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Business model

business model canvas, business model
A business model is an "abstract representation of an organization, be it conceptual, textual, and/or graphical, of all core interrelated architectural, co-operational, and financial arrangements designed and developed by an organization presently and in the future, as well as all core products and/or services the organization offers, or will offer, based on these arrangements that are needed to achieve its strategic goals and objectives"12 This definition by Al-Debei, El-Haddadeh and Avison 2008 indicates that value proposition, value architecture the organizational infrastructure and technological architecture that allows the movement of products, services, and information, value finance modeling information related to total cost of ownership, pricing methods, and revenue structure, and value network articulate the primary constructs or dimensions of business models3

A business model describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value,4 in economic, social, cultural or other contexts The process of business model construction is part of business strategy

In theory and practice, the term business model is used for a broad range of informal and formal descriptions to represent core aspects of a business, including purpose, business process, target customers, offerings, strategies, infrastructure, organizational structures, sourcing, trading practices, and operational processes and policies including culture The literature has provided very diverse interpretations and definitions of a business model A systematic review and analysis of manager responses to a survey defines business models as the design of organizational structures to enact a commercial opportunity5 Further extensions to this design logic emphasize the use of narrative or coherence in business model descriptions as mechanisms by which entrepreneurs create extraordinarily successful growth firms6

Business models are used to describe and classify businesses, especially in an entrepreneurial setting, but they are also used by managers inside companies to explore possibilities for future development Well-known business models can operate as "recipes" for creative managers7 Business models are also referred to in some instances within the context of accounting for purposes of public reporting


  • 1 History
  • 2 Theoretical and empirical insights
    • 21 Design logic and narrative coherence
    • 22 Complementarities of between partnering firms
  • 3 Categorization
    • 31 V4 BM framework
    • 32 Shift from pipes to platforms
    • 33 Platform
  • 4 Applications
  • 5 Design
    • 51 Definitions
      • 511 Economic consideration
      • 512 Component consideration
      • 513 Strategic outcome
  • 6 Definitions of design or development
    • 61 Design themes emphasis
    • 62 Design content emphasis
  • 7 Examples
  • 8 Frameworks
  • 9 Related concepts
  • 10 See also
  • 11 References
  • 12 Further reading
  • 13 External links


Over the years, business models have become much more sophisticated The bait and hook business model also referred to as the "razor and blades business model" or the "tied products business model" was introduced in the early 20th century This involves offering a basic product at a very low cost, often at a loss the "bait", then charging compensatory recurring amounts for refills or associated products or services the "hook" Examples include: razor bait and blades hook; cell phones bait and air time hook; computer printers bait and ink cartridge refills hook; and cameras bait and prints hook A variant of this model is Adobe, a software developer that gives away its document reader free of charge but charges several hundred dollars for its document writer

In the 1950s, new business models came from McDonald's Restaurants and Toyota In the 1960s, the innovators were Wal-Mart and Hypermarkets The 1970s saw new business models from FedEx and Toys R Us; the 1980s from Blockbuster, Home Depot, Intel, and Dell Computer; the 1990s from Southwest Airlines, Netflix, eBay, Amazoncom, and Starbucks

Today, the type of business models might depend on how technology is used For example, entrepreneurs on the internet have also created entirely new models that depend entirely on existing or emergent technology Using technology, businesses can reach a large number of customers with minimal costs In addition, the rise of outsourcing and globalization has meant that business models must also account for strategic sourcing, complex supply chains and moves to collaborative, relational contracting structures8

Theoretical and empirical insightsedit

Design logic and narrative coherenceedit

Design logic views the business model as an outcome of creating new organizational structures or changing existing structures to pursue a new opportunity Gerry George and Adam Bock 2011 conducted a comprehensive literature review and surveyed managers to understand how they perceived the components of a business model In that analysis these authors show that there is a design logic behind how entrepreneurs and managers perceive and explain their business model In further extensions to the design logic, George and Bock 2012 use case studies and the IBM survey data on business models in large companies, to describe how CEOs and entrepreneurs create narratives or stories in a coherent manner to move the business from one opportunity to another They also show that when the narrative is incoherent or the components of the story are misaligned, that these businesses tend to fail They recommend ways in which the entrepreneur or CEO can create strong narratives for change

Complementarities of between partnering firmsedit

Studying collaborative research and the accessing of external sources of technology, Hummel et al 2010 found that in deciding on business partners, it is important to make sure that both parties' business models are complementary9 For example, they found that it was important to identify the value drivers of potential partners by analyzing their business models, and that it is beneficial to find partner firms that understand key aspects of our own firm's business model10

