Do we need one business model definition?

Anders Bille Jensen


Business model, strategy, value capture, value creation, innovation, definition


Purpose: Different applications and conceptualizations of the business model concept have created discussions on what it actually is. The purpose of this paper is twofold: 1) to establish an overview of current usages of the business model construct, its nature and role in theory building, and – building on this - 2) to derive guiding principles applicable for achieving better clarity of the business model construct in future research.

Design/methodology: Variances in roles, nature and forms of current and diverse applications of the business model concept are discussed from a vertical and a horizontal dimension. Based on the analysis, key issues for achieving construct clarity are proposed.

Findings: This paper 1) demonstrates that there are at least three levels of understanding business models (general, conceptual and as a research construct), 2) that the business model construct is heavily influenced by the research view, 3) that the establishment of specific constructs can be informed by the existing literature, and 4) discusses how the emergent business model concept can be strengthened.

Implications: Different and complementary business model perspectives may provide a better understanding and reflection of reality than a single, general and detailed definition. For specific applications, definitions need to explicitly clarify the particular role, nature and boundaries of the business model.

Originality/value: The paper provides a methodological contribution in the discussion on business model definitions by adding clarity on the value of the multi-levels and multi-views of current understandings as well as contributing on how to create specific constructs.