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Enterprise Architecture Matters

Adrian Grigoriu

What if we start from ground up defining what is an Enterprise capability?

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Given the fact that we can hardly get an agreement on what the Enterprise capability is, that is from an Enterprise Architecture point of view.
The term Capability seems to come from the EA field rather than from the business process management discipline. Being often associated with the function or process, it raises questions in the BPM world. The fact BPM and EA don't intersect may explain why the term appeared in the first place and why it overlaps with the BPM terminology.

This is a follow-up of a discussion on Capabilities versus Processes that takes place on BP Trends Linkedin.  But as usual, these discussions on definitions lead often nowhere, sliding from the initial purpose of answering a question or resolving an issue to prolonged monologues on ourselves.


I would describe first an entity that ties a functional process group to the people and technology that execute them. This functional process grouping consists of related processes (such as recruiting, for instance). The associated people would have the skills to execute the processes (to recruit). A (recruitment) application would perform the automated part of the process. 

The entity would consist of the process, the skilled people and the application performing the activity. A process alone is an abstract concept; it cannot deliver without the people and systems. 
Let's call this entity a Capability.
The capability can be performed repeatedly or on demand and it can provide services to the enterprise or to other parties. It can be roadmapped and strategies would cascade to capabilities for implementation. 

Most companies would need to rely on a set of fundamental capabilities. Some capabilities would become differentiators or core to the enterprise, some would be outsourced.
At a large granularity, (capabilities may be decomposed), firms would need Sales, Marketing, Development, Support (HR, IT...)... These can be described in capability maps.

Capability maps may look different though from process frameworks because their definition depends also on the existing system designs. This is why EA does not typically re-use the existing process frameworks. 

This capability concept, or whatever we may decide to call it, may help bridge the EA with the BPM world.

In my book I describe the term Function as a related process grouping, at its basics. Processes in functions are executed by the systems in the Technology Layer of the FFLV EA framework and by the resources in the People Layer. As such a function with its associated resources in layers looks like a Function Stack. As such a Capability is a function stack. It is not abstract. It can deliver as an independent entity, almost.

But Capability alone is not sufficient to describe a business architecture. Processes are still necessary to describe the end to end delivery of a product or in general of value.

If there is interest, I can continue the discussion in my next post.

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Adrian Grigoriu blogs about everything relating to enterprise and business architecture, SOA, frameworks, design, planning, execution, organization and related issues.

Adrian Grigoriu

Adrian is an executive consultant in enterprise architecture, former head of enterprise architecture at Ofcom, the spectrum and broadcasting U.K. regulatory agency and chief architect at TM Forum, an organization providing a reference integrated business architecture framework, best practices and standards for the telecommunications and digital media industries. He also was a high technology, enterprise architecture and strategy senior manager at Accenture and Vodafone, and a principal consultant and lead architect at Qantas, Logica, Lucent Bell Labs and Nokia. He is the author of two books on enterprise architecture development available on Kindle and published articles with BPTrends, the Microsoft Architecture Journal and the EI magazine. Shortlisted by Computer Weekly for the IT Industry blogger of the year 2011.

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