Capabilities and competencies in O-BA

Copyright 2017 Graham Berrisford. One of about 300 papers at http://avancier.website. Last updated 02/12/2017 21:50

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This is one of several popular papers on the TOGAF® standard that are posted on the home page at avancier.website.

Contents

Business capabilities, functions and value streams TOGAF. 1

Mapping the TOGAF standard to core O-BA concepts. 1

Capabilities. 2

Competencies. 4

Conclusions and remarks. 6

Appendix: O-BA core concepts. 6

 

Business capabilities, functions and value streams TOGAF

Before reading this paper, it is strongly recommend you read at least the first half of this other paper.

Business capabilities, functions and value streams TOGAF

Mapping the TOGAF standard to core O-BA concepts

At first sight, the Business Capability / Value Stream distinction in O-BA part 1 is exactly the same as the Business Function / Process distinction in the framework.

But the “Capability” concept seems ambiguous in O-BA, and part 2 seems to contradict part 1.

 

O-BA term

O-BA definition

Mappable to this term in the TOGAF standard

Business Capability

“A particular ability or capacity that a business may possess or exchange to achieve a specific purpose.

A capability is a fundamental and unique contribution to the business mission, independent of any kind of organization.

In some communities it is called a business function.”

A business Function as in a Functional decomposition.

See discussion below.

Organisation

A social unit of people that is structured and managed to meet a need or to pursue collective goals.

An Organisation unit as in an Organisation decomposition.

Value Stream

“A sequence of activities an enterprise undertakes to deliver on a customer request. 

More broadly, the sequence of activities required to design, produce, and deliver a good or service to a customer, and it includes the dual flows of information and material.”

A Scenario or Process.

Scenarios usually are modelled at a high level.

Processes can be modelled at any level of granularity.

Business Service

“The valued attribute of a capability as perceived by the stakeholder.”

A definition that differs significantly from other standards.

Business Structure

“A set of business capabilities and their inter-relationships that contribute to accomplishing a higher-level goal.”

This is presented as composite of a capability map, organisation structure and value streams.

A Node Connectivity Diagram shows relationships between capabilities or organisation units.

Competence

“An organizational mechanism composed of related capabilities, commitments, knowledge, and skills that enable an organization to accomplish its strategic intent and objectives.

Business competencies embrace and communicate the holistic view.

Competence descriptions express the strategic need comparable with the concepts of key mechanism, core competence, and critical success factors.

Competence descriptions also define the required quality levels of competence maturity and capabilities.

It resonates with a systemic view and can be used to define a desired emergent property of a system, which is more than the sum of the parts.

Customer experience is a nice example.

The difference between competence and capability is the way in which capabilities are performed.

Culture and experience and the combination of capabilities are factors that contribute to accomplishment of a competence.”

This could also be a Function. See discussion below.

Capabilities

 

Capabilities in the armed forces

Why is capability-based planning so prominent in the armed forces?

And the concept of “capability” so central in DODAF, MODAF and NAF?

 

A standing army prepares to do things it does not do on a regular business – and might never do.

It must develop the capability to join up its forces to achieve a goal not yet declared.

The goal may be to win a war, or perform a one-off mission of some other kind.

The mission-time organisation needed to pursue this project may be called a capability.

It will draw resources from the peacetime organisation to achieve the given goal.

 

At different times, a capability appears to be:

·         what is traditionally called a "function" (as in a logical functional decomposition structure), or

·         a one-off process or project.

·         an organisation

·         a cross-organisational team.

·         any or all of the above

·         defined so loosely that it could be something else, an application for example.

 

It is not easy to fit the concept of capability into a methodology designed to model regular business operations.

So, bear in that in mind in what follows.

 

Capabilities O-BA

O-BA defines at least one logical capability map/hierarchy, independent of the organisation/management structure.

It includes two other views of capabilities, named in the right hand column of the table below.

 

Capabilities <are related to>

Other architectural entities

O-BA ways of modelling

Capabilities <are composed of>

Capabilities/activities (the internal view of a Capabilities)

Capability map/hierarchy

Capabilities <serve>

Capabilities/external Roles (with information/material flows)

Dependency network diagram

Capabilities <trigger>

Capabilities (in sequential processes)

Value stream

 

Just like TOGAF functions, capabilities are modelled in a top-down decomposition structure, independent of the organisation structure.

And just like TOGAF processes, value streams relate capabilities by sequential dependencies – or should that be information/material flows?

