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Introduction to Capability Cases

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Both IT organizations and business leaders recognize the urgent importance of aligning technology solutions with enterprise strategy. But they've struggled to do so... until now. Capability Cases represents a breakthrough: a powerful, systematic way to translate business vision into effective plans and system designs. This chapter introduces capability cases and offers an overview of the book.
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"The key to every man is his thought. Sturdy and defying though he look, he has a helm which he obeys, which is the idea after which all his facts are classified. He can only be reformed by showing him a new idea which commands his own."

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Trailhead—Why This Book?

In this book, we focus on the interplay between business needs and technology capabilities. Our belief in the following premises has motivated its topic and contents:

  • Clarity of the business problem is central to getting results from technology projects. Strong functional fit of business solutions happens when the decision processes are value-driven.

  • Innovative solutions emerge from understanding needs and appreciating technology capabilities. Because technology options continue to expand, this is not a simple task.

  • Creativity rarely happens on its own. For ideas to flow, they need a supportive environment and skillful techniques to bring real people together to dialogue differently and more productively.

  • Capabilities serve as a unifying construct across the lifecycle. A capability-based approach can span from the design of new business capabilities and the envisioning of solution capabilities to the specification of software capabilities.

We present two innovations that work together to better connect business challenges to technology enablers for successfully delivering value:

  • Solution Envisioning is a business, value-driven approach to designing a system that uses Capability Cases and scenarios to foster innovation and to validate and increase confidence in the solution.

  • Capability Case is a solution idea pattern that makes the "business case for a capability." By anchoring solution concepts in a language for business situations and using stories, Capability Cases communicate value. Each Capability Case includes applicable technologies and architecture ideas for realizing the capability.

Central to the effort of formulating solutions is the need to envision a desired future. Forging a shared vision becomes possible when the interplay of technology capabilities and business ideas is encouraged and facilitated. For these reasons, we named our process Solution Envisioning with Capability Cases.

Each Capability Case can be seen as a best practice for achieving business results. The Solution Envisioning process provides a way to connect these solution concepts to the business situation. Business objectives and the overall business context guide the selection of capabilities. In the same way an architect presents building designs for consideration, Solution Envisioning with Capability Cases offers "designs by example" for IT systems.

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