The University of Tennessee conducted research into highly collaborative business relationships Researchers codified their research into a sourcing business model known as Vested also referred to as Vested Outsourcing Vested is a hybrid sourcing business model in which buyers and suppliers in an outsourcing or business relationship focus on shared values and goals to create an arrangement that is highly collaborative and mutually beneficial to each11


From about 2012, some research and experimentation has theorized about a so-called "liquid business model"1213

V4 BM frameworkedit

Al-Debei and Avison 2010 V4 BM Framework - four main dimensions encapsulating sixteen elements: Value Proposition, Value Architecture, Value Network, and Value Finance3

  • Value Proposition: This dimension implies that a BM should include a description of the products/services a digital organization offers, or will offer, along with their related information Furthermore, the BM needs also to describe the value elements incorporated within the offering, as well as the nature of targeted market segments along with their preferences
  • Value Architecture: portrays the concept as a holistic structural design of an organization, including its technological architecture, organizational infrastructure, and their configurations
  • Value Network: depicts the cross-company or inter-organization perspective towards the concept and has gained much attention in the BM literature
  • Value Finance: depicts information related to costing, pricing methods, and revenue structure

Shift from pipes to platformsedit

Sangeet Paul Choudary 2013 distinguishes between two broad families of business models in an article in Wired magazine14 Choudary contrasts pipes linear business models with platforms networked business models In the case of pipes, firms create goods and services, push them out and sell them to customers Value is produced upstream and consumed downstream There is a linear flow, much like water flowing through a pipe Unlike pipes, platforms do not just create and push stuff out They allow users to create and consume value

In an op-ed on MarketWatch,15 Choudary, Van Alstyne and Parker further explain how business models are moving from pipes to platforms, leading to disruption of entire industries


There are three elements to a successful platform business model16 The Toolbox creates connection by making it easy for others to plug into the platform This infrastructure enables interactions between participants The Magnet creates pull that attracts participants to the platform For transaction platforms, both producers and consumers must be present to achieve critical mass The Matchmaker fosters the flow of value by making connections between producers and consumers Data is at the heart of successful matchmaking, and distinguishes platforms from other business models

Chen 2009 stated that the business model has to take into account the capabilities of Web 20, such as collective intelligence, network effects, user-generated content, and the possibility of self-improving systems He suggested that the service industry such as the airline, traffic, transportation, hotel, restaurant, information and communications technology and online gaming industries will be able to benefit in adopting business models that take into account the characteristics of Web 20 He also emphasized that Business Model 20 has to take into account not just the technology effect of Web 20 but also the networking effect He gave the example of the success story of Amazon in making huge revenues each year by developing an open platform that supports a community of companies that re-use Amazon's on-demand commerce services17need quotation to verify


Malone et al18 found that some business models, as defined by them, indeed performed better than others in a dataset consisting of the largest US firms, in the period 1998 through 2002, while they did not prove whether the existence of a business model mattered

In the context of the Software-Cluster, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, a business model wizard19 for software companies has been developed It supports the design and analysis of software business models The tool's underlying concept and data were published in variouscitation needed scientific publications

The concept of a business model has been incorporated into certain accounting standards For example, the International Accounting Standards Board IASB utilizes an "entity's business model for managing the financial assets" as a criterion for determining whether such assets should be measured at amortized cost or at fair value in its financial instruments accounting standard, IFRS 920212223 In their 2013 proposal for accounting for financial instruments, the Financial Accounting Standards Board also proposed a similar use of business model for classifying financial instruments24 The concept of business model has also been introduced into the accounting of deferred taxes under International Financial Reporting Standards with 2010 amendments to IAS 12 addressing deferred taxes related to investment property252627

Both IASB and FASB have proposed using the concept of business model in the context of reporting a lessor's lease income and lease expense within their joint project on accounting for leases2829303132 In its 2016 lease accounting model, IFRS 16, the IASB chose not to include a criterion of "stand alone utility" in its lease definition because "entities might reach different conclusions for contracts that contain the same rights of use, depending on differences between customers' resources or suppliers' business models"33 The concept has also been proposed as an approach for determining the measurement and classification when accounting for insurance contracts3435 As a result of the increasing prominence the concept of business model has received in the context of financial reporting, the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group EFRAG, which advises the European Union on endorsement of financial reporting standards, commenced a project on the "Role of the Business Model in Financial Reporting" in 201136


