Enterprise Architecture Roadmap for success: Capability Based Planning


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Bas van Gils & Sven van Dijk
Posted by Bas van Gils & Sven van Dijk on Jun 14, 2012

Enterprise Architecture

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This is the 12th posting of the enterprise architecture Roadmap for success blog series, before we wrap it up with an overview in the last posting. We have covered a wide range of topics so far, in this posting we zoom in on one of the most useful techniques in the field of strategic enterprise architecture planning: capability based planning.

Capability Based Planning

Part 12: Capability Based Planning

Capability based planning

Capability Based Planning

There are many ways to look at architecture as we have seen in this blog series. Generally, architectures of systems (in the broadest sense of the word) are fairly high level and focus on the fundamental organization of the system as well as principles underlying this fundamental organization.

Especially for complex systems, it may take a long time to realize the architecture. Or, to put it in a different light, organizations may be smart and to cater for the fact that their long-term vision may change, deciding to take it one step at a time, allowing for the vision / architecture to change. This also takes into account the fact that organizations already have certain capabilities that they may wish / need to develop further in an incremental fashion. This is where Capability Based Planning kicks in.

Capability Based Planning – the TOGAF™ way

Many definitions for capabilities (and frameworks around capabilities) have been proposed and used in practice. In this post we zoom in on the TOGAF-framework which is fairly well aligned with other capability frameworks. The TOGAF-standard has two definitions for the term Capability, which can loosely be paraphrased with the statement “A capability is an ability that an organization, person, or system possesses”. Capabilities are typically ‘horizontal’ in the sense that they span many lines of business as is illustrated by the figure below (from Chapter 32 of the TOGAF standard), but that is not always the case.

TOGAF and Capability Based PlanningTwo capability definitions in TOGAF

The idea is that an organization’s capability may be at a certain ‘level’ at some point in time. In order to further that capability – conform the Architecture Development Method – a new architecture is developed (using e.g. ArchiMate), which is fleshed out in more detail in a solution model (e.g. ArchiMate, UML, BPMN) before it is actually implemented:

Capability, Architecture, Solution model

Another important aspect of capabilities lies in the fact that they may have different ‘dimensions’. For example, Chapter 32 of the TOGAF standard lists a people dimension, process dimension, and material dimensions for a given capability. In other words, when planning the next increment for our ability (i.e., the goal we want to achieve for this increment in the next ADM cycle), we should consider the ramifications for each of these dimensions.

Modeling support

Given the integration between ArchiMate® and TOGAF™, we feel that capability based planning also deserves proper modeling support. We are working on a simple meta-model to support capability based planning, the core of which looks like this:


Capability based planning. A meta model

This sample shows that capabilities may have one or more dimensions, and are realized by one of more increments, indicative of the different points in time. These increments are still conceptual in nature, and indicate points in time. Each increment may be realized by an architecture, expressed as a set of core concepts (see our series on ArchiMate). Using this simple meta-model we can create the following view:

Capability with 5 different dimensions

Here we see a capability with 5 different dimensions. In each of the four increments, the capability has a certain value that indicates ‘how good we are doing with respect to this capability’. As the analysis of this diagram may be hard, we propose a simple radar view as follows:

radar view of capability

Use in practice

In our experience, Capability Based Planning as a technique can be used in a many different settings. The main benefit of this approach lies in the combination of easy communication (capability is a term that management tends to understand well) while still allows for formal modeling and analysis. We have used it successfully in helping one of our clients in furthering their data management practice, linking the technique of capability based planning with the DAMA DMBOK framework. The DMBOK framework decomposes the data management capability into several sub capabilities such as data governance, master data management, Business Intelligence and so on. It also proposes to consider each capability from different dimensions which may lead to an assessment such as:

Capability assessment

Indeed, such diagrams communicate well and provide a solid basis for further analysis and realization (which steps will we take? When? What is the architecture that goes with each of these steps? How does this translate to projects that take us to the next level?).

Next posting

If you’d like to know more, please leave a comment. The next wraps up the series! It is scheduled to between 6th and 10th of May.

Forrester Wave Enterprise Architecture 2017

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