Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A business model definition

A business model describes the value logic of an organization in terms of how it creates and captures customer value (Fielt, 2011).

The definition is related to Osterwalder and Pigneur (2010), but with 'customer' value and without 'delivering' value. The definition is well aligned with Chesbrough (2006), Johnson (2010), and Teece (2010).

While most authors are not very explicit about what they mean with value, most definitions seem to refer to mean 'customer value' (i.e. value for the customer).
We excluded 'delivering' value from the definition as we see delivering value as part of creating value. Customer value implies use value, which cannot be created without being delivered.

We see the identification of the different elements of a business model, such as the value proposition, resources or revenues, not as part of the business model definition, but as part of the business model framework. A framework operationalizes the definition and makes it more concrete and specific. This creates some flexibility as there can be multiple, different specific frameworks while adhering to a single, generic definition. This caters for the use of the concept for multiple purposes and in different contexts, and the development of the concept over time.

While the business model has a specific organization as its focus, we want to make explicit that often this focal organization operates in an organizational network and that the organizational network can play a prominent role in creating and capturing value. If this is the case then the network will be included in the business model. However, the network will still be from the perspective of the focal organization.

An organization can have multiple business models, either in time (sequentially) or at the same time (simultaneously). While outside the scope of the current discussion, this requires understanding of synergies and conflicts between business models and creates a need for business model portfolio management and business model lifecycle management.

We also leave open the possibility that the organization is a profit or non-profit organization. Capturing value will often be about financial revenue models that contribute to the monetary bottom-line of the organization. However, we do not want to exclude a broader perspective than profitability including also social responsibility and environmental sustainability.

See the 'Understanding business models' whitepaper (pdf here) for more information.


Chesbrough, H. (2006). Open business models: How to thrive in the new innovation landscape. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Fielt, E. (2011). Understanding business models (Business Service Management whitepaper volume 3). Brisbane, Australia: Smart Services CRC. Available via: http://eprints.qut.edu.au/41609/
Johnson, M. W. (2010). Seizing the white space: Business model innovation for growth and renewal. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.
Osterwalder, A., & Pigneur, Y. (2010). Business model generation: A handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers: (self-published).
Teece, D. J. (2010). Business Models, Business Strategy and Innovation. Long Range Planning, 43(2-3), 172-194.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Alternative Business Model Canvas templates – The two-sided business model

I have been exploring the use of the BMG Business Model Canvas and possible alternative canvas templates that do not change the core concepts or the language of Business Model Generation (BMG) (Osterwalder and Pigneur, 2010). A first experiment with respect to co-creation can he found here and a second experiment with (service) bundling can be found here.

One of the patterns in the BMG book is the multi-sided platform, The core idea is that there are distinct types of customers, e.g. eBay has buyers and sellers. Note that this should not be confused with differentiating between different customer segments. Because the value proposition, channels, relationships and customer segments can be quite different per group, it may sometimes be useful to use a canvas that more explicitly differentiated between different groups. This is most easily for two-sided markets (a specific type of multi-sided platform), like eBay, where there will be two different customers groups. Two examples of an alternative canvas templates are provided below.

See here for more information on different approaches to business models.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

What do we mean with business model?

While the growing attention for business models and business model innovation is a positive development, it also stresses the need for better understanding what we mean with the business model concept. This is not straight-forward as business models are still not well comprehended and the knowledge about business models is fragmented over different disciplines, such as information systems, strategy, innovation, and entrepreneurship. We need to further develop our conceptualisation of business models by discussing and synthesising business model definitions, frameworks and archetypes from different disciplines.

I tried to contribute to this development by the whitepaper ‘Understanding business models.' After reading this whitepaper, the reader will have a well-developed understanding about what business models are and how the concept is sometimes interpreted and used in different ways. It will help the reader in assessing their own understanding of business models and that and of others. This will contribute to a better and more beneficial use of business models, an increase in shared understanding, and making it easier to work with business model techniques and tools.