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Business Capability Mapping: Art, Science or Magic?

Business Capability Mapping

Business capability mapping has now become an accepted method to model an enterprise capturing its key building blocks. However, what is business capability mapping? Is business capability mapping an exact science with specific rules? Or is business capability mapping an art that is dependent on the business architecture team and the structure and the culture of the firm? Or it just some sort of magic?

Calling business capability mapping a science may be a step too far as it does not lend itself to experimental validation and verification. Science requires an ability to prove or mostly disprove a hypothesis before it becomes an accepted theory and perhaps way down in the future the scientific law. As David Hume has pointed out “No amount of observations of white swans can allow the inference that all swans are white, but the observation of a single black swan is sufficient to refute that conclusion.”

An important characteristic of a business capability map – that the capabilities need to be mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive and individually a whole.

Business capability modeling and business architecture definitely have an artsy side to them. And I am not talking about the pretty looking picture of business capability maps. The art side of business capability mapping is the ability of the business architecture team to capture the conceptual underpinnings of a firm and abstract it into a model that communicates that essence in a hierarchical decomposition.

And when business capability models resonate, it will seem like magic. So there is a magical component to this abstract exercise.

Business capabilities modeling and business architecture have principles, practices, and perspectives, though none that are set in stone. For example, usage of nouns to describe business capabilities, rather than using verbs (the latter are deemed as a proxy for processes, the “how”.) And an important characteristic of a business capability map – that the capabilities need to be mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive and individually a whole.

And perhaps the practice of business capability modeling also includes diplomacy, politics and occasional subterfuge:-) (NOTE: This is a tongue-in-cheek take on business capability mapping, not a deeply researched Ph.D. thesis.)

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