The terms competency, core competencies and capabilities are linked and often used interchangeably. However there is confusion about how each term differs and is applied (Markus, Cooper-Thomas & Allpress, 2005). Some researchers suggest that uniqueness leading to competitive advantage comes, over time, because an enterprise has developed strategic capabilities that are inimitable, rare and valuable (Barney & Clark, 2007). Generally competencies can be used to focus on what is expected of a person in his or her role at any level in an enterprise (including the board) and their ability to apply their knowledge and skills to meet the requirements of the position they are fulfilling. In relation to enterprise governance, competencies can be used for defining board structure and membership, board recruitment, performance assessment and for professional development (Leblanc, 2012; Leblanc & Gillies, 2005). In relation to enterprise business technology governance (EBTG), competencies across the enterprise build and develop over time and become organizational capability. Capabilities ‘can be tacit and difficult to identify but the presence and effectiveness of the capability is reflected in business performance’ (Peppard & Ward, 2004, p. 170) and in the case of EBTG capability within boards, are inherent in the board’s capability to discuss enterprise business technology to maximise technology strategy and investment, and minimise technology-related risk. COMPETENCIES The concept of competencies as a differentiator in company performance was largely developed by David McClelland in 1973 and has grown considerably in sophistication since then (Boyatzis, 2008). A key and enduring aspect of McLelland’s work was the notion that the factors associated with an individual being successful could be identified, categorized and then taught to others. In other words, competency can be developed. Further, an early methodology for identifying competencies was developed by McClelland and Boyatzis (1980), who based their model on describing what highly skilled star performers within particular organizations did in their work. They defined competencies as ‘a generic body of knowledge, motives, traits, self images, social roles and skills that are causally related to superior or effective performance in the job’ (p.369). Others define competence as a combination of knowledge, experience, productive attitudes / attributes and the right combination of functional and technical skills to make things happen (Campion et al., 2011; Leblanc & Gillies, 2003; Markus et al., 2005; Yusoff & Armstrong, 2012). In summary, competency requires knowledge, skills and experience. CORE COMPETENCY The concept of core competency in relation to performance and competitive advantage was largely popularized by the individual and joint work of Hamel and Prahalad (e.g., Hamel & Prahalad, 1989; Prahalad & Hamel, 1990). They posited that core competencies are those primary competencies that a firm leverages to compete. In a similar vein, others discuss core competencies as the building blocks of a firm's corporate strategy (Frery, 2006). ‘In particular, when deciding to diversify, researchers have stressed the benefits of choosing businesses that draw on existing core competencies (e.g., managerial expertise, innovation capabilities) because leveraging such abilities can result in cost efficiencies and operational effectiveness that help a firm compete in new businesses’ (Mooney, 2007). Understanding core business technology competencies can provide the enterprise with options when making competitive and strategic decisions. For example core competency needs to be considered if a firm is contemplating the public or a private cloud in relation to technology infrastructure; or the use of social media as a new sales and marketing channel; or in developing a data and information orientated culture. Whether the organization has core, developing or no competencies, understanding this in a focused needs analysis, will assist in strategy and market development, decision-making, ongoing innovation, in recruitment or any aspect where competency can impact competitive advantage (Hafeez, Zhang & Malak, 2002; Wicker, 2010). This includes the board of directors. The important consideration is that individual competency within a board of directors, adds up to collective board capability. CAPABILITIES Having competent people in key roles and using this competency to build internal capability at all levels (including within the board) is also essential in the pursuit of innovation in competitive advantage (Lim, Stratopoulos & Wirjanto, 2012; Nobre, Walker & Harris, 2012; Porter, 1985; Yusoff & Armstrong, 2012). Capabilities at an individual level are similar to competencies and the term is sometimes used interchangeably. However, capability as described by Helfat and Peteraf (2003, p. 998) ‘refers to the ability of an organization to perform a coordinated set of tasks, utilizing organizational resources, for the purpose of achieving a particular end result.’ This definition suggests organizational capability flows from making best use of people’s competence as a resource. Boyatzis (2008) also uses capability as an aggregate term suggesting that the combination of knowledge, competencies and motivational drivers help organizations to understand what a person can do if they have the knowledge and experience, how a person uses skills and competencies to perform, and why a person, based on their beliefs, motives, attributes and attitudes feels the need to do it (i.e. perform). All researchers conclude that competency is a mix or cluster of factors that are essential to a person or group performing to produce results. DYNAMIC CAPABILITY In addition we also emphasize the influential contributions of Teece and others (e.g., Sanchez, Heene & Thomas, 1997; Teece, 2007; Teece, Pisano & Shuen, 1997) in building and evolving the concept of uniqueness and dynamism into capabilities over time. They suggest that a dynamic resource-based view of competitive advantage and disadvantage over time, based on capabilities and resources, benefit from incorporating the concept of dynamic evolution (p. 1008). In other words, competency, core competencies and organizational capability need to be dynamic. They must change and evolve to remain a source of competitive advantage.
- Log in to post comments