One of the problems with capability maps

Last evening I was with Alan Crawley of Optima Partners (specialists in marketing function transformation) talking about marketing operating models.  A most stimulating discussion.   Parallel to this I have been in a LinkedIn discussion with Peter Murchland about capability maps.  In it we were using marketing as an example, or, as a capability map would call it, “marketing management”.

I started the dialogue with Peter like this “I find a capability such as “marketing management” is a dangerous abstraction because “marketing management of a restaurant” is a very different capability from “marketing management of a toothpaste” which is a different capability from “marketing management of a consulting service”. Yet I have never seen a capability defined with this degree of specificity.

The dialogue then focused on the marketing challenges of Ashridge Business School where we have tailored courses, open courses, qualifications courses, weddings and research outputs such as books and articles.  I was suggesting that these may all be different kinds of marketing capability, but capability mapping does not make it easy to consider these differences because all of these types of marketing would be captured under the term “marketing management”.

Peter commented, “Taking one line of investigation, where I use APQC Process Classification Framework as an indirect path to capabilities (which surround processes), process 3 is Market and Sell Products and Services.

This is composed of:
3.1 Understand markets, customers and capabilities
3.2 Develop market strategy
3.3 Develop sales strategy
3.4 Develop and manage marketing plans
3.5 Develop and manage sales plans

This would indicate that the marketing capability can be considered to comprise three capabilities:
a) Market assessment
b) Market strategy
c) Marketing planning

We could then consider each of these capabilities (and associated processes). For example, market strategy relies upon:
i) Value proposition development
ii) Pricing strategy development
iii) Channel strategy development

(Note: this decomposition does not yet address the differences you have highlighted)”

This response seemed to illustrate the problem of a capability approach rather well.  The issue that seems to me most important in this part of the Ashridge Business School operating model is relegated to a note in brackets at the end of Peter’s analysis.

Peter’s follow on comment tried to address “the differences you have highlighted”.

When I look at the different types of marketing you have nominated, several considerations come to mind:
a) what are you encompassing within “marketing” – the market strategy element or the promotional element – two quite distinct activities
b) there may be distinct differences that emerge in dealing with products versus services
c) the differences may be addressed through the competencies of one individual performing the entire marketing function (in which case it is a moot point and unnecessary level of detail to accommodate in the capability model)”

I quote Peter because I consider him to be a high quality thinker and enterprise architect.  But I can’t help feeling that he is being held back by his capability view of the enterprise.

I shared this feeling.  “Peter, your responses most perfectly illustrate why I am uncomfortable with a capability approach. While you are thinking “marketing capability” or “marketing function” and breaking the capability down into level two and three capabilities. I am thinking, should we consider marketing a tailored course to be the same capability as marketing a wedding or a research paper? I am thinking, do I need five “marketing functions”, one for each line of business, or one function for all of ABS? If I have one marketing function should it be organized into market assessment, market strategy and market planning teams or into tailored, open, qualifications, weddings, and research teams? These questions are all best addressed with a value chain map (rather than a capability map) as the starting point.”

I continued, “I feel that starting from a capability view of the world (one that does not have 1000 different kinds of marketing capability) is a handicap. I feel you are trying to do an operating model for a sport, starting with terms like “ball contact management”. Whereas first you need to know whether you are playing tennis or hockey or rugby, because “ball contact management” is a completely different activity in these three sports.”

I am sure the dialogue will continue – I have had previous interactions with Peter on this topic.  You can follow along here – although you may need Peter to approve your membership of the group.

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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3 Responses to One of the problems with capability maps

  1. Peter Murchland says:

    Capability modeling is one of a number of tools used to inform the development of an enterprise transformation program. Any assessment of its appropriateness or effectiveness should incorporate elements of:
    a) understanding the problem that needs to be solved
    b) understanding the role and contribution of capability modeling in solving that problem (eg. the other steps / tools that may be used and the purpose of the use of CM in that context)

    The discussion that Andrew and I are having on LinkedIn is part of a topic entitled “Exploring the use of the capability concept”, arising from a debate in a different group about the definition of capability where I made the point that it is necessary to understand the purpose of using the concept.

    There are steps that I take preceding the use of capability modeling – exploring the business model and operating model of the enterprise. The capability modeling is undertaken to:
    a) understand the capabilities needed to realise the intended business model and operating model
    b) identify capability gaps (missing capabilities or immature capabilities requiring development)
    as input into developing a program of initiatives to address the capability gaps.

    The primary use of the capability assessment is to aid in:
    a) understanding capability dependencies so that initiatives are formed taking account of these dependencies
    b) prioritising the initiatives and timing of resolution of the identified capability gaps (as there are often too many things to do and insufficient capacity to address all the gaps at once)

    Andrew indicated as part of his commentary that value chain maps are the best tool. The use and expression of value chains occurs in the preceding step (in my approach) of expressing the intended operating model for the nominated enterprise (whether the enterprise is that pursued by an organisation eg. ABS or an enterprise within the organisation such as marketing). If the latter, then it is important to understand the scope of the enterprise and the meanings being applied to key terms and concepts, as marketing means different things to different people, most typically distinguishing between market strategy (focused around determining combinations of customer / product / service to be pursued) and promotions (how products and services are communicated to develop sales).

  2. Enterprise Architects aren’t often asked to define operating models, because the role “Enterprise Architect” is most often (incorrectly ?) used to mean an “IT architect across multiple capabilities”. I haven’t seen many comments by HR professionals, and HR is often the department charged with “organisation design”

    Peter M’s approach is perfectly valid if you have already defined your product and the architect is then defining the processes for that product (and IT and information models), which is a more usual task for an Enterprise Architect. As an aside, Enterprise Architects will increasingly use the term ‘capability’ because that’s what’s defined in Archimate 3.0 at the strategy level.

    I don’t think that there’s a “problem with capability maps”, it’s just that EAs need to get used to asking a different set of questions and driving a different set of outcomes to what they have traditionally been asked to do. As I’ve said before, EAs will soon need an MBA and an IT degree before they can call themselves “Enterprise Architects”

  3. Peter Murchland says:

    I agree that most EAs are not asked to define an operating model. That is partly because most EAs are actually EITAs and not architects of enterprises. More often CEOs, CXOs, and LOB Executives define the architecture of the enterprise, but they usually do it be defining the organisational structure, not the operating model. Andrew can offer insight into the type of people who attend his operating model design courses, which will shed some light on the growing cadre of people taking greater interest in operating model design. I can assure you that successful OMD goes well beyond the experience and capability of those in HR functions, too.

    The approach that Interface Consultants adopts is not constrained by requiring products to be defined. It can be applied to and by a startup through to any size enterprise. Our approach is not exclusive to our organisation. I note that FromHereOn takes a very similar approach, as just one example.

    At present, the onus is back on Andrew to better qualify the problem he sees, given that his current articulation is based on a false premise (that capability maps are and/or should be the starting point).

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