Do you know exactly what your organisation does, at every level? A capability map will tell you. Find out how to develop and use one for business and process improvement.

Capability [noun]: the power or ability to do something

In business, capabilities define what the organisation does and the functions it performs. They’re statements of fact.

A capability could be manufacturing a product or providing a service. It doesn’t have to be a tangible asset; the term also covers skills or expertise, like project management. Each capability is unique and should have a distinct, individual definition.

Capability mapping shows what your business can do

A capability map (or model) is a structured, visual way of representing an organisation’s capabilities and their relationship to processes and goals. It helps you understand these capabilities in the wider context of strategy, processes, systems, information and people.

Created to display high-level information, maps concisely identify and describe everything a business can do. They evolve as they reflect the business’s needs and requirements.

How capabilities fit into the organisational structure

diagram showing how capability mapping fits into an organisational structure

Image source: BusinessOptix

A key part of process improvement

Generating a capability map is part of the process improvement journey. It provides the ability to:

  • Assess your current state – do you have the necessary capabilities to work effectively now?
  • Plan the future state – which capabilities do you need to achieve your business goals?
  • Identify opportunities for improvement – how must you develop current capabilities?
  • Support development of solutions – align business needs and technology capabilities
  • Build a business case for transformation – highlight and reinforce the need to run a transformation process

Capability mapping uncovers where skills gaps might exist. For instance, if you want to bring project management in-house, do your people have the expertise? If you want to move your small business online, do you have the right IT systems?

Maps are closely connected with target operating models (TOM). Once the TOM is created, the capability map answers the question ‘can we achieve this?’

How to create a capability map

Begin by defining your organisation’s core capabilities and build out from there. You can add as many levels to the hierarchy as necessary.

Capability hierarchy diagram

diagram showing capability hierarchy and levels

Image source: BusinessOptix

Capabilities are grouped by function and colour-coded for quick and easy identification. You can edit the master data that supports the map, and explore it by clicking and drilling down level by level. It’s possible to link processes to capabilities and thus find connections between different systems and roles.

Capability map template

colour-coded capability map from BusinessOptix

Image source: BusinessOptix

Note: these maps were created using the BusinessOptix process transformation platform.