Defining The Concept Of Business Model: Searching For A Business Model Framework

Defining The Concept Of Business Model: Searching For A Business Model Framework

Carlo Bagnoli (Ca' Foscari University of Venice, Venice, Italy), Maurizio Massaro (Ca' Foscari University of Venice, Venice, Italy), Francesca Dal Mas (Università degli Studi di Udine, Udine, Italy, & Università degli Studi di Roma "La Sapienza", Rome, Italy) and Matteo Demartini (Deloitte Officine Innovazione - Ca' Foscari University of Venice, Venice, Italy)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/IJKSS.2018070104

Abstract

Business Model (BM) literature is growing with many contributions from academics and practitioners. Interestingly, despite a large number of studies focused on BM, we found a lack of consistency in the definition of what a BM is. Using content analysis, this study aims to investigate previous studies searching for a shared definition of BM. A relevance assessment allows understanding most common elements that shape BM, allowing us to draw a definition of BM. Four main dimensions are derived to define the BM: the value dimension, the modeling principles dimension, the functional dimension, the strategy dimension. Finally, results show further needs of development.
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1. Introduction

The business model (BM) is a relatively recent phenomenon (Nielsen et al., 2019). Despite the term BM has appeared within the academic field already at the end of the 1950s (Bellman et al., 1957, Jones, 1960), it has been only at the end of the 1990s that it gained momentum among scholars and practitioners (Zott, & Amit, 2003, 2007, 2008). Its development is usually associated with the development of a significant number of dot-com companies (Mahadevan, 2000; Onetti et al., 2012). From the first studies, literature has been publishing several models and definitions. The increasing interest in BM as a general concept and not only as a peculiarity of e-business is well documented by the growing number of workshops as well as of academic and professional articles and books devoted to it. According to Ghaziani and Ventresca (2005), in the period 1995-2000, the term BM appeared in more than 1,500 papers belonging to the ABI/INFORM database, but often with different meanings. Additionally, BM has also been connected with various topics such as sustainability (Massaro et al., 2018; Dal Mas, 2019) and Industry 4.0 (Bagnoli et al., 2018), among others.

Interestingly, despite academics produced several literature reviews on the topic, to the best of our knowledge, there is not a common definition of BM. Some scholars define the BM concept as a whole (Timmers, 1998; Shafer et al., 2005; Osterwalder et al., 2005; Al Debei & Avison, 2010). Others point out to its features (Mahadevan, 2000; Chesbrough & Rosenbloom, 2002; Pateli & Giaglis, 2003; Gordijn & Akkermans, 2003; Bagnoli et al., 2018), or its relationship with strategy (Linder & Cantrell, 2001; Magretta, 2002; Mansfield & Fourie, 2004) and, above all, information systems (Hedman & Kalling, 2003; Chesbrough, 2007) for developing new e-business models (Alt & Zimmermann, 2001; Afuah, 2003; Afuah & Tucci, 2000). However, even the literature related to e-business shows that there is no consensus regarding BM concept. It is considered underdeveloped (Magretta, 2002; Chesbrough & Rosenbloom, 2002), a not clear “buzzword” (Seddon et al., 2004; Seppanen & Makinen, 2007), or “murky” at best (Porter, 2001).

Following this line of thought, the paper aims to develop a content analysis (Krippendorff, 2013) on BM definitions, to provide a hierarchical taxonomy of the fundamental aspects of the BM concept. Our research would like to lead to a more detailed framework, that may be useful for researchers as well as practitioners. More precisely, the paper aims to analyze and synthesize the literature and views related to the concept of BM in a single framework.

Accordingly, the authors built the paper as follows. In the next section, we describe the literature review and how we conducted it. In the same section, we define our research question about a possible definition of BM. In paragraph 3, we detail our research method: BM definition gathering, content analysis, and concept aggregation, and relevance assessment. In part 4 we present the results of our analysis, giving our definition of BM. A conclusion section with a possible research agenda ends the paper.

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