I’ve blogged in the past about the value of standards.  I also have seen many efforts to create taxonomies: a standardized breakdown of some general area, down to specifics.  One that is popular with the Microsoft Enterprise Architecture team is the MS Motion Taxonomy, which is a breakdown of business capabilities created as part of Microsoft Dynamics.

A capability is a ‘container that holds people, processes, and tools needed to solve a specific business problem.’  For example, the business may have the capability of paying outstanding invoices in the financial area.  In Contoso, that may mean that a person runs a month-end report showing the list of payables, prints individual checks, prints labels, and then spends some time ‘envelope stuffing,’ and lastly updates the financial system to reflect their work.  In IBuySpy, that may mean a highly automated daily process.  For IBuySpy, perhaps some invoices can be payed electronically through EFT, so the tools select and transmit those transaction.  For those vendors that require actual checks to be printed and mailed, the tools will electronically compile and transmit a batch to a check printing and paying service.

The processes were different.  The tools were different.  But the business capability is the same.

That’s the value of a taxonomy of business capabilities.  Note that capabilities are not processes.  The process for ‘Procure Office Supplies’ can be substantially different from ‘Procure Raw Materials’ for some very good reasons.  These processes will USE specific capabilities from the business, like the ability to negotiate contract terms, and tools like an procurement intranet site for corporate employees to purchase their office supplies.  However, these high-level processes will share the need for the capability of ‘pay outstanding invoices.’

We are working on the next level beyond these business capabilities at the moment within EA, and I will blog about that later.  For now, I wanted to introduce the notion of Motion.

By Nick Malik

Former CIO and present Strategic Architect, Nick Malik is a Seattle based business and technology advisor with over 30 years of professional experience in management, systems, and technology. He is the co-author of the influential paper "Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture" with Dr. Brian Cameron that effectively defined modern Enterprise Architecture practices, and he is frequent speaker at public gatherings on Enterprise Architecture and related topics. He coauthored a book on Visual Storytelling with Martin Sykes and Mark West titled "Stories That Move Mountains".

5 thoughts on “A single taxonomy of business capabilities”
  1. I have had some experience using MS Motion but only limitted so my comments are part educated and gut feel so beware.

    MS Motion is a methodology and tool for describing at the CxO level a given line of business. It comes with some existing business capability taxonomies from past customer engagements with customers in different verticals or domains to reference only. These taxonomies represent past thinking for a specific business vertical or domain to improve productivity and accuracy while executing the MS Motion Methodology.  It’s up to the MS Motion Methodology that actually creates the business capability architecture for a specific customer’s line of business. Anyway, enough about the taxonomies created as these will change and be refined over time as they are reused for different customers.

    While reading your blog. I think that you are correct. I wonder if i could take a moment and reply with some thinking I have around the value of such a thing as business capability architecture using MS Motion. I think that there are number of values to be reaped;

    First, it is a catalyst for determining quickly where a butiness should focus and look for opportunities to improve. Improvements in business outsourcing opportunities, improvements in business process (using Six Sigma for example), improvements in informaiton and improvements in IT solutions to enable the business.

    Second, it provides a simple architectural view the business understands and manages themselves that is ocnnected to the other architecture views. So, when the business makes adjustments to their business capability architecture, usually in the form of setting priorities based on business strategy, the other architecture views are ‘informed’ through their relationship to the business capability to look for ways to improve which may be one or more changes in the business process and IT environment (applications, information or IT products). So, the business manage their business

    There’s more I have to say but I’ll leave it for later…



  2. Introduction and Context I have been giving an SOA talk, in various forms for several years, where I concentrate on various themes. For the benefit of many who have not gone to such talks, as well as for others, I have always wanted to start a written

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