 

Although a capability corresponds to a function in TOGAF, it is more than that in O-BA.

“It is composed of people, process, technology, management, and information and informed by business strategy how that best contributes to the ambition of the organization”.

That sounds like an organisation unit rather than a capability – a concrete system realisation rather than an abstract system description.

 

Confusingly, part 2 defines the attributes of a capability as though it were a single value stream or process.

“Capabilities are described with the following aspects: name, description, purpose, input, techniques, and outcome.

Each Business Architecture capability is elaborated and described with the following aspects:”

 

Capability

O-BA Definition

Observation

Name

A stateless expression of a capacity an organization or individual possesses.

capacity” typically means a throughput rate, “ability” might be better.

Description

The transformation process the capability accomplishes.

process” is an odd word here – suggests a value stream rather than a capability.

Purpose

The value the capability provides for receiving stakeholders.

Isn’t the “value” of a material/information flow, the same as a “Business Service” in O-BA?

Input

The specific input that is transformed by the capability.” 

specific” means one input instance, in one process performance? Or one input type, implying a single process capability?

 

If the O-BA standard is to be aligned with TOGAF, then attention should be given to the “structured analysis” concepts that underpin TOGAF’s content framework.

Competencies

You can build a free-standing capability by selecting capabilities from a given capability map with reference to a different or new goal.

You may cluster capabilities on any criterion you choose – say data created or experience required.

Clustering by data is a way to identify where capabilities can be supported by the same application or application family

However, the result of clustering capabilities on any chosen criteria is not necessarily well described as a capability.

 

O-BA defines a competence by clustering of capabilities in a given hierarchy that are related in some way.

OK, so how does O-BA differentiate a competence from a capability?

 

 “It [competence] resonates with a systemic view and can be used to define a desired emergent property of a system, which is more than the sum of the parts.”

This doesn’t differentiate a competence from a capability.

Every capability is more than the sum of its parts; every capability depends on interactions between its elements.

 

“Customer experience is a nice example.”

This doesn’t clearly differentiate a competence from a capability.

Presumably the competence is delivering a good (rather than bad) customer experience.

Directors might declare this to be a measurable goal and required capability of their business.

E.g. Training providers usually measure customer experience by collecting information flows from them, on comment forms.

 

“The difference between competence and capability is the way in which capabilities are performed.”

This sounds like how services/products are delivered rather than what.

The how is definable in role definitions that declare what activities are done, and how.

Role definitions can include activities like showing good manners, smiling and chatting to customers.

Again, success may be measured by collecting customer feedback and/or winning repeat business.

 

“Culture and experience and the combination of capabilities are factors that contribute to accomplishment of a competence.”

Every non-elementary capability combines lower level capabilities.

Every human capability and role may be defined in terms of experience required.

That leaves us with “culture” as a factor that distinguishes a competence from a capability.

If so, then like every other aspect of business operations, it ought to be definable and measurable.

Else, it cannot be agreed whether it exists in a baseline capability or is realised in a new capability.

 

The very length of the O-BA “competence” definition suggests it is not easy to distinguish a competence from a capability.

Perhaps the distinction is more subjective than objective. Or can it be drawn in a simpler way?

 

Are competencies about the qualities of capabilities? (just an idea)

Many define a capability as an ability.

That is a loose concept; it could embrace any of what is done or delivered, how it is done or delivered, or knowledge, skills and resources needed.

Perhaps a capability is about what is delivered? definable in terms of material/information flow contents?

Perhaps a competency is about how well it is delivered? definable in terms of qualities such as speed, low defect rate, and high customer satisfaction?

 

Hmm… every capability should be measurable in terms of such competencies.

And grouping capabilities by any particular “ability” is not necessarily helpful.

E.g. you could cluster capabilities that require human actors with the ability to, say, speak Spanish.

That would group capabilities under heading that seems more a competence than a capability - or is it a skill?

And if a goal of the business is to do more business in Spain, then it might it be capability as well?

 

Aside on people and business change

Some business architects speak of taking a people-first or people-centric view of a business.

In defining a new or transformed enterprise, enterprise architects always start from the concerns of sponsors and stakeholders.

However, they usually leave thinking about the human actors (needed to play the roles) to others.

A natural sequence is to define goals/services, value streams and capabilities, roles and organisation units, and only then, the human actors.

