Capability modeling

Capabilities provide ways of looking at an organizational entity, (e.g., organizational area such as business area) from the perspective of what the organizational entity is able to do or provide in the way of useful affordances toward the accomplishment of desired results (e.g., business results for a business entity). A result is something valued by the organizational entity or one of its stakeholders, and elicits work or other investment in order that such a result can be realized. A capability represents an ability of the organizational entity to provide or produce some result. A capability net results from analyzing dependencies among various capabilities that have been identified.

Capabilities are distinguished from processes, in that processes rely on a time-ordered sequence for definition, whereas capabilities have no explicit time sequence and instead facilitate achievement of a result.  The basic technique for building such a model is through the usual methods of understanding business areas -- reviewing documents and talking to business people.  In this case the mindset is not "What do you do?" but rather "What do you need in order to achieve required or desired results?"

The preceding language is a simplified version of the description to be found in United States Patent 7580913 (Complete patent can be found at this URL: )


  • Capability definition
  • Result
  • Role-player
  • Value of result to role-player
  • Costs to develop, maintain, and provide as needed
The purpose of the capability perspective is to understand what the enterprise needs to be able to achieve, independent of the sequential or isolated activities that it uses to achieve its objectives.  From this perspective, the capability viewpoint is orthogonal to process and procedure viewpoints, and even from the practice viewpoint, since a practice may include multiple capabilities, and vice versa.
  • Descriptive - Capability models form a kind of calculus, between the various costs to provide capabilities and the value that they provide to various role-players inside and outside the enterprise.
  • Prescriptive -With a capability model it is possible to explore dependencies that can point out missing or redundant capabilities in the chain of linkages that build toward a desired result. 
  • Predictive - It is predictable that any capability identified will have upstream and downstream dependencies.  It is also predictable that there will be process snippets embedded in many of them and that a larger process view may be needed to understand how capabilities are to fire off in the course of doing business.