My opinions on processes and capabilities have changed. That doesn’t sound like a sesmic shift, does it ? That sounds like I’d been considering it and I’d changed my views based on new evidence. People are allowed to change their mind, aren’t they ? But that’s not how this felt; this felt like a fundamental realignment, like the sun started to go around the moon or mice started to chase the cat. I’d been talking to people about capability models for years, eschewing process models and I suddenly found capability models to be just a tool, not the answer that I’d always thought that they were. So how did this come about ……….. ?
I was challenged recently to build a process architecture, from scratch, for an existing organisation and to make use of a team of business analysts to capture the more detailed processes. I quickly sketched both a level 0 process model and a level 0 capability model and it was immediately clear that only the process model described what the organisation did and was useful for the business analysts. We used the business model canvas as a level 0 process model. I should have drawn a rich picture, framed for posterity, but laughter in the room curtailed my early attempts at art. The canvas clearly showed the organisation did; it was immediately understandable and comprehensive. We then moved on to level 1 – a set of value streams, ala Porter. Level 2, the first ‘real’ processes, were the steps necessary in each value chain and I left the business analysts to define levels 3-5, while I started the operating model.
So what’s the use for a capability model ? The answer to that become clear as I reviewed the level 4 processes some time later. The processes were mis-leveled, but that’s to be expected. What I hadn’t counted on was the ingenuity of those interviewed to capture the business processes. They’d managed to make very similar process steps sound completely different between divisions: the levels were different, the steps were different and the nomenclature was different. Whilst removing the dichotemy was one of the reasons that we’d got the job, I was stuck. I couldn’t change the processes but I needed to demonstrate the similarities bewteen them. What I needed was an independant framework that I could use to demonstrate that the processes were similar across divisions.
So we mapped each process step to a (set of) capabilities. I’d used the capability model in the TM Forum eTom Frameworx as a start-point and that was useful to demonstrate to the business analysts what the difference was between a capability and a process. Once we’d reviewed the capabilities necessary to deliver each process step, we were ready to ‘discuss’ them with the process leads and explain the similarities in their processes. Showing the process leads that the capabilities necesssary to deliver the processes were identical allowed them to see that the processes should be similar too. Objective achieved !
But what of the capability model ? Is it just a tool to clarify processes ? Well yes: in this case, it was. However, if I’d been asked at the outset to define the capabilities that the organisation offered, I would have started with level 1 being a capability map and the decomposition would have uncovered which processes delivered which capability.
So, in summary, it’s not necessary to chose between processes and capabilities: pick the approach that delivers the right output. In this case, in the age of the ‘digital organisation’ I was probably asked the wrong question: I should have been asked to define the capabilities that the organisation offers to market, not look inward at the processes and ignore the customers.