Saturday, December 08, 2007

Service intermediaries

Intermediaries can act as service providers offering exchange services to two types of users: customers and suppliers. However, intermediaries do not always follow an explicit service strategy. What does following a service strategy entail and what chances does it offer to intermediaries to create impact?

Intermediaries can specialize in offering added value services to customers and thereby also serving suppliers that are not willing or able to interact with customers in a service-oriented way. According to Grönroos a service perspective requires a total service offering and focusing on the value-in-use for the service users with an emphasis on long-term relationships.

Grönroos also describes three ways to increase the service impact in user relationships:
1) Developing new services to the user
2) Activating existing but hidden services or service elements
3) Turning good components into service elements
Grönroos also emphasizes that too often only the first possibility is taken into account.

To be a ‘true’ service provider to both customers and suppliers, a service approach to both types of users is required. An alternative would be to focus the service approach on either customers or suppliers.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The ‘business model’ and the ‘service concept’

For a while now I have been studying service management and marketing literature (for example, Grönroos). This made me think more and more about the relation between the service concept (and customer benefit concept) and the business model. However, because literature is often as vague about the service concept as it is about the business model, it is hard to come to a clear view.

My initial thoughts are that the business model includes the service concept (and customer benefit concept) via the service perspective. The business model extents the service concept by linking it explicitly to related choices with respect to the organization, financial, and technological aspects.

Linking the service concept to the organization perspective of the business model is particularly relevant when the service requires the cooperation of other firms, that is a business network is required. Linking the service concept to the financial perspective of the business model is particularly relevant when (new) revenue models are needed. Linking the service concept to the technological perspective of the business model is particularly relevant when technological innovation is the driver or enabler of new services.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Internet as preferred channel

I have started working on a new project in the area of multi-channel management. I plan to approach multi-channel management from a service perspective. What will be the benefit of this? And what does it mean? I don’t really know yet, but it seems an interesting endeavour. Let me illustrate this with an example. In multi-channel management the Internet is often perceived as the preferred channel, in particular of the supplier. One of the main arguments is the expected cost-efficiency of the Internet channel. Is this really true?

Grönroos differentiates in his book on Service Management and Marketing between three types of relationship costs for both customer and supplier: direct, indirect, and psychological costs. The Internet channel may be cost-efficient with respect to the direct relationship costs (such as the catalogue, ordering, and invoicing) but may be less cost-efficient with respect to indirect and psychological costs (such as correcting mistakes or handling complaints).

Monday, October 08, 2007

The relevance of business models: Business model functions

The particular functions of business models will be related to the application areas. A common application area of business models is innovation. A business model can be used for mediating between market and technology. Another application area of business models is the tactical level that brings strategy and operations together. Sometimes, business models are even considered as part of strategy. Business models can also produce business requirements that can be used in information system development.

When one takes a comprehensive perspective, it can even be argued that business models are a management approach that supports the process of designing, implementing, operating, and improving the way one or more firms deliver a specific service. Maybe the other functions discussed above can be seen as different subfunctions of business models as a management approach.

In practice different applications of business models come together. We take the application of business models for electronic business as an example. Electronic business models are often presented as an innovation in a particular industry, for example, direct sales via the Internet. Moreover, a business model enables one to try out different varieties of direct sales. The direct sales model can also be seen as a strategic move to compete with incumbents who make use of intermediaries and, therefore, cannot make a move towards direct sales easily. The specification of the direct sales model can serve as an input for the information systems development identifying building blocks such as a catalogue and online payment.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Business model dynamics

In an uncertain and turbulent environment companies often have to change their business model. This is in particular the case for companies where information and communication technology (ICT) is an important driver for change. For example, with the rise of e-commerce Amazon starting developing its business model. What originally looked like an online bookshop has developed in a broad commercial and technological service provider. Nowadays, we see new Web companies like Facebook developing business models for social networking. See this article for an interesting discussion on the Facebook economy.

Most literature on business models takes a snapshot approach. It describes how a specific business model at a certain moment in time can be designed and analyzed. It does not, however, discuss the dynamics of business models. One of the exceptions is the work of Harry Bouwman and Mark de Reuver from the Delft University of Technology (see, for example, this paper).

