I recently published a sample business capability map for insurance firms as a way to illustrate many aspects about the description and use of this business architecture methodology. One of the readers of this report commented “It seems the business capability maps provide value as a complement to existing methodologies” and referenced Strategy Maps and Business Process Modeling. This made me realize that I should explain more how Forrester sees capability maps as more than a complement – and why we, along with many of our clients are so ‘jazzed up’ about this methodology.

A bit of background: Forrester views capabilities as stable elements of a business model, where the dynamics of a firm are reflected in the business goals for the capability, and the processes, functions, information and other assets which are how a capability is delivered. A capability map describes all the capabilities, and the relationships between them, which an organization needs to have as part of their business model to achieve outcomes. Think of Sales as a simple example, where there are business goals and associated metrics for Sales, and processes, functions, information and people assets necessary for this capability to be delivered. And Sales has a relationship to Fulfillment, to Customer Service and to Marketing.

Why do we see this as more than a complement? Think about Strategy Maps – a very powerful methodology to drive strategy ‘top-down’ into an organization. But few organizations excel at this ‘top-down’ planning, most execute on more than one strategy, strategies change over time, and finally, strategic goals are interpreted into different strategies across different parts of an organization – what Forrester and others term ‘emergent strategies’. Capability maps work very well as a complement to Strategy Maps – but they also work for these other situations through their capture of business goals and metrics at the capability level. Because of this, they are very valuable to foster strategic discussions where the organization’s overall strategy is fuzzy.

Business process modeling is a very powerful tool for optimization. But there are lots of processes at widely varying levels of granularity in firms – leading to the challenge of deciding which processes at what level to focus on. Process improvement programs often flounder because the information needs of the processes are given insufficient attention. And finally, identifying what’s common across processes – the basis for shared services as well as dependency analysis – doesn’t jump out from business process models; potentially leading to ‘optimized fragmentation’. Capability maps put the processes, functions and information in one model – and use business assessment as to capability goals, gaps and strategic value to focus attention on which processes to improve.

At our recently held Enterprise Architecture Forums, capability maps were a big part of the buzz – packed sessions, and many hallway and Twitter conversations. Our clients seem to be just as ‘jazzed up’ as we are with this business architecture methodology.

What’s your perspective on business architecture methodologies?