. It can provide insights into responsibility and areas of risk and opportunity. A great example of this in practice is when you realize that a great deal of your core differentiating capabilities are dependent on contractors or consultants. 

business capabilities

Example showing how Business Capability Models can be connected to people, application portfolios, and departments. 

The point is, you can build out your business capability model in nearly any direction, and it will provide you with value and actionable insights into how your business model is being implemented. 

Adding People to Your Enterprise Architecture

People can be an interesting way to evaluate your business when connecting them to capabilities. People can provide insights into expert networks, bottlenecks, or single points of failure. However, including them in your architecture can also be useful in many other ways. 

We chose to include people in Ardoq’s application portfolio management best practice. This gave similar insights into responsibility and expert networks but it also set the foundation for a far more data-driven approach to collaboration.

Leveraging People-in-the-Graph

Beyond enterprise architecture, having people in a graph-based, data-driven tool like Ardoq provides a handful of additional value that many of our customers are already acting on today. 

Firstly, adding people means you can automatically generate dynamic notifications based on context. The inclusion of people can also improve data quality and engagement beyond the traditional IT organization. 

The Right Notifications at the Right Time... For the Right People

Mapping people into the graph means you can more easily answer the, often surprisingly hard, question: “Who should I notify?”

When a crisis hits, be it a server outage or just a technical error stopping your service, knowing who to notify and who to talk to is the first step in mitigation and resolution. Unfortunately, as many know, this can be a challenge. 

We have had customers in banking and telecom integrate Ardoq with Slack or Gmail to automatically notify those impacted by an issue. 

The results are quite impressive. 

One customer was able to use Ardoq to properly inform external hosting providers of exactly what their servers and applications were supporting, giving them better insight into the business impact of what they were responsible for. This improved their vendor relationship and reduced the number of avoidable outages like scheduled maintenance unintentionally impacting key banking services.

Also, in the unfortunate event of an outage, capability and domain experts are notified automatically by harnessing the power of graph analytics in Ardoq and integrations via our open rest-API

Accountability Drives Quality

If we’re honest, no one really wants to have to spend time updating their documentation. This is even more true when you look at the level of engagement with EA tools over the years. What we have seen at Ardoq is that, by including ownership and visibility across domains, people are motivated to maintain their information. These factors help to create a new level of awareness of how people depend on each other.

accountabilityUnderstanding that others depend on you maintaining documentation enforces a culture of ownership and quality in your documentation.

We have seen adoption, data quality, and accountability go through the roof; simply by modeling people into the architecture and making small adjustments, such as adding their profile pictures.

Where Should You Start? 

Getting started with business capability mapping doesn't have to be challenging. While you could sit and argue about the depth of your model, differences between sub-capabilities and capabilities, and where to actually start, you could instead use one of Ardoq's out-of-the-box industry-specific reference models to kick off your efforts. 

These models are a great accelerator for your BCM initiative and can be readily adapted to the nuances of your organization.

business capability model

Snapshot of an insurance industry-specific business capability reference model.

If you already have your own data then, of course, this is the best place to begin. Ideally, you should try and export it into a program like Excel if it’s not already there. From there you can easily import it into Ardoq using our out-of-the-box Excel integration, or customize the importer to better fit your existing sheets. 

ardoq integrations

We always recommend that clients don't lose sight of the business drivers motivating their enterprise architecture efforts. These can help guide you through the early days, keep the scope concise, and ensure that you don't fall victim to scope creep.

Where Should You Share Your Business Capability Model? 

Once you start to get your capability model up and running, get it out to your organization! Unlike working in isolated tools like PowerPoint or Visio, with Ardoq you don't need to wait until it’s perfect. 

Using living presentations and surveys you should be able to distribute your developing capability models to the organization in the context that best suits them.  

By embedding your capability model in your intranet, SharePoint, or Confluence pages, you bring awareness and transparency to the value of the work you are doing. Besides, more eyes on the model mean more opportunities for data collection. 

Combining a presentation with Ardoq’s pre-configured surveys enables you to capture that hard-to-find information like “Which apps do we have in our application portfolio supporting these capabilities?” and “Who are my experts?”. Surveys are one of the most effective tools for encouraging more users to contribute with data, without them having to learn how to use Ardoq. Surveys are especially good for gathering data from the business side of your organization, as they are quick and easy to use. 

You can create Surveys for specific users/users groups, and they will only have access to create or update what you decide. Hidden fields give you the possibility to make sure you can easily find anything coming from the Surveys.

The point is, share. Share often, share living data, and share in the context that best suits the reader. 

Broadcast Surveys, Notifications, and More 

Another benefit to adding people to your business capability model is that it's far easier to maintain communication across the organization. With Ardoq Broadcasts, you can drive the right messages to the right people at the right time and go far beyond engaging just with your IT team. Broadcasts are also the perfect way to send out Surveys across to all levels of your business. Using Broadcasts in this way help is the fastest and most efficient way to collect and validate data while keeping it up to date.

What Can or Should You Do Next?

Assuming you start with the basics of just your capabilities, the opportunities for the next steps are many. Again, keep your business drivers in mind and follow that scope. 

  • Looking to harness your business capability map to manage IT spend? Look at our Application Portfolio Management module
  • Want to improve your organizational structure due to a merger, acquisition, or reorganization? Consider adding people, departments, or business units. 
  • Are you hoping to better align your strategy with your project portfolio? Then check out our strategic alignment and execution module and connect your business strategy to how it is impacting your enterprise architecture. 

A New Level of Insight From Your Enterprise Architecture

Bring data to your business capability model that is actionable. Look at how your people are actually critical components to your architecture and use them to drive better processes for investment, innovation, and managing change.

If you can get your business capability model out of static and isolated tools and into the greater organization, you will find that you not only have better alignment but that the quality and level of insights you have into your architecture will grow immensely.  

If you would like to see Ardoq in action and see how quickly you can get value out of your capability map, please don’t hesitate to reach out today.

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Ian Stendera Ian Stendera Ian is Ardoq's VP of Product. A multi-talent, he’s worked at Ardoq since 2014 and has built several teams across the company.
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