The dynamics of business models raises the question what kind of changes are possible. To address this question I will differentiate between, on the one hand, changes of the business model and, on the other hand, changes in the business model. I will also try to label different kinds of changes, such as business model innovation, business model development, and business model life-cycle.

With changes of the business model I refer to a change in the rationale of value creation and/or value capture. This can either be a completely new business model or the transformation from one business model to another. For example, the introduction of direct sales by Dell as new company in the computer industry is often used as example for a new type of business model (at a certain moment in time, in a specific context). This may be called business model innovation. A company can also change, for example, its revenue model from subscription to advertising. This is an example of business model transformation (and innovation if it is new).

With changes in the business model I refer to a change in the business model without a significant change in the rationale of value creation and/or value capture. For example the first version of a business model may be a rough sketch and a later version may be more detailed and concrete. This can be called business model development. A business model also changes during the transition from a R&D product to a commercial product. For example, in the R&D phase different kinds of actors are important than in the commercialization phase. This may be referred to as the business model life-cycle. Finally, a business model itself can contain dynamic elements. For example, a marketplace in the organizational network implies that the actors can differ per transaction or a value proposition based upon network externalities implies dynamics in value creation. This may be called dynamic business models.

What do you think of the different kinds of dynamics? Do you have ideas about other ways of categorizing dynamics? Do you have examples of different kinds of change?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Business models for mobile health care: A service or product perspective?

With the advances in information, communication and sensor technology a new breed of mobile applications become possible that offer new opportunities for health care. These mobile health applications enable monitoring and treatment of the patient in his/her personal environment. I am currently involved in a project were we develop business models for mobile health as a follow-up to a technological R&D project.

What in my opinion is a very crucial decision is whether one should base these business models on a product or service perspective. My first impression is that often a product perspective is taken while a service perspective may be needed. While both perspectives can take the user/patient experience as starting point they differ in how the user/patient is supported in his/her health activities.

A business model for mobile health based upon a product perspective puts the mobile device (phone, PDA, special device) and/or the health software central and has a device or software supplier as focal actor in the supply network. It focuses on buying/selling health devices and/or software.

A business for mobile health based upon a service perspective puts the monitoring and treatment services central and has a mobile health service provider as focal actor in the delivery network. It focuses on the subscription to and delivery of health services.

The choice for a service perspective is not only having a core service instead of a core product, it also forces one to think of facilitating and support services (see a previous post) that increase the user experience and convenience. Facilitating services are, for example, regular updates of the software or in-depth analysis of health data on a remote server. Supporting services are, for example, access to consultation by health professionals or sharing data in communities.

Probably the best option is to have a high-level evaluation of both perspectives before having an in-depth analysis of one of them (or a mix). What do you think of this? Do you perceive these differences? Have you encountered examples of one of these approaches, or maybe a mixed approach?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Real virtual worlds: EveryScape in between Fist and Second Life?

By now there is more and more critique on Second Life, see for example Tom Davenport. However, in my opinion Second Life is interesting because of the development of new ICT capabilities and the way people make use of these capabilities (see also a previous post). One of the things fascinating me is that many users are recreating the ‘real’ world as exactly as possible in the virtual world. With respect to a ‘real virtual world,’ I suggested that an interesting platform could emerge when Second Life, Google Earth/Maps, and Flickr (with Microsoft‘s Photosynth) would integrate. I just found out that this is coming sooner then I expected. EveryScape will launch in Fall 2007 and will offer a 3D virtual view upon the real world.

What is not clear to me is what the business model of EveryScape will be. Will EveryScape, just like Second Life, have ‘a fully-integrated economy architected to reward risk, innovation, and craftsmanship’(Second Life: The Marketplace). Will the ‘Scape Artist,’ as they are called by EveryScape, retain the IP rights of their creations? Moreover, what about the rights of the people and companies from the real world? Will the owner of a building in the real world also be the owner of that building is EveryScape? Will EveryScape pay the owner for using the virtual version of the building, or will the owner have to pay EveryScape for using the virtual version of the building?

Have you read more about this? What is your opinion?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

What are the unique value propositions of innomediaries?

In a previous post I discussed innomediaries and suggested that they can build unique capabilities (compared to other actors in a business network) based upon the following characteristics: connectivity, specialization, and neutrality.

