Modelling Behaviour

19 October 2010

I frequently find that there is much confusion about the modelling of Behaviour in an Enterprise Architecture model, specifically between the concepts of Business Capability, Business Function and Business Process. The various enterprise architecture glossaries all differ in their definition of these.

For example the TOGAF ADM or ISEB definitions don’t help as much as they could.

TOGAF quite reasonably defines Capability as ‘A business-focused outcome that is delivered by the completion of one or more work packages. Using a capability-based planning approach, change activities can be sequenced and grouped in order to provide continuous and incremental business value’.

However elsewhere TOGAF says that ‘The term “function” is used to describe a unit of Business Capability at all levels of granularity, encapsulating terms such as value chain, process area, capability, business function, etc.’. This confuses Business Capability with a Business Function.

ISEB says that a Business Function is ‘An idealised or logical subdivision an enterprise’s capability.’ and also that a Business Capability is ‘A business function whose performance is the subject of management attention … It is usually a high level and cross-organisational business function.’ Other methods I have encountered confuse Business Functions with Activities and have Business Processes decomposing into Business Functions.

ArchiMate has the most clarity about Business Functions and Business Processes but doesn’t as yet define a Business Capability.

One of the first artifacts to be produced as part of a Business Architecture model is a Target Operating Model. This is where definition issues are often first seen.

A Target Operating Model is usually a view of the organisation structure showing the Business Functions that each organisation unit is responsible for, but often these are also rather casually referred to as Capabilities.

Even more casually, it’s not uncommon to find the Target Operating Model actually contains a mixture of Business Processes, Business Functions and Business Capabilities with some Business Services thrown in for good measure.

It’s time for a bit more preciseness, less fuzziness and better standard definitions. ArchiMate has helped enormously by providing a standard enterprise architecture language but it still allows some fuzziness.  See http://www.opengroup.org/archimate/doc/ts_archimate/

Below I’ve described the definitions I encourage the use of.

Behaviour concepts

Business Capability

A Business Capability is defined as the ability to execute a specified course of action, to achieve specific strategic goals and objectives. A Capability is defined in terms of the outcome of the course of action, one that has a business value. The concept of Capability is used in the military context and the MODAF framework where it is described in the abstract. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capability_management and http://tinyurl.com/2vge39e

A Business Capability is not a Business Function, but is a concept that encapsulates other objects, in particular Actors (organisation units), Roles, Policies, Standards, Skills, Business Functions, Business Processes, Products, Business Services, Application Services, Application Components and Infrastructure. A Business Capability is therefore used for managing units of strategic business change.

A military example of a capability might be ‘2000 air freight sorties’, ‘1 Tonne heavy lifting’ or ‘Personnel Recovery under fire’ (but not ‘Helicopter’ or ‘Flight Management’). A business example might be ‘eBusiness’ (or the ability to sell new or existing products and business services to customers via the internet).

Business Capabilities can be decomposed into component business capabilities creating a capability hierarchy. A Business Capability is named after the desired outcome.

Business Function

Business Function is an organisational perspective on behaviour. It is not the same as a Business Capability. A Business Function defines the ‘what’ behaviour that is associated with an organisational unit and modelled in a target operating model. In many ways the Business Function is equivalent to all the behaviour that is modelled in an organisational specific swim lane in a Business Process Flow view (i.e. a BPMN diagram). A Business Function is typically named with a suffix of ‘management’ (i.e. ‘Customer Relationship Management’), but could also be a single noun (i.e. ‘Billing’).  Business Functions can be decomposed into component business functions, resulting in a business function hierarchy. A Business Function does not decompose into a Business Process or an Activity.

A useful example of a Business Function model is IBM’s Component Business Model, where the ‘components’ are (usually) Business Functions. See http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/imc/pdf/g510-6163-component-business-models.pdf

Business Process

A Business Process is another perspective on behaviour and defines the behaviour from the ‘How’ (how work is done) perspective. It represents both a complete Business Process Flow and the elements in a Business Process Flow. A Business Process Flow view (i.e. a BPMN diagram) is a view that shows a sequence of sub-Business Processes or Activities that are triggered by  a Business Event. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BPMN

The sequence of Business Processes can represent a Value Chain at a macro level or the detail elements in a Value Stream that is triggered by a Business Event and results in an outcome of value to the source of the Business Event, usually a customer. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Value_chain and  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Value_stream_mapping

A Value Stream is a more detailed version of a Business Scenario (TOGAF).  Business Processes are named with a Verb + Noun phrase.

A Business Processes representing a Value Stream is named after the Trigger + Outcome i.e. ‘Order to Cash’ or ‘Prospect to Customer’

The Enterprise Business Architecture book is highly recommended as a source of examples of a Business Process Model with Business Processes representing Value Streams.  See http://www.enterprisebusinessarchitecture.com/

High level Business processes are typically aggregations of more specific Business Processes (sub-processes) or Activities.

Business Processes can be decomposed into component business processes, i.e. into a business process hierarchy. At the lowest level of sensible decomposition (i.e. at one place, at one time, by one person or system) the elementary business process is usually called an Activity. Activities are what are modelled in a BPMN diagram and are realised by a person (providing an organisation service) or by an application service or application. An Activity doesn’t decompose into a Business Process or into a Business Function.

A macro level Business Process (i.e. representing a Value Chain, or a column in a Component Business Model) may be used to group a number of Business Functions. Note that there is a many to many relationship between Business Functions and Business Processes. One Business Function may group many Business Processes and one Business Process may be used by many Business Functions.

An example of this can be seen in the eTOM (Enhanced Telecom Operations Map) where Business Functions and Business Processes are orthogonal to each other.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ETOM

Business Service

A Business Service represents an external view of the services an organisation provides or sells to its customers alongside the sale of a Product. A Business Service may be realised by a Business Function or directly by an Application Service, but is more usually modelled as being realised by a Business Process.

Business Services can be decomposed into component business services i.e. into a business service hierarchy. I’ve also found it useful occasionally to create a Business Service Flow view, which is similar to a Business Process Flow view but seen from an external customer’s perspective instead of the internal ‘How’ perspective of a Business Process Flow view.

Clarification of all these Behaviour concepts is an important step towards improving and evolving a common understanding of the business architecture layer within all enterprise architecture models.

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