What is Capability-Based Planning?
By Jibility co-founder Chuen Seet
In a business context, capability-based planning is an approach that ensures that changes in an organization are aligned to the overarching strategic vision.
The approach has its origins in defense and military planning by the likes of the US, UK, Australia and Canada. More recently, it has become popular in the business domain, particularly for developing systems and IT-related strategies.
The overall theory is that those organizations with superior capability to execute strategy will win – whether they are the armed forces or a business.
Whilst capability-based planning has long been the tool of trade for military planners and strategists, consultants and enterprise architects, it hasn’t yet been widely understood or adopted in the broader community.
What is a Capability?
A capability describes what the business does and should not be confused with just the skills or competencies of the people (which the HR function also refers to as a capability).
So, a business capability is described by more than just the people perspective; it includes the process and physical perspective. In other words, a business capability can describe the processes involved, the physical objects used, and the people roles and skills required as well.
For example: a software development capability would encompass not just the developers (people), but processes such as Agile methodology, and physical assets such as software tools and hardware.
The diagram below shows a couple of example capabilities with associated sub-capabilities. (These are taken from the sample digital transformation strategy roadmap within the Jibility app.)
How does Capability-Based Planning Work?
Supported by a collection of techniques (e.g. capability mapping), capability-based planning will enable an organization to:
- Identify its capabilities
- Assess the level of change required to each capability
- Prioritize the changes required
- Develop a plan for making the changes
Typically, capabilities identified as requiring change should be linked to the organization’s strategic goals or objectives. Focusing on these capabilities helps the organization to stay on track as it works to execute the strategy.
7 Reasons Why Capability-Based Planning is Effective
It’s a top-down, whole-of-organization approach. It breaks through departmental silos by shifting from a functional view to a capability view.
It focuses directly on what an organization needs to do to execute its strategy.
It provides a map of the organization’s overall capabilities to ensure nothing is missed.
It directly links initiatives and projects back to capability changes and, in turn, back to the organization’s objectives. No more random initiatives that seemed like a good idea at the time, but in hindsight don’t actually align to your strategy.
It cuts the wheat from the chaff. It helps you determine the highest priority capabilities that you need to develop, and related initiatives that you should focus on. It clarifies and optimizes business investment.
It stops you from jumping to conclusions about solutions too early. By delaying solution definition and doing it in the context of capabilities, it opens you up to alternatives rather than simply incrementing existing deployed equipment, processes and people.
It provides a systematic way of identifying change initiatives. Many business planning approaches define mission, goals and objectives, and then start spawning initiatives and projects. By looking at what capabilities are required to meet your objectives, it provides clarity for your initiatives.
Capability-Based Planning Frameworks
Capability-based planning is embodied in industry frameworks such as The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF®) which is used extensively for planning information technology strategy and architecture.
The Business Architecture Guild® has developed an excellent in-depth guide to capability mapping and related business and IT architecture disciplines called A Guide to the Business Architecture Body of Knowledge® (BIZBOK®).
Both TOGAF® and BIZBOK® Guide are well worth a read if you want to immerse yourself in the details of capability-based planning.
Where to Start with Capability-Based Planning
Jibility is an app which enables you to easily apply capability-based planning techniques as you develop a strategy roadmap; the essential link between a strategy and execution.
Jibility is a cloud-based drag-and-drop tool, which provides the user with pre-defined building blocks for more agile delivery and maintenance of strategy roadmaps. Most importantly, it’s simple to use.