Den Hertog (pdf of article) discusses services of intermediaries (or knowledge intensive business services) that can fill or bridge various gaps in innovation processes with respect to resources and innovation management capabilities. Relating this to the previous discussed intermediaries' characteristics, I would argue that the more these services make use of connectivity, specialization, and neutrality (and their linking), the more there is a need (and, therefore, opportunity) for innomediaries.

Following is a list of the services mentioned by den Hertog and a first attempt of relating them to the intermediaries' characteristics:

Based upon this mapping experience-sharing and benchmarking seem to be the kind of services that offers innomediaries opportunities for unique value propositions towards innovation seekers and solution providers.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Electronic Offering Model

In the early days of e-commerce there was considerable attention to understanding the phenomena. Nowadays, there is less attention for this in the research community. In the mean time business presence on the web is still extending, both in a traditional (Web1.0) and new way (Web2.0). Therefore, it is still important to preserve and develop our understanding of doing business on the Internet.

While working on new service development and service design I studied the NetOffer model of Grönroos. It is a model of Internet offerings based upon the Grönroos Augmented Service Offering model. Grönroos refers in the notes at the end of the article to the ICDT model of Angehnr (article). I was not very enthusiastic about the way the NetOffer model deals with information and communication. Therefore, I had the idea of combining the Netoffer model and the ICDT model into the Electronic Offering model, as presented below. I hope to soon write more about it and evaluate the model with a case study.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Innomediaries: The capabilities of intermediaries in (open) innovation networks

The intermediary is sometimes popping up in discussions on new business models and innovation strategies, such as 'open innovation' and 'connect & develop.' This already resulted in the term 'innomediaries' (Google search). Why would this be? The middleman has been proclaimed death many times, in particular with the increasing possibilities of ICT.

An intermediary brings together actors and facilitates demand and supply activities for the exchange of products (goods, services, ideas), information, and money. The term ‘intermediate’ refers to a position: being or occurring at the middle place, stage, or degree or between extremes (Merriam-Webster).

Being in the middle emphasizes that intermediaries can occupy a special position in the business network and build capabilities based upon:

1. Connectivity: Intermediaries can connect many customers with many suppliers. Therefore the intermediary can provide services that individual customers and suppliers cannot offer and gain efficiencies via the reduction of necessary contacts between customers and suppliers.

2. Specialization: Intermediaries can specialize in exchange activities and supportive production functions; an exchange is a task in itself.

3. Neutrality: Intermediaries can act as a neutral party, a buffer between the interests of customers and suppliers.

What are your ideas on this? Are intermediaries a dying breed? Or will they stay but do they have to adapt their role? Or will nothing change at all?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The relevance of business models: An integrative approach

What is the added value of working with business models for practitioners? I think three of the major benefits are the helicopter view, the structured way of working, and the integrative approach.

I will discuss the
integrative approach in this post. I work on mobile services in the health care using the STOF business blueprint method and model (Service, Technology, Organization, and Finance). In a 'valorization' project we try to identify what it takes to bring a specific (technological) prototype application to the market. In one of the business model design sessions a health professional was surprised to find out from an application engineer that the software of the prototype could not be one-on-one transferred into a market-ready product.

What is integrative about this? Firstly, the business model design sessions require the presence of persons from the business side and from the technology side, and stimulate a constructive discussion about their mutual dependence. Secondly, once it was clear that the software could not be
transferred, it was possible to think of the consequences for the organization and finance in a structured way. What capabilities are required to build a market-ready product and which organization has these capabilities? What investment does it require to build a market-ready product and what does that mean for the time-to-market?

What are your ideas and experiences on this? Do you see similar benefits? Are these really benefits of designing business models?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Design-Oriented Enterprise (DOE)

Coming from an IT background I perceived an increase in the scope of design activities. Starting with the design of information systems, the scope expanded to the design of business processes. Thereafter, the scope expanded even further to the design of the business itself, referred to as the business model.

I would like to raise the question how an organization could (or should) maximize the opportunities offered by a design approach. For this I came up with the concept of the ‘design-oriented enterprise.’ As I see it for now, the objective of a design-oriented enterprise should be to increase their performance by design motivation and ability (see also figure below). (I think the ‘design-oriented enterprise’ is not used yet in this way, see also the Google search.)

