Core Competence Analysis

October 28, 1998 - Jack Harich

By identifying business core compentecies and the software core comptencies necessary to support them, one can accelerate improvement. This document is an introductory analysis exercise.

We use the definition:

Core Compentency - The collective know-how of an organization that gives it a competitive advantage. This know-how is a result of learning that is driven by business strategy and built through a process of continuous improvement and enhancement that may span a decade or longer. (Grady, Successful Software Process Improvement, p 39)


Below are Core Competencies, divided into four areas. You should add your own competencies and remove others. Modify the Leverage as necessary. Fill in the Rating column and then calculate the Impact column. This will give you some idea of where to focus your improvement efforts.

The purpose of listing and quantitizing your Business and Software Core Compentencies is so the latter can be defined and optimized to support the former. In turn, individual engineer Core Competencies should support the Software Organization. This is what Core Competency planning is all about. It is a very powerful method of aligning software skills with business goals.

For example the skills listed in Engineer - Generic Core Competence can be used for employee selection, and those in Engineer - Software Core Competence can be use for determining who needs what types of training. Working upwards, the ratings in Software Organization Core Competence can signal where immediate improvement is needed. The impacts in Business Core Competence can be used to determine what market entries stand a higher chance of success, as well as where improvement is needed.

Core Competencies are hard to define. They should be difficult for others to copy. Be careful not to link them to solutions or products, but instead to the underlying, unique skills used. There should be no more than 5 Core Comptencies for a business. Deeper analysis will require defining competency elements, several of which are used to create the competency. These elements can overlap.

For futher details see "Successful Software Process Improvement" by Robert Grady of Hewlett-Packard, 1997, Chapter 3, Planning for Software Core Competence. This book is my top recommendation for serious software process improvement. The tables below are not in the book, and are my own synthesis to educate others and give them a useful quick start.


Leverage - The multiplier for how much this competence affects business success. (1 to 5)

Rating - How your maturity in the competence is rated. (0 to 5)

Impact - The relative impact this competence currently has. (Leverage times Rating)


Business Core Competence

Leverage

Rating

Impact

Operating System details knowledge      
Hardware/software storage device integration      
Real-time system software      
Mature software frameworks      
       
       
(Change to suit your business. These are just examples.)

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Software Organization Core Competence

Leverage

Rating

Impact

Successful accelerated project management

5

   
Process use and continuous improvement

4

   
Quality control (a Hewlett-Packard core competence element)

4

   
Ability to hit ultra-high reuse

3

   
Market specific software knowledge

3

   
Out sourcing

2

   
Diverse product solutions to market problems

?

 

 

Intimate, expert OS and networking knowledge 

 

 

       
(Modify these as needed. Some may be reusable. We list a lot to give you ideas.)

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Engineer - Generic Core Competence

Leverage

Rating

Impact

Adroit, creative problem solver

5

   
Love of learning, improvement and excellence

5

   
Ability to learn in real time

5

   
Ability to grasp and create optimum abstractions

4

   
Penetrating and articulate questions, dialog, writing

3

   
Good, rapid memory

3

   
Well organized approach to everything

3

   
Personal knowledge base of books, articles, URLs, files

2

   
Calm under fire

2

   
       
       
(These probably need little modification)

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Engineer - Software Core Competence

Leverage

Rating

Impact

Uses a surefire mini-process on nearly everything

5

   
Sound, deep, intuitive grasp of OO principles

4

   
Ability to design for ultra-high reuse

4

   
Strong technical fundamentals

3

   
Expert analysis skills

3

   
Expert modeling skills

3

   
Expert defect avoidance and fixing

3

   
Mastery of several key modern languages

2

   
       
       
(These will need some modification, even per developer type)