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Capability vs Requirement

A very common error in world of Enterprise Architecture (EA) or Strategic Enterprise Architecture (SEA) is to define “Capability” as “Requirement”.

In order to resolve this confusion we need to take a brief diversion and say that the term “Requirement”, when used on its own, is quite meaningless.  To achieve clarity simply ask “who requires this?”  Is it a customer, a class of customer, a market segment, government, management or something or someone else?  When you have found out who and/or what, simply preface “requirement” with this, for example, “Customer Requirement”, “Market Requirement”, etc. and clarity is achieved.

So, once we have established that somebody, or some “body”, requires something, we can then ask the question, “Has our enterprise the capability to fulfil this requirement?”

By this simple procedure we show quite clearly that a Capability is NOT a Requirement and vice versa.  No more than hunger is food!

The Meta Model extract below shows a structure that will support the definition of Requirement in terms of any or all the facets of the enterprise.

The capability of the Enterprise to fulfil the Requirement can be determined by comparing the defined elements of the requirement against the existing entities in the business.

The extract of the Meta Model for simplicity is not in shown in a fully generic form and so will have limitations on the number of entities that can be used to define a Requirement Element. A fully generic structure would have no such limitations.

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2 Responses to “Capability vs Requirement”

  1. John Owens March 8, 2010 9:22 am #

    Thanks, George

    I may be misreading your comment but I think it is saying that a Capability is a special type of Requirement. One that is strategic, long term, future, etc. as opposed to a Requirement being, specific, short term, local, etc.

    I think that this is where the confusion lies in this whole subject. Capabilities have come to be seen as a type of “Meta Requirement”. They are not. In cases like this I always find it helpful to go back to plain English and ask “what is a capability?”. The answer is “the ability to be able to do something”.

    In business terms, a Capability is the ability to be able to fulfill a Business Requirement.

    So what do we call long term, strategic requirements? Simple, “long term strategic requirements”.

    By qualify the type of requirements that we are talking about we avoid the need to try and come up with a different word for them, whose meaning we then have to explain in order to avoid confusion.

  2. Georg Opora March 6, 2010 12:29 am #

    I was searching Google for “Capabilities vs. Requirements” as I am myself on mission to convince my counterparts to define our next architecture blueprint in terms of platform capabilities. Here’s a sort of table/continuum I came up with lately to make the point:

    Capability Requirement
    provides context, meaning & purpose to >
    fullfils >
    immediate
    wholistic specific
    huge impact on architecture (ideally)extends
    crosscutting, horizontal business domains/functions vertical
    guides sustainability of >
    serving many to all stakeholders rather asked for by just one stakeholder

    Capability vs. Requirement
    Capability provides context, meaning purpose to Requirements
    Capability guides sustainability of Requirement realization
    Capability fulfills requirement
    Capability – long term/future vs. Requirement – rather immediate
    Capability – wholistic vs Requirement – specific
    Capability – typically huge impact on architecture vs. Requirement – (ideally) just extends architecture
    Capability – whole (is more than the sum of its parts vs. Requirement – part
    Capability – crosscutting business domains/functions vs. Requirement – rather vertical
    Capability serving many stakeholders across the board vs. Requirement rather asked for by specific party

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