A capability is an ability or quality of a system required to perform a greater objective or mission. It fulfills customer or organization needs or values. It expresses a complete package of value, so is fully composed of one or more MBIs.

A capability statement is a formal, high-level description of the needs or values to be satisfied by the capability. Thus, the writing of a capability statement must be preceded by systematically identifying the values and needs of those the capability will serve. The development of the capability is directed by those results.

The capability statement is the top requirement in a requirements decomposition chain. Like all requirements, it should include acceptance-test cases.

A capability statement is expressed in terms of the “problem space” or domain of the user, so it allows development to choose from among different possible solutions as it proceeds. Those writing a capability statement should consider how the capability might be implemented differently in future updates, and word it so as to help the development effort avoid painting itself into a solution that may be replaced by a conflicting approach whose general nature could reasonably have been anticipated.

Work on a capability statement begins after the value exploration is evaluated and initiation of work approved by a higher-level authority such as a Business Owner or, in the case of an architectural capability, a Lead Architect or its equivalent. Where developing a capability requires a large effort, or the capability will impact other systems, the approval authority should be at a high-enough level to have visibility into the capabilities available in systems across the broader organization or its related organizations, to identify when a similar capability exists elsewhere and can be adopted or adapted to save the organization the cost and delay of developing it redundantly.

The authority should also identify specific gaps between existing capabilities that address similar needs in the organization’s (or its relatives in the larger corporate structure) systems, to determine whether the capability truly needs to be developed, and if it does, so that the capability that is developed addresses the need most effectively in the larger organizational context.

Here are examples of some kinds of goals that lead to a capability:

  • Providing a customer with a breakthrough technology or functionality
  • Increasing ROI (Return on Investment)
  • Improving public perception of the organization
  • Growing market share
  • Complying with government regulations
  • Strengthening system infrastructure to allow implementing additional business capabilities in the future

In Lean-Agile, there are two kinds of capabilities:

  • Business Capability. A description of a quality or ability that the Business requires in order to meet its goals. Usually, Business Capabilities flow from strategic concepts of the organization.
  • Architectural Capability. A description of large technology initiative that addresses issues such as technology integration, obsolescence, scalability, performance, or taking advantage of new technologies or standards. Architectural Capabilities often cut across a portfolio.