Business model design refers to the activity of designing a company's business model It is part of the business development and business strategy process and involves design methods


Al-Debei and Avison 2010 define a business model as an abstract representation of an organization This may be conceptual, textual, and/or graphical, of all core interrelated architectural, co-operational, and financial arrangements designed and developed by an organization presently and in the future, as well all core products and/or services the organization offers, or will offer, based on these arrangements that are needed to achieve its strategic goals and objectives1 This definition indicates that value proposition, value architecture, value finance, and value network articulate the primary constructs or dimensions of business models3

Economic considerationedit

Al-Debei and Avison 2010 consider value finance as one of the main dimensions of BM which depicts information related to costing, pricing methods, and revenue structure Stewart and Zhao 2000 defined the business model as a statement of how a firm will make money and sustain its profit stream over time 37

Component considerationedit

Osterwalder et al 2005 consider the Business Model as the blueprint of how a company does business38 Slywotzky 1996 regards the business model as the totality of how a company selects its customers, defines and differentiates it offerings, defines the tasks it will perform itself and those it will outsource, configures its resources, goes to market, creates utility for customers and captures profits 39

Strategic outcomeedit

Mayo and Brown 1999 considered the business model as the design of key interdependent systems that create and sustain a competitive business 40 Casadesus-Masanell and Ricart 2011 explain a business model as a set of choices policy, assets and governance and consequences flexible and rigid and underline the importance of considering how it interacts with models of other players in the industry instead of thinking of it in isolation41

Definitions of design or developmentedit

Zott and Amit 2009 consider business model design from the perspectives of design themes and design content Design themes refer to the system's dominant value creation drivers and design content examines in greater detail the activities to be performed, the linking and sequencing of the activities and who will perform the activities42

Design themes emphasisedit

Environment-Strategy-Structure-Operations ESSO Business Model Development

Developing a Framework for Business Model Development with an emphasis on Design Themes, Lim 2010 proposed the Environment-Strategy-Structure-Operations ESSO Business Model Development which takes into consideration the alignment of the organization's strategy with the organization's structure, operations, and the environmental factors in achieving competitive advantage in varying combination of cost, quality, time, flexibility, innovation and affective43

Design content emphasisedit

Business model design includes the modeling and description of a company's:

  • value propositions
  • target customer segments
  • distribution channels
  • customer relationships
  • value configurations
  • core capabilities
  • commercial network
  • partner network
  • cost structure
  • revenue model

Business model design is distinct from business modeling The former refers to defining the business logic of a company at the strategic level, whereas the latter refers to business process design at the operational level

A business model design template can facilitate the process of designing and describing a company's business model

Daas et al 2012 developed a decision support system DSS for business model design In their study a decision support system DSS is developed to help SaaS in this process, based on a design approach consisting of a design process that is guided by various design methods44


In the early history of business models it was very typical to define business model types such as bricks-and-mortar or e-broker However, these types usually describe only one aspect of the business most often the revenue model Therefore, more recent literature on business models concentrate on describing a business model as a whole, instead of only the most visible aspects

The following examples provide an overview for various business model types that have been in discussion since the invention of term business model:

  • Bricks and clicks business model
Business model by which a company integrates both offline bricks and online clicks presences One example of the bricks-and-clicks model is when a chain of stores allows the user to order products online, but lets them pick up their order at a local store
  • Collective business models
Business system, organization or association typically composed of relatively large numbers of businesses, tradespersons or professionals in the same or related fields of endeavor, which pools resources, shares information or provides other benefits for their members For example, a science park or high-tech campus provides shared resources eg cleanrooms and other lab facilities to the firms located on its premises, and in addition seeks to create an innovation community among these firms and their employees45
  • Cutting out the middleman model
The removal of intermediaries in a supply chain: "cutting out the middleman" Instead of going through traditional distribution channels, which had some type of intermediate such as a distributor, wholesaler, broker, or agent, companies may now deal with every customer directly, for example via the Internet
  • Direct sales model
Direct selling is marketing and selling products to consumers directly, away from a fixed retail location Sales are typically made through party plan, one-to-one demonstrations, and other personal contact arrangements A text book definition is: "The direct personal presentation, demonstration, and sale of products and services to consumers, usually in their homes or at their jobs"46
  • Distribution business models, various
  • Fee in, free out
Business model which works by charging the first client a fee for a service, while offering that service free of charge to subsequent clients
  • Franchise
Franchising is the practice of using another firm's successful business model For the franchisor, the franchise is an alternative to building 'chain stores' to distribute goods and avoid investment and liability over a chain The franchisor's success is the success of the franchisees The franchisee is said to have a greater incentive than a direct employee because he or she has a direct stake in the business
  • Sourcing business model
A sourcing business model is a type of business model that is applied specifically to business relationships where more than one party needs to work with another party to be successful It is the combination of two concepts: the contractual relationship framework a company uses with its supplier transactional, relational, investment based, and the economic model used transactional, output or outcome-based
  • Freemium business model
Business model that works by offering basic Web services, or a basic downloadable digital product, for free, while charging a premium for advanced or special features47
  • Pay what you can PWYC
A non-profit or for-profit business model which does not depend on set prices for its goods, but instead asks customers to pay what they feel the product or service is worth to them484950 It is often used as a promotional tactic,51 but can also be the regular method of doing business It is a variation on the gift economy and cross-subsidization, in that it depends on reciprocity and trust to succeed "Pay what you want" PWYW is sometimes used synonymously, but "pay what you can" is often more oriented to charity or socially oriented uses, based more on ability to pay, while "pay what you want" is often more broadly oriented to perceived value in combination with willingness and ability to pay
  • Value-added reseller model
Value Added Reseller is a model where a business makes something which is resold by other businesses but with modifications which add value to the original product or service These modifications or additions are mostly industry specific in nature and are essential for the distribution Businesses going for a VAR model have to develop a VAR network It is one of the latest collaborative business models which can help in faster development cycles and is adopted by many Technology companies especially software

Other examples of business models are:

  • Auction business model
  • All-in-one business model
  • Chemical leasing
  • Low-cost carrier business model
  • Loyalty business models
  • Monopolistic business model
  • Multi-level marketing business model
  • Network effects business model
  • Online auction business model
  • Online content business model
  • Online media cooperative
  • Premium business model
  • Professional open-source model
  • Pyramid scheme business model
  • Razor and blades business model
  • Servitization of products business model
  • Subscription business model


Technology centric communities have defined "frameworks" for business modeling These frameworks attempt to define a rigorous approach to defining business value streams It is not clear, however, to what extent such frameworks are actually important for business planning Business model frameworks represent the core aspect of any company; they involve "the totality of how a company selects its customers defines and differentiates its offerings, defines the tasks it will perform itself and those it will outsource, configures its resource, goes to market, creates utility for customers, and captures profits"52 A business framework involves internal factors market analysis; products/services promotion; development of trust; social influence and knowledge sharing and external factors competitors and technological aspects53

A review on business model frameworks can be found in Krumeich et al 201254 In the following some frameworks are introduced

  • Business reference model
Business reference model is a reference model, concentrating on the architectural aspects of the core business of an enterprise, service organization or government agency
  • Component business model
Technique developed by IBM to model and analyze an enterprise It is a logical representation or map of business components or "building blocks" and can be depicted on a single page It can be used to analyze the alignment of enterprise strategy with the organization's capabilities and investments, identify redundant or overlapping business capabilities, etc Although Webvan failed in its goal of disintermediating the North American supermarket industry, several supermarket chains like Safeway Inc have launched their own delivery services to target the niche market to which Webvan catered
  • Industrialization of services business model
Business model used in strategic management and services marketing that treats service provision as an industrial process, subject to industrial optimization procedures
  • Business Model Canvas
Developed by A Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Alan Smith, and 470 practitioners from 45 countries, the business model canvas 455 is one of the most used frameworks for describing the elements of business models
  • OGSM
The OGSM is developed by Marc van Eck and Ellen van Zanten of Business Openers into the 'Business plan on 1 page' Translated in several languages all over the world #1 Management book in The Netherlands in 2015 The foundation of Business plan on 1 page is the OGSM Objectives, Goals, Strageties and Measures dashboard and actions

Related conceptsedit

The process of business model design is part of business strategy Business model design and innovation refer to the way a firm or a network of firms defines its business logic at the strategic level

In contrast, firms implement their business model at the operational level, through their business operations This refers to their process-level activities, capabilities, functions and infrastructure for example, their business processes and business process modeling, their organisational structures eg organigrams, workflows, human resources and systems eg information technology architecture, production lines

Consequently, an operationally viable and feasible business model requires lateral alignment with the underlining business operations56

The brand is a consequence of the business model and has a symbiotic relationship with it, because the business model determines the brand promise, and the brand equity becomes a feature of the model Managing this is a task of integrated marketing

The standard terminology and examples of business models do not apply to most nonprofit organizations, since their sources of income are generally not the same as the beneficiaries The term 'funding model' is generally used instead57

The model is defined by the organization's vision, mission, and values, as well as sets of boundaries for the organization—what products or services it will deliver, what customers or markets it will target, and what supply and delivery channels it will use While the business model includes high-level strategies and tactical direction for how the organization will implement the model, it also includes the annual goals that set the specific steps the organization intends to undertake in the next year and the measures for their expected accomplishment Each of these is likely to be part of internal documentation that is available to the internal auditor

See alsoedit

  • Business rule
  • Concept-driven strategy
  • Enterprise architecture
  • Growth platforms
  • Institutional logic
  • Market structure
  • Marketing plan
  • Sensemaking
  • Strategy dynamics
  • Strategy Markup Language
  • The Design of Business
  • Value migration


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Further readingedit

  • A Afuah and C Tucci, Internet Business Models and Strategies, Boston, McGraw Hill, 2003
  • T Burkhart, J Krumeich, D Werth, and P Loos, Analyzing the Business Model Concept — A Comprehensive Classification of Literature, Proceedings of the International Conference on Information Systems ICIS 2011 Paper 12 http://aiselaisnetorg/icis2011/proceedings/generaltopics/12
  • H Chesbrough and R S Rosenbloom, The Role of the Business Model in capturing value from Innovation: Evidence from XEROX Corporation's Technology Spinoff Companies, Boston, Massachusetts, Harvard Business School, 2002
  • Dick Costolo, Business Models,
  • Marc Fetscherin and Gerhard Knolmayer, Focus Theme Articles: Business Models for Content Delivery: An Empirical Analysis of the Newspaper and Magazine Industry, International Journal on Media Management, Volume 6, Issue 1 & 2 September 2004, pages 4 – 11, September 2004
  • George, G, Bock, AJ Models of opportunity: How entrepreneurs design firms to achieve the unexpected Cambridge University Press, 2012, ISBN 978-0-521-17084-0
  • J Gordijn, Value-based Requirements Engineering - Exploring Innovative e-Commerce Ideas, Amsterdam, Vrije Universiteit, 2002
  • G Hamel, Leading the revolution, Boston, Harvard Business School Press, 2000
  • J Linder and S Cantrell, Changing Business Models: Surveying the Landscape, Accenture Institute for Strategic Change, 2000
  • Lindgren, P and Jørgensen,R, M-S Li, Y Taran, K F Saghaug, "Towards a new generation of business model innovation model", presented at the 12th International CINet Conference: Practicing innovation in times of discontinuity, Aarhus, Denmark, 10–13 September 2011
  • Long Range Planning, vol 43 April 2010, "Special Issue on Business Models," includes 19 pieces by leading scholars on the nature of business models
  • S Muegge Business Model Discovery by Technology Entrepreneurs Technology Innovation Management Review, April 2012, pp 5–16
  • S Muegge, C Haw, and Sir T Matthews, Business Models for Entrepreneurs and Startups, Best of TIM Review, Book 2, Talent First Network, 2013
  • Alex Osterwalder et al Business Model Generation, Co-authored with Yves Pigneur, Alan Smith, and 470 practitioners from 45 countries, self-published, 2009
  • O Peterovic and C Kittl et al, Developing Business Models for eBusiness, International Conference on Electronic Commerce 2001, 2001
  • Alt, Rainer; Zimmermann, Hans-Dieter: Introduction to Special Section – Business Models In: Electronic Markets Anniversary Edition, Vol 11 2001, No 1 link
  • Santiago Restrepo Barrera, Business model tool, Business life model, Colombia 2012, http://wwwimaginatunegociocom/#!business-life-model/c1o75 Spanish
  • Paul Timmers Business Models for Electronic Markets, Electronic Markets, Vol 8 1998 No 2, pp 3 – 8
  • Peter Weill and M R Vitale, Place to space: Migrating to eBusiness Models, Boston,Harvard Business School Press, 2001
  • C Zott, R Amit, & LMassa 'The Business Model: Theoretical Roots, Recent Developments, and Future Research', WP-862, IESE, June, 2010 - revised September 2010 PDF
  • Magretta, J 2002 Why Business Models Matter, Harvard Business Review, May: 86-92
  • Govindarajan, V and Trimble, C 2011 The CEO’s role in business model reinvention Harvard Business Review, January-February: 108-114

External linksedit

  • Sustaining Digital Resources: An on-the-ground view of projects today, Ithaka, November 2009 Overview of the models being deployed and analysis on the effects of income generation and cost management

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