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The use of Technical Capability models is not something I have seen a lot of use of, which is a little unfortunate as they can provide tremendous insight into an organizations IT needs.

Typically you want to use the Technical capability model to be used in conjunction with a business capability model, and this is where things can get tricky as developing the business views can take time.  I came across this short video which focuses on the more business aspect but helps explain the ideas behind the models:

Note how the model is largely groups of capabilities that happen in the business. Underlying this kind of diagram you would have a brief explanation of each capability.  If you want to go all out on EA modelling then you can link the capabilities to the documented associated processes etc.

Independently, the ideal is to then identify the technical capabilities that are likely to be needed. This will provide a similar looking model. The technical capabilities are probably best drawn from industry best practices, and specific business needs. The model should be completely product agnostic. The real value comes in by then mapping the technical capabilities to which business capabilities use.

This will now help inform a number of decisions identity areas of focus.  The technical capabilities should have mappings or fall into one of the following states, with the associated reasons:

  • Maps To Business Capabilities
    • This is healthy
  • Technology is Being Used but no Business Mapping
    • Gap in the business capability model?
    • Nuance of the business model not understood by IT?
    • Redundant processes being performed?
  • Business Process with no Technology
    • Opportunity for business improvement?
    • Genuinely no value in applying technology e.g. Business Value is something is hand made?
    • Capability delivered by Shadow IT?
  • Doesn’t Map to Any Business Capabilities
    • Capability isn’t needed and therefore jettisoned OR
    • Potential capability that the business are unaware or haven’t understood what can be offered

With the exception of the 1st condition, the other scenarios things should be examined more closely and adjust the models accordingly.

With the capability models linked and the miss matches addressed.  The Technical Capability model can really deliver value by linking the capabilities to the actual technologies being used.  Very quickly it is possible to see details such as:

  • Technology weaknesses (i.e. a key business area is not well supported by IT e.g. products being mapped are End of Life, not got the level of support). Whilst some of these will be ‘no brainers’ it is more than likely a free surprises will show up
  • Technology duplication – sometimes we’ll see multiple products in one area, can the product list be rationalised to maximise license investment? Would it be more cost effective to invest 1 one high-end product and eliminate lots of smaller niche pieces?
  • Where IT investment will likely improve key capabilities vs investment on niche capabilities
  • How technology change can impact the business, for example replacing a Content Management System may impact an organisations online presence, but it may also show to impact how we deliver support services to customers.
  • If the business prioritise a specific area, how does that map onto IT systems and processes?

Whilst a lot of this will seem pretty obvious, it will uncover unexpected details and most importantly provide a relatively simple set of visualisations as cross references that help understand the business and explain the impact of IT related decisions to the business in their terms.

The following deck provides a presentation on the value of Technical Capability Models: