Noun-verb, verb-noun… whatevs

In the “good ole days”(TM) there was this rule that process diagrams should use a verb-noun combination e.g. Send Invoice, Load Customer etc. As BPM and SOA matured these conventions came along with. However, because these IT components had to be organised in some way to make them manageable, they got organised into a folder type structure where the verb-noun got reversed.

So, you had a Customer Management folder that had services/processes called Create Customer, Update Customer etc. All well and good and this makes sense… it was a handy way of distinguishing between the processes/services themselves and their categorisation.

But then along came capabilities…

But before I start ranting I need to put out a disclaimer. I’m sold on capabilities. I think they have a lot of potential. I use them myself and the more I use them, the more I find they can underpin a lot of other EBA tools and techniques. My peeve is not with capabilities, my peeve is with what people are doing with them to make them “special snowflakes”.

There seems to be a particular movement that is championing noun-verb naming for capabilities to distinguish them from processes/services and I fundamentally disagree.

Reason #1 – The fundamental purpose of EBA is to create actionable, business insight to increase competitive advantage and noun-verb obstructs that insight.

I would not tell my CXO that, in order to beat competitor Y, they need to be better at Customer Management. They’d ask me what the hell that means and quite right too. My point is that noun-verb allows you to be non-specific – and non-specific is the enemy of actionable. They’d much rather I told them that, in order to beat competitor Y, they need to Load Customers faster or cheaper. Then we can have a meaningful conversation.

Reason #2 – Semantically, there isn’t enough difference between a business capability and a logical process or value stream that they need to be differentiated.

AKA, don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Business capabilities are different to logical processes because you don’t generally need to go into the detail of a business capability for it to be useful – but you can do if you want to. Business capabilities are different to value streams because they can be more granular without having to resort to logical process techniques – but you can do if you want to.


Don’t let the hype about capabilities lead you down unproductive blind alleys. Use capabilities in the way that adds value for your business and your problems.

PS: Please don’t take my reference to as a slight in any way. I really like what they have delivered and have used their software myself… go check them out. I just think they are misguided on this one particular issue.


About EBAnous

EBAnous works as a business architect for a FTSE-100 company in the south-east of the UK
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