Business Models

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What are Business Models? Meaning.

Business Models are systems by which businesses can sustain themselves and can achieve their corporate purpose, mission and strategy. It is a description at a strategic level of the way an organization creates, delivers, and captures economic, social, or other forms of value. They apply to commercial, not-for-profit and government organisations.

According to Johnson, Christensen and Kagermann (Reinventing your Business Model, HBR Dec 2008, P50-59), a business model consists out of 4 interrelated elements:

  1. Customer Value Proposition. The way to create value for customers, to solve a problem for them.

  2. Profit Formula. How the company creates value for itself while creating value for its customers.

  3. Key Resources. The most important assets to achieve 1 and 2 and their interaction.

  4. Key Processes. The most important routines and tasks to achieve 1 and 2. For example product design and development, purchasing, manufacturing, marketing, IT. But also rules and metrics, such as margin requirements, credit terms and lead times.

Typically a business model takes the form of a company or a Strategic Business Unit.

Examples of business models. Types

Advertising, Affiliate, Auction, Bait and Switch, Bricks and Clicks, Brokerage, Community, Customer Loyalty, Disintermediation, Dutch Auction, Franchising, Industrialization of services, Infomediary, Marketplace, Microfinance, Monopoly, Multi Channel Marketing, Network Effects, Pyramid scheme, various Retail Types, Reverse Auction, Subscription, Utility, Freemium, etc.

Usage of Business Models. Applications

  • Describe and classify an entrepreneurial business
  • Explore possibilities for future development in a mature business
  • Determine where to make strategic investments and pathways for change
  • As part of a lean start up development methodology
  • Identify risks, compare sensitivities
  • Because the name of a business model is associated with an entire way of doing business, it can be used to refer to a complex organizational setup in a simple way.
  • As recipes for creative managers

Business Model CanvasGeneric Business Model Template

In their handbook Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers, Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur describe the Business Model Canvas, a generic business model template (picture), which can be used by "visionaries, game changers, and challengers striving to defy outmoded business models and design tomorrow's enterprises" to describe virtually any business model.

This 'Business Model Canvas' has 9 building blocks:

  1. Customer Segments
  2. Value Propositions
  3. Channels (communication, distribution and sales)
  4. Customer Relationships
  5. Revenue Streams (the results from the value propositions to the customer segments)
  6. Key Resources (the assets required to offer and deliver the products / services)
  7. Key Activities
  8. Key Partnerships (Strategic Alliances, Outsourcing)
  9. Cost Structure

Value proposition Canvas

Alexander has added to this work with a sub-canvas which is used to ensure alignment between the customers “jobs to be done” and the organization's value propositions. He originally referred to this as the Customer Value Canvas. The Value Proposition Canvas is used to test the known and anticipated customer needs against the organization's offerings by looking at how the organization creates “gains” and eliminates “pains” for the customer.


Special Interest Group

Business Models Special Interest Group.

Special Interest Group (1287 members)


Forum about Business Models.


Business Models in Developing Countries
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The Strategy Sketch (Kraaijenbrink)
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Key Elements of a Business Model
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What Exactly is a Management Model?
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Why does Innovation often Requires Changes in the Business Model?
In cases of major product/technical/process innovation, it is often necessary for organizations to also adapt or reinven...
Using the Business Model Canvas for Markets with Many Customers
The business model canvas is useful also in multi sided markets, that is one where there are more than a single customer...
Mastercard and Business Model Innovation
Strategyzer are reporting that Mastercard has rolled out business modeling across their organisation with a 1000 people ...
Business Model Examples for Online Shop
Hello, I have the requirement to insert a business model for a case study I'm are working on. My case study is an online...
Partners in the Business Model Canvas and SWOT
Dear all, I am new here and I really need help.
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Barriers to Business Model Innovation
Due to fast technological developments and innovations, firms need to be able to quickly adapt to changes in the competi...
Business Models Used in Schools
The Business Model Canvas can certainly help entrepreneurs to come out with a clear vision on how their business plan wi...

Best Practices

The top-rated topics about Business Models. Here you will find the most valuable ideas and practical suggestions.

The Startup Business Strategy Frame
Startup success is greatly attributed to pre-startup phase planning. Startups develop business plans to pitch their idea...

Business Model Innovation
Hi, it would be great if we could start discussions on business model innovation and changes. The past decade has just s...

Operating Model versus Business Model
How exactly does an operating model differ from a business model? What are the commonalities and differences? What are t...

Definition of a Business Model is Ambiguous
In studying or analyzing something, a clear-cut definition of the concept or term is required.
As far as 'Business ...

Expert Tips

Advanced insights about Business Models. Here you will find professional advices by experts.

Innovating by Reconsidering Value Delivery

Fundamental Innovation
When innovating their business model, companies need to reconsider their value proposition from all perspectives. One of...
Information Sources

Various sources of information regarding Business Models. Here you will find powerpoints, videos, news, etc. to use in your own lectures and workshops.

Tools for Social Entrepreneurs

Social Business Idea Generation, Business Development, Funding, Marketing and Partnerships, Social Business Toolkit
This nice toolkit provides many useful tools for social entrepreneurs wanting to establish a social business. It include...

From Product And Process Innovation to Business Model Innovation

Business Model Innovation, Performance Management
This presentation elaborates on the concept of business models, specifically focusing on innovating business models. The...

Innovation and Business Models

Business Models, Business Model Innovation
This presentation is about Business Models and Innovation, emphasizing Innovation in Business Models. The presentation i...

Reinventing your Business Model

Business Model Change, Strategic Innovation
A presentation that clearly explains the concept of changing business models according to Kagermann, Johnson and Christe...

Creating Inclusive Business Models

Business Models, Corporate Sustainability, International Development, Investing in Africa
Presentation that provides an introduction into inclusive business models, especially focusing on (agri) businesses in ...

Circular Business Models

Circular Economy, Business Models, Recycling, Waste Reduction
Circular economy supports to minimise resource depletion, waste, and emissions through innovative business models. Read...

Research Links

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