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Capability Cases: A Solution Envisioning Approach

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Capability Cases: A Solution Envisioning Approach


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This book introduces Capability Cases -- a solutions-based technique to building viable enterprise and commercial software.

° Help your organization bridge the gap between business and IT!

° Empowers the reader to better grasp business needs and more quickly solve problems by leveraging the promise of emerging technologies

° Optimize the enterprise by envisioning solutions and taking advantage of the emerging practice of capability cases


  • Copyright 2006
  • Dimensions: 7" x 9-1/4"
  • Pages: 504
  • Edition: 1st
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-321-20576-6
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-321-20576-6

"In this innovative book, Irene Polikoff, Robert Coyne, and Ralph Hodgson have captured deep insights from many years of studying how to get across the 'Business-IT Gap.' Capability Cases are an invaluable tool for bridging from envisioning to design."

—Steve Cook, software architect, Microsoft Corporation

"Capability Cases offers hope that mere mortals can rise above the daunting challenge of blending technology and process. Executives hoping to adopt high-performing business models will want to learn this step-by-step approach to designing and implementing IT-enabled organizational change."

—Dr. Jeanne W. Ross, principal research scientist, MIT Center for Information


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.

The authors' Solution Envisioning methodology addresses the crucial "front end" of software development, where you decide what to build and how you're going to build it. Using realistic examples, they walk you through exploring the capabilities you need, capturing business best practices, identifying optimal solutions, and crafting software systems that deliver them.

Solution Envisioning enables you to specify better solutions in less time, build systems that more fully reflect your true needs, and dramatically reduce risk and cost throughout the entire development process. Understand Solution Envisioning—from vision to plan—in three phases:

  • Use Business Capability Exploration (BCE) to build a shared understanding of what is needed in a solution—model your business situation using business forces, desired results, metrics, and scenarios

  • Run Solution Capability Envisioning (SCE) workshops to facilitate decision-making, collaborative assessment, and consolidation of a solution concept—use Capability Case Galleries to discover alternatives, gain context, promote stakeholder interaction, and stimulate creativity

  • Move from concept to business case to a roadmap for realization with Software Capability Design (SCD)

Includes easy-to-use "best of class" templates for developing a business case, concept of operations, architectural decisions, and other key work products.

Whether you're an executive, architect, project manager, developer, change agent, or consultant, Capability Cases will help you bridge the gap between vision and solution—so you can finally get what you need from information technology.

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

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Introduction to Capability Cases

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Table of Contents

About the Authors.






    Trailhead-Why This Book?

    What is the Solution Envisioning Process?

    What are Capability Cases?

    Preview of Important Terms for Modeling the Business Situation

    Highlighting the Main Ideas and Threads of the Book

    A Trail Map for the Book: The Journey Ahead


1. Technology Innovation and the Changing Business Landscape.

    Chapter Preview

    Understanding Business Challenges and IT Requirements

      Informing Business Strategy with Views of Technology Possibilities

    The Changing Role of IT

      IT Imperatives and Governance

      Coupling Business Vision to Technology Enablers

      Supporting the New Role of IT

    An Illustrative Story of Solution Envisioning

      Backdrop-Consequences of Communication Failures

      Story: "A Quest for Self-Service"

    Trail Marker I: Appreciation of the Problem and Trail Ahead

2. Bridging the Gap with Solution Envisioning.

    Chapter Preview

    Solution Envisioning with Capability Cases

      A Timely Intervention-in the Quest for a Business Transformation

      The Goal: Matching Business Challenges to Proven Solutions

    Process Overview: From Vision to Plan in Three Phases

      Business Capability Exploration

      Solution Capability Envisioning

      Software Capability Design

    The Role and Value of Capability Cases

      Harnessing the Power of Stories and Tangible Examples

      Capability Cases-A Summary View

      Capability Cases in Action

      Capability Cases-An Extended View

    A Vocabulary That Integrates Envisioning and Capability Cases


      Results and Measures

      Anchoring Capability Cases in the Business Context

      A Brief Illustration of Selecting Capability Cases

    When Can Solution Envisioning Be Used?

    How Long Does It Take?

