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What Are Capability Cases?

A Capability Case definitively identifies an IT Solution Concept as a cohesive group of software functions that deliver business value. Each solution concept is expressed by using a well-chosen name along with a concise intent statement.

An example is shown in Figure I.2 (a color rendition is included in this book’s color insert). The cases of the capability are provided as one or more short stories of the capability in action.

Example stories of the capability in use are what warrant our use of the word "case" in "Capability Case." These solution stories are presented in a standard template that we have found effective for communicating Capability Cases in a summary form. The template has a short statement of intent, a headline of solution stories, and a featured story. A featured story is illustrated by a graphic along with an explanation, a list of business benefits, products used to build the capability, as well as other applicable products and technology options.

The Visual Navigator example is about the potential use of information maps in different situations. The additional solution stories listed illustrate how the same capability takes different forms in different business contexts. What is common is the value of presenting complex information in a visual metaphor. Within a single Capability Case, all stories share the same essential capability or generalized concept. The relevance of Capability Cases is critically dependent on having solution stories, real or envisioned, that adequately communicate the value of software functionality to stakeholders. They help to stimulate interest in how technology capabilities can be used innovatively to generate business value.

Systems are rarely created by one person. They result from the collaboration of several people. Quality systems come from convergent collaboration. A shared vision of the system serves to align the decision making of several people across different disciplines. Capability Cases provide the necessary vocabulary.

When Capability Cases are adopted in an organization, they become a vocabulary for talking about future systems. Like any common language, they provide a means for overcoming barriers between different stakeholders. For example, the "Instant Messenger" capability is immediately understood by everyone. The power of Capability Cases lies in establishing a common vocabulary for all components of the future system.

They also provide insight into problems by showing how related problems and solutions have worked. "Instant Helper," "Answer Engine," "Concept-based Search," and Semantic Form Generator" are additional examples of such capabilities. This book includes several collections or galleries of Capability Cases.

Capability Case:

Visual Navigator


Effectively present and summarize large amounts of information by using visualization technologies. Includes ability to navigate and drill-down for more detail.

Solution Stories:

map.net, The Hive Group’s Amazon Product Map, Smart Money Stock Market Map, Visual Navigation at HighWire Stanford, Infoscape Webmap.


Visual Map The Hive Group’s visual map of Amazon products.


Amazon offers a large number of products. Having to make sense of them all when selecting the right one can be overwhelming. Text browsing of categories and product listings does not produce a pleasant shopping experience. The Hive Group solved this problem by allowing shoppers to use visual maps for exploring product categories using visual cues such as group, size, and color. Shoppers are able to change what group, size, and color represent, thereby selecting the criteria that are important to them. In the example, products are categorized (grouped) by being organized according to manufacturer. The size of the product rectangle corresponds to its price. Colors indicate the popularity of the product as reflected by the number of sales. Maps can be filtered on how good the deal is that’s being offered (% of discount), product price, and other attributes. Positioning a cursor over a product displays detailed information.

Business Benefits:

Improved user experience, ability to find the right product among a large number of offerings, increased sales, shortens the discovery process, ability to intuitively guide users to relevant information.

Featured Products:

Honeycomb from The Hive Group

Other Applicable Products:

BrainEKP from The Brain Technologies Corporation, DataVista Spectrum from Visualize, Inc., Inxight Star Tree SDK from Inxight Software, Inc., KartOO from KartOO SA, Metis from Computas, WebMap Server from WebMap Technologies.

Figure I.2. Visual Navigator.

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