Ok, that is not strictly true; I hate static processes. The ones that you see large companies instigate and then find really hard to ever change.


It is true that companies are often made up of processes that define them. A good process is a delight but how often have you, as a customer, heard “I am sorry I would love to help but we don’t do it that way” of a variation of that. Save me from a process that is “too expensive” to modify.

This week, I have been speaking to CIOs about their processes. Many CIOs are very proud of the processes they have captured and automated. And so they should be – “process” has lots of good things going for it; repeatability, cost optimisation, understanding. However, sometimes we forget two things:


  • There are often multiple ways of doing something and not only one of them is correct.
  • That what we actually need is a capability to do something not necessarily a process.

A capability is the ability to fulfil a use case. It might involve different processes (and technologies and people) depending on the situation. A capability is more enduring than a process.

What I really like about capabilities is that they can be used effectively in long term strategic planning. At IDC, we suggest building your strategic plan over three horizons – the immediate, the things you are working on but will take time to deliver, and the future which is not possible yet. Defining future use cases and capabilities is not too hard but very few companies do it. Innovation seems to be in what we can change today. Defining future processes is impossible, defining potential future use cases and the capabilities needed to support them is both possible and fruitful. Try it. Lots, not to say all, of thriving companies, do it.

Long live capability mapping and the processes that underly the capabilities. Especially when they meet the customer needs because don’t forget the customer hates our processes when they don’t match her processes but (should) love our capabilities if we deliver them right.

Marc Dowd is the principal for IDC’s European client advisory practice. Marc has over 25 years of experience working with the leaders of corporate IT across a wide range of industries. Marc Dowd is leveraging his knowledge of emerging technology and significant experience of boosting company success through innovation and technology alignment to support technology leaders move to new and accelerated DX driven business models. This includes experience gained from industry-specific service and solution development to broader support for technology and innovation implementation and optimisation via personal advisory to individual leaders, workshops and moderating executive events.