    Trail Marker II: Envisioning Solutions with Capability Cases

3. Illustrative Applications and Galleries.

    Chapter Preview

    Capability Case Galleries

    Case Study I: Search Technology Workshop for the State Government

      A Search for Self-Service

      Business Capability Exploration

      Solution Capability Envisioning

      Envisioning Workshop Gallery I: State Government Self-Service

        Capability Case I.1: Concept-Based Search

        Capability Case I.2: National Search

        Capability Case I.3: Visual Navigator

        Capability Case I.4: Retrieval Assistant

        Capability Case I.5: Personalized FAQ Agent

        Capability Case I.6: Instant Helper

        Capability Case I.7: Browse with a Buddy

        Capability Case I.8: Virtual Time Machine

      Workshop Results

    Case Study II: Solution Envisioning at NASA

      The Starting Point

      Business Capability Exploration

      Capability Envisioning

      Envisioning Workshop Gallery II: NASA Digital Shuttle

        Capability Case II.1: Product Design Assistant

        Capability Case II.2: Generative Documentation

        Capability Case II.3: Content Annotator

        Capability Case II.4: Expert Locator

        Capability Case II.5: Concept-Based Search

        Capability Case II.6: Automated Content Tagger

        Capability Case II.7: Interest-Based Information Delivery

      Workshop Results

    Capability Cases as Solution Design Assets

    Trail Marker III: Exploring Capability Case Galleries

4. Positioning Within the Solution Delivery Cycle.

    Chapter Preview

    What Makes Solution Envisioning Different?

    Where Does It Fit in the Solution Delivery Process?

    Envisioning, Capability Cases, and the Iterative Nature of Design

      Solution Envisioning is an Iterative Process

      Capability Cases-Initially Solution Sketches and Later Blueprints

    Trail Marker IV: Rationale for Solution Envisioning Outlined


5. Business Capability Exploration-Phase I of Solution Envisioning.

    Chapter Preview

    To Begin Envisioning-Business Capability Exploration (BCE)

      The Work of Business Capability Exploration

      Where Does Solution Envisioning Start?

