With the business environment changing ever faster, driven by rapid developments in the fields of knowledge and technology, business firms are forced to change their way of doing business and adapt to the environmental changes at a faster rate. As a result, the interest in business models has increased sharply. However, the growth in number and variety of business models has also led to confusion and to a number of questions. The first area of questions to be answered is concerned with business models in general. Although the number of business models has increased during
the past few years, and despite the fact that the term has been used extensively, there is still only limited research available on business models in general, as well as their development and application. Moreover, the term "business model" means different things to different people, and
remains without an agreed definition. A similar situation exists regarding the constituent parts of business models. The second area of questions to be answered is related to the recent inflation of business models. Examples include: Are business models still relevant? What is the impact of fast moving business environments on business models? Is their application still valid? Are business models useful? There is little research on business models and their relationship with the environment, and on business models in fast moving environments. Business models play an
important role for businesses, and their inappropriate application can have adverse repercussions.
The central aim of this work is to undertake a comprehensive investigation of business models in
fast moving environments through three distinct stages: (1) critical engagement and examination of the relevant existing literature, (2) development of a business meta-model, i.e. a model of business models, including its subsequent verification and validation, and (3) investigation of case studies on general and specific business models, including illustrations of their development and application, and an analysis of the impact of fast moving environments on business models.
The first stage is a critical engagement with and the thorough investigation of the relevant literature, e.g. research on models in general, on businesses in general, on the business environment, and on business models. The second stage is the development of a business metamodel,
i.e. a model of business models. The development of this meta-model is primarily based on the literature review, personal experience of the researcher and some initial hypotheses.
Following its initial development, the business meta-model was verified and validated using case studies (the third stage of the research). Whenever necessary, the initial model was modified as to take into account new findings. The characteristics and the utility of the framework are illustrated by a comparison of the generic business model framework with selected management models, as well as by applying the framework in the case studies. The third stage of this research is the thorough investigation and analysis of case studies on general and specific business models.
Seven case studies in total, divided into two distinct sets, were conducted. The first set, containing three case studies, focuses on general business models in the form of business model waves, while the second set, containing four case studies, focuses on the corporate development and application of specific business models. Both sets are complementary and necessary in investigating the meaning, legitimacy and impact of business models in fast moving environments.
Based on the three stages of this work, a number of conclusions have been drawn regarding business models in general, and business models in fast moving environments. First, there are no other means available than business models to make sense of businesses in fast moving
environments. Second, business models are valuable tools and their application is pervasive.
Examples for the application of business models include description, analysis, explanation, planning and prediction, resource allocation, organising and controlling, decision-making support, and optimisation purposes. Third, the case studies show that business models must be developed in a systematic and structured manner, e.g. by utilising the meta-model, developed in this
research. Fourth, the case studies demonstrate that a multi-perspective approach should be utilised for the development of business models. Using multiple perspectives can enhance the quality of assumptions, and thus lead to a prolonged period of validity for the business model. Fifth, with
increasing change, a dynamic approach towards business models becomes imperative. Business models must be continuously verified in terms of their fit with the environment, and adapted accordingly whenever necessary. Sixth, business models and their use must become increasingly flexible in fast moving environments. Since a lower level of detail generally means greater flexibility, the level of detail of business models tends to decrease in fast moving business environments. Last but not least, with a faster pace of environmental change, the life-span of
business models is reducing; and this, in turn, is reducing the possible temporal focus of the models.
Given the problems and dangers of business models, which are also highlighted by the case studies, the key consideration is that business models must be developed and applied with great caution. The users of business models need to understand the limitations and crucial assumptions
underlying the model, and verify the validity of any model before its application.