The required human abilities should be defined in role definitions before assigning, hiring or recruiting the human actors.

Where roles are changed, enterprise architects usually work in parallel with business managers, HR and some kind of “business change” team.

Conclusions and remarks

The preliminary O-BA standard speaks of a holistic view comprising three domains:

·         Strategy (intent, vision, priorities)

·         Business structure (capability map, organisation structure and value streams)

·         Operational context (business outcome, enabling means, resource, input, implication).

 

This paper focuses on the business structure domain.

It discusses where the capability and value stream concepts appear in TOGAF.

It points to a few issues that bedevil documenting a business architecture model (inside or outside of TOGAF).

E.g. the morphing of capabilities into organisation units when it comes to the assignment of goals, managers and resources.

And the impossibility of relating goals to everything they could be related to.

 

The O-BA material on the business structure domain could probably be rewritten with reference to TOGAF business architecture terms and artifacts.

If people tell you the business structure concepts in O-BA are different - then make them prove it by example!

Perhaps the operational context domain material could be rewritten to the same end?

 

You may want to read also “The TOGAF standard mapped to Capabilities in NATO’s architecture framework”.

 

 

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Appendix: O-BA core concepts

Note that the definitions in the two parts of the preliminary standard are not exactly the same.

 

2.1 Approach

A flow (as in work flow) of steps or phases that show how the goal accomplishment will be addressed in order to produce a defined deliverable and/or result.

2.2 Business

Anything that is related to organizing for exchange of products and services by business, governmental, or institutional organizations.

2.3 Business Architecture

The formalized description of how an organization uses its essential competencies for realizing its strategic intent and objectives.

2.4 Business Capability

A particular ability or capacity that a business may possess or exchange to achieve a specific purpose. Note: A capability is a fundamental and unique contribution to the business mission, independent of any kind of organization. In some communities it is called a business function.

2.5 Business Service

The valued attribute of a capability as perceived by the stakeholder.

2.6 Business Structure

A set of business capabilities and their inter-relationships that contribute to accomplishing a higher-level goal.

2.7 Common Language

A set of definitions of concepts that are essential to the Business Architecture practice. Note: In order to facilitate integration of the common language with the way of modeling and way of working, it is preferably controlled to a certain extent. Control in this standard is conducted through clearly stating to which concepts certain terms refer. The essential concepts can be found in Appendix E. By adhering to these concepts the practice enables consistent description of a holistic view, integrated analysis of operational implications, and review of validity of the structure and operations against the assumed business strategy.

2.8 Competence

An organizational mechanism composed of related capabilities, commitments, knowledge, and skills that enable an organization to accomplish its strategic intent and objectives. Business competencies embrace and communicate the holistic view. Competence descriptions express the strategic need comparable with the concepts of key mechanism, core competence, and critical success factors. Competence descriptions also define the required quality levels of competence maturity and capabilities. It resonates with a systemic view and can be used to define a desired emergent property of a system, which is more than the sum of the parts. Customer experience is a nice example. The difference between competence and capability is the way in which capabilities are performed. Culture and experience and the combination of capabilities are factors that contribute to accomplishment of a competence.

2.9 Discipline

The framework, method, and approaches that constitute a complete integrated set for practicing in the field of a profession.

2.10 Framework

A set of linked ways of thinking or insights that serve as the guiding principles for the structuring of a method and associated approaches.

2.11 Holistic View

The complete set of descriptions of the business strategy, the business structure, and the implications of the strategy and structure for operations. Note: The business strategy includes an external vision, the strategic intent, and the strategic priorities. It provides insights reckoning with the horizontal and vertical dependencies between the strategic, structural, and operational level as well as between business domains.

2.12 Organization

A social unit of people that is structured and managed to meet a need or to pursue collective goals. Note: Organizations are open systems – they affect and are affected by their environment.

2.13 Resource

A human, financial, physical, or knowledge factor that provides an organization the means to perform its business processes.

2.14 Structure

The aggregate of elements of an entity in their relationships to each other.

2.15 Value Stream

A sequence of activities an enterprise undertakes to deliver on a customer request. More broadly, the sequence of activities required to design, produce, and deliver a good or service to a customer, and it includes the dual flows of information and material.

2.16 View

A representation of a whole system from the perspective of a related set of concerns.

2.17 Viewpoint

A pattern or template from which to construct individual views. A viewpoint establishes the purposes and audience for a view and the techniques or methods employed in constructing a view.