    BCE Activities I: Establish Business Situation and Resources

      Activity 1  Establish Solution Initiative Shared Space

      Activity 2  Establish Key Stakeholders

      Activity 3  Clarify Solution Initiative Statement

      Activity 4  Establish Inventory of Reference Materials

      Activity 5  Clarify Business Context

      Activity 6  Assess Use of Current IT Capabilities

      Activity 7  Establish a Glossary for the Initiative

    BCE Activities II: Identify Business Needs as Forces and Results

      Activity 8  Elicit Forces, Barriers, Results

      Activity 9  Identify Business Activities in Scope

      Activity 10  Perform Stakeholder Impact Analysis

    BCE Activities III: Explore Possibilities Informed by Technology

      Activity 11  Nominate Capabilities

      Activity 12  Explore Future Business Possibilities

      Activity 13  Explore Technology Options

      Activity 14  Perform Stakeholder Benefit Analysis

      Activity 15  Refine Results

    BCE Activities IV: Consolidate Initial Solution Vision for Sharing

      Activity 16  Map Capabilities to Forces, Barriers, Challenges, and Results

      Activity 17  Create Solution Vision Presentation

    The Results of BCE and Readiness to Move to the Next Phase

    Trail Marker V: Business Situation and Solution Initiative Understood

6. Solution Capability Envisioning-Phase II of Solution Envisioning.

    Chapter Preview

    Solution Capability Envisioning (SCE)-Appraising Solution Ideas

      The Work of Solution Capability Envisioning

      Envisioning and Design as Social Constructions

    SCE Activities I: Prepare for the Solution Envisioning Workshop

      Activity 1  Envisioning Workshop Planning

      Activity 2  Elaborate Capability Cases Portfolio

      Activity 3  Conduct Pre-Envisioning Workshop Walkthroughs

      Activity 4  Preparing the Capability Cases Gallery

    SCE Activities II: Conduct the Solution Envisioning Workshop

      Activity 5  Launch the Solution Envisioning Workshop

      Activity 6  Review Solution Vision

      Activity 7  Tour Capability Cases Gallery

      Activity 8  Conduct Solution Scenario Enactment

      Activity 9  Prioritize Capabilities

    SCE Activities III-Post-Workshop Assessment and Consolidation

      Activity 10  Assess Solution Realization Gap

      Activity 11  Post-Workshop Analysis and Consolidation of Concepts

      The Results of SCE and Moving to the Next Phase

    Trail Marker VI: Solution Concept and Roadmap Established

7. Software Capability Design-Phase III of Solution Envisioning.

    Chapter Preview

    Software Capability Design (SCD)-from Concept to Realization

      SCD for a Web Services and SOA Development Strategy

      The Work of Software Capability Design

    SCD Activities I: Select Implementation Technologies

      Activity 1  Evaluate Technology Options and Decide Development Strategy

      Activity 2  Specify Non-functional Requirements

      Activity 3  Select Potential Technologies and Vendors

      Activity 4  Analyze IT Risks, Dependencies, and Technology Constraints

    SCD Activities II: Develop Software Capability Architecture

      Activity 5  Elaborate Capability Architecture

      Activity 6  Evaluate Capability Architecture

    SCD Activities III-Develop Business Case and Solution Roadmap

      Activity 7  Develop Business Case

      Activity 8  Develop Solution Realization and Adoption Plan

    The Results of Software Capability Design

      Moving from Solution Envisioning to Solution Realization

    Trail Marker VII: Business Case and Roadmap for Implementation


8. Solution Envisioning in Different Situations.

    Chapter Preview

    Solution Envisioning as a Customizable Framework

    Focusing the Solution Envisioning Workshop

    Different Situations-Different Approaches

      A. Formulating a Solution

        A.1 Using Solution Envisioning to Formulate a Concept of Operations

        A.2 Finalizing a Solution Design

      B. Promoting Technology Potential

      C. Gaining Confidence in a Technology

    The Complementary Role of Solution Envisioning

      Incorporating Solution Envisioning into QFD

      Enterprise Architecture and Solution Envisioning

        Solution Envisioning and DoDAF

        Solution Envisioning and ISO RM-ODP

      Solution Envisioning and Development Paradigms

        Solution Envisioning and Rapid Prototyping

        Solution Envisioning and Model-Driven Architecture

    Trail Marker VIII: Solution Envisioning Tailored to Situation

9. Conclusion-Lessons Learned and Looking Ahead with Envisioning.

    Reflections on Solution Envisioning

    Plans for Evolving Solution Envisioning

    Fostering Adoption and Practice of a New Approach

      A Rose by Any Other Name...

      Winning the Right to Do Solution Envisioning

      Making the Business Case to Do Solution Envisioning

      Some Practical Next Steps

      A Community Sandbox-CapabilityCases.org

    End of Trail: Solution Envisioning

Appendix A: History and Design of Solution Envisioning.

    The X-Model and Object-Oriented Development

    Design by Analogy and the Architecture Handbook

    OOPSLA Workshops (1996-2000)

    Other Small Influences

    Solution Envisioning and Creativity

    Why Metaphors are Poweful

    Capability Cases and Patterns

    The Importance of the "Right" Deliverables

Appendix B: Additional Techniques.

    Creativity Techniques

      Using Storytelling for the Creation of Future Scenarios


    Decision Support Techniques

    Conducting Envisioning Workshops as "Theater Play"

      Envisioning as a Five Act Play

Appendix C: Software Capability Design Implementation Alternatives.

    SCD for Custom Applications

      Custom Application Using RUP and MSF

        SCD Activity 5  Elaborate Capability Architecture

        SCD Activity 6  Evaluate Capability Architecture

      SCD in eXtreme Programming (XP) Projects

        SCD Activity 5  Elaborate Capability Architecture

        SCD Activity 6  Evaluate Capability Architecture

    SCD in EDOC-Based Component Development

        SCD Activity 5  Elaborate Capability Architecture

        SCD Activity 6  Evaluate Capability Architecture

    SCD and Package Implementation

        SCD Activity 5  Elaborate Capability Architecture

        SCD Activity 6  Evaluate Capability Architecture


Appendix D: Solution Envisioning Activities and Workproducts-Summary Table for Each Phase.

    The Activities and Workproducts of Phase I-Business Capability Exploration

    The Activities and Workproducts of Phase II-Solution Capability Envisioning

    The Activities and Workproducts of Phase III-Software Capability Design

List of Figures.

List of Tables.

List of Techniques.





Capability.1 It's a promising word. It sounds, well, capable, and it alludes to the delivery of something. We all use capabilities every day in the goods and services by which we construct our lives. We like to be capable; we respect and value capabilities in others. As individuals, we carefully evaluate and compare the capabilities in the products and services we purchase—in everything from cars and houses to palm pilots, digital cameras, and mobile phone services. We look for and expect capabilities in companies we choose to deal with and in the companies we own or choose to be a part of.

