System, capability, process

For a long time, I have been involved in modeling “systems”.  It first started with modeling parts of how a police force operates and enabling senior officers to identify areas where improved performance was needed.  I then gained experience in modeling port, rail and mining operations.  Here, my models were used to represent future capabilities and to assess different proposals for improved capability in terms of their contribution to improved enterprise capacity.  This was my first exposure to enterprises-as-systems and modeling these systems.

Then I moved into the world of health services, in particular hospitals and the laboratories providing information to inform diagnosis and treatment.  Now, I had moved into the world of modeling enterprise-information-systems rather than modeling enterprises-as-systems.

Wind the clock forward another thirty years, and now I am modeling enterprises and their use of information systems, and helping enterprises to better understand these systems – their enterprise and their information systems.  I started with a process perspective and have done quite a lot of enterprise modeling in the enterprise-as-process space, creating a process breakdown structure providing a series of stepping stones from one process (the enterprise) to roughly 200 key processes in an enterprise such that the connections between the processes are better understood.

In my mind, I could look at a process and see that as a representation of the process, the people involved, and the other resources involved.  But a colleague could not do that. She pointed out that “capability” is the representation of process plus the resources used to exercise the process.  This was the beginning of my journey through enterprise-as-capability.

And it has been my experience that in using the capability lens, that the most traction has been gained in engaging with senior executives.  This is the means by which I can engage in conversation about:

  • business capabilities necessary to fulfil business strategy
  • business capabilities implicit in any business strategy
  • capacity of current business capabilities to realise the demands of the business strategy
  • dependencies on other business capabilities and on technical capabilities

It has been an interesting journey, and the recent connection of capability and process as perspectives of system has been invaluable.