Capability chain – a combination of value chain and capability map

Those of you who have been reading my blog will know that I have been worrying away at the concept of a capability map.  Initially, as a business strategist, I could not really see the point of these time consuming maps, some of which extend to many pages of A3 sized paper.  They seemed to me to be second class organisation charts.  Second class because they defined the activities but not who reports to whom.

Over time I have understood more about capability maps and have almost arrived at a comfortable relationship with them.   I say almost because I am still a little skeptical.  So it is in this frame of mind that I am always on the look out for others worrying about the same issue.

William Ulrich and Jim Ryhne recently addressed this issue in an article published on the BA Institute website (standing for Business Architecture Institute).  In it they critique “business capability architecture”.

“Business Capability Architecture is positioned as a framework for interpreting and enabling business strategy and business initiatives. We believe that the concept of value delivery should be elaborated using value streams and value networks. These value oriented perspectives are linked to capabilities to articulate how those capabilities are used to deliver stakeholder value. If this value oriented perspective is ignored, the ability to leverage business capabilities is significantly sub-optimized.”

In other words they are saying that capability maps are more useful if they are integrated with value stream or value chain maps.

They give an example of what they unhelpfully call a Value Stream/Capability Cross-mapping Blueprint.


I think I would call this a “capability chain” or “capability stream”: the mix between a value chain and a capability map.  Its strength is that it lays out the capabilities in the format of a value chain, similar to my idea in my previous post.  In fact I first coined the term “capability chain” in a session together with some PA Consultants at Henley Business School.  I am still not entirely sure whether laying the process out in this way is any more helpful than the normal ways of laying out value chains or value streams.  But I am sure that this puts capability mapping in its proper place – as a tool you use after you have done value chain mapping.

As the authors comment “Unless value streams are incorporated and tied to strategy, it will be difficult to see which capabilities are more important and which capabilities are less important in realizing a strategic objective. That this perspective is critical has been unquestioned since the publication of Porter’s work on competitive strategy.”


About andrew campbell

Ashridge Strategic Management Centre Focus on strategy and organisation Currently working on group-level functions and group-level strategy
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1 Response to Capability chain – a combination of value chain and capability map

  1. Hi, this weekend is good. At this moment I am reading this wonderful educational post here at my house.

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