As businesses, we also need to purchase or build, deploy and use, offer or consume capabilities all the time—regularly and continuously. It is requisite that we absorb, embrace, employ, and evolve new capabilities—with ever greater speed and agility—simply to remain effective and cost competitive. But, knowing about and successfully deploying the right new capabilities has always been challenging to businesses. In particular, software and technology capabilities are sometimes as elusive, amorphous, and difficult to pin down as they are valuable and essential to the core operations and processes of most modern businesses and organizations.

Most business capabilities today are a combination of human capital, fixed assets (such as facilities), processes, and technology. Forging successful combinations requires proficient orchestration of the interplay between business and technology. In this era of technology explosion (ranging from Web Services to new Platforms for Collaboration and Personalization to Semantic Technologies and Agents), the possibilities are as truly mind- boggling as the challenges of effective action. In nearly every industry and business area, technology capabilities are playing an ever more prominent role—and some business capabilities are becoming identical with technology capabilities.

We are entering a world where the network is the platform and a large amount of business-enabling capabilities will be made possible by assembling commodity software that implements standardized protocols. Indeed, technologies are creating deeper changes in businesses—invoking a disruptive new order that challenges all the rules of business. Business capabilities made possible by technology demolish traditional barriers of geography, law, organization, and time while simultaneously raising new bars for success in terms of connectedness, convenience, quality, and performance.2

For instance, capabilities introduced by technology have changed user expectations. Business has become more personal, and customers have (much) more control. Businesses have rapidly become more connected and accessible, and in many cases instantly available all the time. As a result, business has paradoxically become both simpler and more complex. Technologies can simplify transactions, but they also engender more complex transactions and more sophisticated use of data and knowledge. New capabilities create challenges to business models by regularly shifting the value proposition. Many things that were previously sold are given away for free. Business value, to be earned by truly serving customers, has shifted to somewhere else in the value chain.

How hard it is to identify, design, and deploy the right capabilities? Capability, per se, doesn't usually conjure up any nuances or overtones of failure (yet). But, as we all know, as soon as we attempt to acquire and make use of capabilities, there is suddenly a pressing demand for a blend of vision, planning, and know-how to take advantage of and make capabilities actual or realized through their successful application. Further complicating the situation, there is an increasing multiplicity of sources from which to realize (develop, acquire, compose) capabilities. Geoffrey Moore, industry consultant and best-selling author, puts it this way:3

"With service-oriented architecture, integration, composition of applications, open source software, vendor consolidation and the tension between building, buying and outsourcing software solutions—companies are under pressure to change too much and too fast. Risks seem unavoidable. There is not enough budget or time to cover all the bases. The leading enterprises will identify the core of their business and invest in safety and agility of the IT behind this core—first."

Unless we have knowledge of capabilities, the vision to know their worth, and the experience and discipline to apply them, we may get lost somewhere in a "sea of potentials." In our personal lives, in assessing where true capabilities are found, whether they are real, sound, and worth having, we typically use many sources of information, processes, and tools for evaluation—facilities such as Consumer Reports4 for consumer products or recommendations from friends or people who have experience with the capability. This book is an attempt to aid individuals and companies in improving technology-enabled business capabilities by responding to their needs for

  • Understanding what capabilities exist—what is out there

  • Facilitating the interplay between business and technical ideas

  • Understanding the significance and implications of capabilities and the constraints and costs of employing them

  • Establishing effective processes for acquiring, adopting, and -applying capabilities

We introduce the Solution Envisioning process to help people envision together the needs and possibilities of business. The process is supported by the Capability Case, an aid to understanding and evaluating capabilities. In the everyday sense of the words, the Capability Case is intended to build a case for a capability by illustrating its potential and value. We offer Solution Envisioning with Capability Cases (the approach this book introduces) as a start toward a new kind of essential, comprehensive approach for appreciating and making intelligent decisions about the available technology capabilities that will be powering businesses for some time to come.

1 The quality of being capable; capacity or ability needed to do something. (plural) Qualities that may be used or developed; potentialities.

2 We are indebted to Peter Stecher of IBM, EMEA, for insights into this characterization of the revolutionary nature of new technologies in terms of the deeper changes they bring to doing business.

3 From Gartner Application Integration & Web Services Summit 2005 brochure, highlighting Moore's keynote talk, "The Key to Sustained Leadership: Separating the Core from the Context," where he "shares his latest insights into the software industry challenges and opportunities."

4 A source that has its own 'capabilities'—a trusted source of information, knowledge, evaluative mechanisms, and the experience to make useful judgments about the relative promise and value of other capabilities.

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.


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