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Gartner and Forrester Business Capability Models in Real World Scenarios

Most folks search for Gartner and Forrester Business Capability Models online. No wonder, given the stellar reputation of these firms and the pioneering work they have done in promoting business architecture discipline in general, and business capabilities modeling in particular. Gartner, Forrester, Cutter and other research/analyst firms have done a yeoman job of promoting the concept of business architecture in general and business capability modeling in particular. These companies, by and large, are trend spotters and evangelists, and corporate executives tend to pay heed to their well-thought-out concepts and content.  We at Capstera, who are dependent on business architecture software, services, and products are fans of how these firms propagate the art and science of capability modeling. 

Gartner, Forrester, Cutter and other research/analyst firms have done a yeoman job of promoting the concept of business architecture. These companies, by and large, are trend spotters and evangelists, and corporate executives tend to pay heed to their well-thought-out concepts and content.  We at Capstera, who are dependent on business architecture software, services, and products are fans of how these firms propagate the art and science of capability modeling. 

However, there is always a paradox between high-level and low-level, the strategic view, the operational view, and the implementation view.  

Many a time, what we have seen is an IT (or business) executive from the typical Global 2000 corporation consumes the research, or attends a conference, and hears about business capability modeling and brings to the home office a flyer or a printout and mandates the teams to do business capability modeling.  The example they bring may look like this: 

Gartner and Forrester Business Capability Models – An Example Visual: 

The following is an old copy of a sample capability map put out by Forrester. Now, things may have changed, but this is just to illustrate the point. (Disclaimer: Forrester owns the copyright of the image, and we found this in public domain web image search.)

Sample business capability map representation by Forrester

 The capability map example by Forrester is a good level 1 view of a generic sample capability model.  Of course, industry experts may argue over the semantics and play a few new capabilities, and remove/shift others, but the concept is that a business capability model, at level 1, is getting arms around what a business does, represented by its capability list.  This picture is a strategic view and does an excellent job of communicating the essence of an oil and gas company. 

The two significant problems that follow the CIO or senior IT/business executives mandate and the sample from a Forrester or Gartner or any other firm are as follows: 

  • Business architects and other relevant personnel take weeks and months to replicate what the senior executive brought from the conference/mailer/webinar/research presentation. The time involved leads to the frustration of why is it taking so long to reproduce something that is 80-90% baked. 
  • Stopping at this Level 1 capability map does not achieve the core value and does not help realize key use case scenarios of capability modeling,  such as level of IT enablement at lower level capability clusters, mapping of IT assets to capabilities, a granular capability-centric roadmap, and so on.  (Truth be told, Gartner, Forrester, Cutter, and others are NOT suggesting companies stop at level 1, and progressive leaders in business architecture to dig deeper. However, this paradox exists in some firms that have a checkbox approach to business architecture.)

Let’s delve a little bit into the problem number 2.   Let’s take the capability called “Marketing” and assume we stopped at Marketing and did not decompose to the lower levels of granularity. 

Now, if we are doing a view/lens such as “Strategy to Capability Mapping,” in virtually every scenario marketing would show up as a key driver or a critical capability.  Now, if we had decomposed marketing and there are say 20-25 sub-capabilities at say 3 or 4 levels of granularity, then there will be more specificity, and not everything will be lumped into a coarse grain higher level capability called “Marketing.”

Second, if we were to create a view/lens called “Capability to System Mapping” or “System to Capability Mapping”, and stopped at higher level capability called Marketing, all 40, 50, or 100 marketing technologies will be grouped under the heading leading to head-scratching of why there are so many systems.  Of course, if we had a lower level model, and if there were a capability called “Social Media Content Management” and then a system called HootSuite is mapped to this capability, it will be evident as to what the capability is meant to do, and what the system supporting that capability is for. 

Last but not the least, a capability change requirement aligned to “Marketing” would show say dozens of needs without the specificity and clarity of where the change needs to be made. So, it will create ambiguity and confusion among the implementation teams. For example, where should “One-click social media posting” or “Weekly tracking of Brand mentions” go? If one-click social media posting were to be aligned to “Social Media Content Management,” and the weekly tracking of brand mentions were to be anchored to “Social Listening,” it would be much better. 

The moral of the story is depending on what is the strategic intent of the business architecture and capability modeling your company is trying to achieve, the granularity and modularity of where you operate in the capability spectrum will vary.  Secondly, even if your boss gives you a one-page lovely picture, it is incumbent upon the business architecture and capability modeling practitioners to educate the executives on the value of doing it right, and actually, do it.  You may still only use the high-level capabilities on a page for strategic and leadership conversations, but always be prepared for the next level click thru and beyond. (Capstera team believes it is best to decompose capabilities to at least level 3 and possibly 4, and beyond if necessary.)

So, by all means, use Cutter, Gartner and Forrester Business Capability Models to begin at the strategic blueprint level – the value chain or the level 1 capabilities – but for actionable business architecture and focused outcomes, dig a little deeper! 

Industry/Sector Specific Business Capability Model Examples:

Horizontal or Functional Area Business Capability Model Examples:

 

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