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Improve Your Business Capability Modeling: Add People to the Picture

25 Feb 2020

by Ian Stendera

Business Capability Modeling - The “What” We Do

Modeling your business capabilities is foundational to understanding your business and more importantly, connecting the strategic “what” we do with the tactical “how” we do it. 

Really, capabilities are the bread and butter for most enterprise architects, and for this reason, Ardoq has improved and standardized our best practices for Business Capability Modeling.

With our latest product updates, you are now able to start your capability model from a pre-configured module including surveys, dashboards, reports, presentations, and reference models all dynamically updated by your data. 

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 additional dimension can add substantial 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 can we drive engagement beyond the enterprise architecture team. 

Why Start With Business Capabilities? 

You don’t have to start with your capabilities. In fact, when working with clients we advise that the best place to start is where you have the need and potentially the data. 

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

Where you start should be driven by a business need and capabilities can be the best place to start if you need a common framework to analyze performance across the business and IT. Starting with business capability mapping can provide a few key benefits you can reap very quickly. 

  1. The business capability model is an achievable and understandable asset you can use across business and IT.
  2. While many have a strategy and IT architecture, a Business Capability Model is the bridge that connects the two. 
  3. From a capability model, you can “follow the data” to gain insights into many areas across your organization and use capabilities as a key factor in evaluation.

Understanding Drives Better Decisions

We are the first to agree that it’s very possible to get stuck arguing the nuances of what a capability is. With a good reference model and the motivation for progress, 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. The first discussions on “what do we value as core to our business” and “where do we differentiate ourselves from the competition” are incredibly enlightening. 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 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 success in actually achieving your goals. Too often this is left to the Enterprise Architect or the change-makers placed between business and IT. The strategy can be received by some as if it was written in a foreign language, so business capability models can be a highly effective tool in translating and building alignment across the organization. 

What capability models do is clarify what you do as a business and evaluate how well you do these things. Connecting that to your strategic goals can tell a very clear story that even though we might want to do something, we are actually not poised to do that successfully and therefore might need to invest in new technology, people or redesign our processes. 

It is not easy for domain experts to always 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. 


A Great Place to Start and Organically Grow Your Architecture

So, capabilities can be the evaluation point of how well you as a business are doing something, but where it really gets interesting is when you combine it with other parts of your architecture. 

For example, adding the technology or applications that realize your capabilities, you are able to identify cost savings through redundant or duplicate systems, risks where you are dependent on underperforming tech, or opportunities where the right investment can increase your ability to differentiate in the market. 


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

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. One great example is when you become aware that a great deal of your core differentiating capabilities are dependent on contractors or consultants. 

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

Adding People to Your Enterprise Architecture

We talked a little above about how people can be an interesting way to evaluate your business when connecting them to capabilities. They provide insights into expert networks, bottlenecks or single points of failures, but including them in your architecture can also be useful in many other ways. 

We chose to include people in our application portfolio management best practice as well. 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. 

The first is how by adding people you can automatically generate dynamic notifications based on context. The second we want to highlight is how the inclusion of people can improve data quality and engagement beyond the traditional IT organization. 

The Right Notifications at the Right Time

When you map people into the graph you can use this to answer what is surprisingly hard in many organizations: “Who should I notify?”

When a crisis hits, whether it is 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 the graph analytics in Ardoq and integrations via our open rest-API

Accountability Drives Quality

No one really wants to update their documentation, it's a fact. 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. 

It creates a new level of awareness of how people depend on each other.


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

By modeling people into the architecture, and even updating with profile pictures, we have seen adoption, data quality, and accountability go through the roof. 

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 even start, you could instead use one of our 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.


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

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


We always recommend our clients to not lose sight of the business drivers that are motivating your enterprise architecture efforts. These can often guide you in the early days to keep scope concise and not 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 shouldn’t 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 means more opportunity for data collection. 

Combining a presentation with our 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?”.

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

What Can/Should You Do Next?

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

If you are looking to harness your business capability map to manage IT spend, look at our Application Portfolio Management module

If you are looking at improving your organizational structure due to a merger, acquisition or reorganization, look at adding people, departments or business units. 

If you are hoping to better align your strategy with your project portfolio, take a look at 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 or start a trial to see how quickly you can get value out of your capability map, please don’t hesitate to reach out today


Ian Stendera, VP of Customer Success, Ardoq




Ian Stendera

Ian Stendera is VP of Customer Success and part of the Executive Team at Ardoq. Working with Ardoq since 2014, he has built teams across sales, marketing, and customer success. Over the last few years, Ian has led the customer success team, working closely with EA teams and leaders to ensure they realize the objectives of their enterprise architecture initiatives.


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