For design motivation it is possible to differentiate between ‘ambition levels.’ I based the following ambition levels partially on Investing in Design by Rosa Wu and Jess McMullin (adapted it to an IS context):

  • No Conscious design effort: Design has no perceived value for the organization.
  • Design is the gateway to automation: Design supports the automation of business activities.
  • Design makes things better: Design makes things work better than they did before.
  • Design as problem solving: Design finds new opportunities by solving existing problems.
  • Design as problem framing: Design redefines the challenges facing the organization.
For design ability it is possible to differentiate between a number of maturity levels, as is done in the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) and CMM Integration (CMMI).

These are just some early ideas and these ideas would benefit from your comments!!!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Designing for Acceptance: Exchange Design for Electronic Intermediaries

My PhD research was on designing electronic intermediaries. I published my PhD thesis in November 2006. Below is a short summary.

Electronic business has brought many success stories as well as failures. Intermediaries are a particularly interesting application domain: on the one hand, they are given opportunities by electronic business to reinvent their value logic, while on the other they are threatened by opportunities for customers and suppliers to deploy electronic business to do business directly. Designing for Acceptance addresses the acceptance of electronic intermediaries by studying the design of the exchange. For example, should a web catalogue provide price information and should it consider an extension with transaction functionality?

Developing the right exchange design is a complex undertaking because of the many design options and the interests of multiple actors that need to be taken into account. Four cases were studied: Tapestria (interior fabrics), SeaQuipment (maritime products), Meetingpoint (insurances) and Voogd & Voogd (insurances). The results are an exchange design model and patterns that are derived from numerous case lessons and are supported by insights from theories on electronic intermediaries, acceptance and business design.

The exchange design model offers a systematic insight into generic exchange design themes that are relevant to the interests of customers, intermediary and suppliers. Exchange design patterns discuss specific trade-offs with respect to one or more themes. This study contributes to current knowledge by providing support for balancing interests in exchange design beyond simple prescriptions like ‘creating win-win situations.’ The exchange design themes and patterns are convenient instruments that offer constructive support for developing a vague electronic business idea into a concrete service concept.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Book reading: Benefits Management

Currently I am reading 'Benefits Management: Delivering Value from IS & IT Investments' by Ward and Daniel. They argue that a successful investment in IT requires a process for organizing and managing the actual realization of potential benefits. They draw specific attention to the changes in organizational processes and relationships and the roles and working practices of individuals and teams inside, and in some cases, outside the organization.

Next to providing an analysis of the benefits problem and an understanding of how to tackle it, they also provide a benefit management approach with support for the activities. The benefits dependency network has a central role in this approach (search for examples). An important guideline is, for example, to check whether the people responsible for the changes are also the onces who receive the benefits.

In my opinion benefits management is not only relevant for IT projects of practitioners, but also for IT research projects. I will write a review when I finished reading the book.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Business model fundamentals

In discussing and thinking about business models, I often find it hard to compare different business models. One thing that is needed is, of course, having a definition of what a business model is and of what a business model consists of (the concepts). As example, I often use for this the work done at the Telematica Instituut upon the STOF business blueprint method and model.

However, even when having clarity about the definition and concepts, there are still a lot of different kind of business models that are sometimes hard to compare. This makes me wonder what are the fundamental differences between these business models? What I, for now, can think of and have read in the work of other, are:

  • Bundled or unbundled
  • Push or pull
  • Exploitation or exploration
  • long-term or short-term
  • Open or closed
  • Time (dynamics)

I have summarized it in the following picture. I plan to elaborate upon it later.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Privacy as part of a business model

Currently I am working on privacy for location-based services (LBS) with a focus on the user perspective, in particular informed consent. With a colleague I discussed the role of privacy for business models and that, similar to technology push and pull, there can also be a privacy push and pull. A prominent question is whether privacy adds value for the users; do users prefer services where they can control their privacy? And does it matter which users and which services?

Second Life is dead. Long live Second Life!

Much more interesting than the usage metrics are the development of new capabilities by ICT applications like Second Life and the way people make use of these capabilities.

See the post I made on the Blog of my group at the Telematica Instituut.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Posting note: First post

This is a first post as test!!