Enterprise Architecture for Dummies Posted on Thursday, July 11th, 2013 by Corey Balko .

In part 8 of “Memoirs of an Enterprise Architect” I discussed how rationalizing your applications can allow you to do more with your organizational budget.  This week I would like to have an open dialog about Capabilities, Business Process, the Service Catalog and a few other Enterprise Architecture concepts that will make your brain hurt.

EA is too complicated…

“Enterprise Architecture Made Easy” @ www.datamation.com

When you start talking about the definitions of a Capability, Business Function, Business Process or a Service, people often want to know what is the context.  Does the definition of a word change meaning depending on context?  Isn’t an apple still an apple whether I am talking about fruit salad or apple pie?

I am starting to think the reason that Enterprise Architecture is such a polarizing topic is because we make it too complicated.  As Enterprise Architects, we are our own worst enemies.  I say it’s time to get off our soap boxes and start calling an apple an apple without getting all philosophical and saying “it depends” all the time.  Who’s with me?  Let’s make believers out of everyone that thinks EA is a big waste of time and does not add value.

Executives are screaming at anyone who will listen to them saying that they want, or better yet need someone to show them how to transform their organizations so they can succeed in today’s economy and continue to be relevant tomorrow.  Enterprise Architecture is in the pole position to make this happen, but it needs to be simple and easily digestible.

KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid)

Remember KISS from one of my previous blogs.  I am going to define some concepts below in this fashion.  These are the concepts that always bring out the little Plato and Socrates within us.

  • Technology or Software  - actual bits installed on a system.
  • Application  - a logical grouping of one or more technologies that make up a solution.
  • Business Function  - a process performed routinely to carry out part of the organizational Capabilities that deliver the Business Service.
  • Capability  - (The What) – the ability to execute a specific course of action.
  • Business Process  - (The How) – defines the way the Capability requested in the Business Service is orchestrated between the Business Functions that deliver it.
  • Business Service  - presents an organizational Capability externally for consumption.  It declares what is available but not how it is delivered.

So to simplify even further, a Business Service and a Capability are the same thing.  Do you agree?  I still think these definitions are not as consumable as they should be for any in the business, but I would like to hear your thoughts.  Before you respond, think of how you would explain these concepts to your parents.  It can be done.  I know it can.

See you next week, same time, same place where I will continue discussing architecture concepts.

3 thoughts on “ Enterprise Architecture for Dummies ”

    Pazzman July

    11, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Hi Corey, I completely agree that the terms used to describe the technological delivery of “something” are way to cumbersome and complex for most to understand. I think part of the problem is that while ITIL defines most of them, their interpretations vary greatly from company to company and frequently from person to person within the company. So the problem as I see it is not so much that the terms aren’t simple it’s more that their definitions are not consistent.

What I think would be better is simple, straight forward definitions such as the ones you have described. My Father isn’t technical at all but he would be able to understand the terms you provided. The question is, can we set those definitions (or something similar) as a standard and have everyone agree to them? I know ITIL has done this, but with the varying interpretations we all experience something is missing.

On the capability vs. business service question, I don’t think I agree. If I agree with the definitions you provided then it is clear they are very different as a business service could be made up of one or more capabilities. Again, I think you definitions a clear and concise and don’t really need to be simplified any further, there just needs to be consistency in the marketplace that this is what those terms mean.

Just my $.02

    Corey Balko

    Post author July 11, 2013 at 1:54 pm

It is ok if there are varying interpretations from company to company because the important thing is to have the same interpretation within a company. In one of my previous blog posts I discussed the meaning of an application and that it doesn’t really matter if you want to call a car an application as long as you publish this within your organization and the business and IT have a common language and understanding that an application is a car. So I approached these definitions by reading what industry says along with varying interpretations throughout social media. What I came away with is that there is consensus on about 80% of the meaning of each term but the last 20% is all over the map. I think this is because the standard definitions are not consumable and simple. There are arguments stating capabilities are internally consumed and business services are externally consumed. Some have even surmised that business services are business functions. I think business services in EA terms are ambiguous and can be correlated, hence the capability = business service argument. How do you define them in simple terms and where do you see overlap with EA if any?

Badar August 3, 2013 at 11:41 am

Hi Cory: I disagree. This is a Business Architecture issue.

Business Service need to be executed. They represents what an organization offers to its customers and stakeholders and has values associated with it. The organization will need one or more Business Capabilities to provide, execute and deliver (Operations) a given Business Service (or those associated with it). So they are not the same thing.

Business Service is the customer facing aspect. Business Capabilities (and related Business Processes, policies etc) support Business Services

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