Unlocking Business Potential: How the Business Model Canvas can help organisations thrive

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In a landscape characterised by high competition, limited funding opportunities and increasing budgetary pressures, having a strong business model is the secret weapon that can make or break an organisation’s success – it’s the blueprint for survival, growth and lasting impact.

A solid business model serves as the backbone for an organisation, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, guiding its strategic decisions and fostering resilience in the face of market fluctuations. By clearly defining value propositions, target markets, and revenue streams, a robust business model enables organisations to optimise their resources and capitalise on opportunities.

To help our clients navigate this complex area with confidence, we often use the Business Model Canvas – a tool developed by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur to helps organisations design, analyse, and iterate their business models with ease. The Canvas simplifies complex business concepts into nine essential building blocks, providing a comprehensive and coherent framework for organisations to map out their strategies and achieve sustainable growth.

In this article, we explore the essential components of the Business Model Canvas, as well as a range of practical examples where we have used it to support our clients.

Unlocking Business Potential: How the Business Model Canvas can help organisations thrive | Research Consulting
Figure 1. Our business model canvas template.

Harnessing the Business Model Canvas for Strategic Clarity

The Business Model Canvas offers a practical approach for organisations to visualise and comprehend the connections between the nine key areas presented in the table below. By exploring each of these nine components, organisations can gain insight into how they work together to form a cohesive and sustainable business model.

The simplicity of the Business Model Canvas is, however, a double-edged sword: by breaking down complex business concepts, it can support focussed discussions, but this may also lead to oversimplification. Additionally, the canvas captures a snapshot of an organisation’s business model at a particular point in time, without accounting for the dynamic nature of markets, customer preferences and external factors. The Business Model Canvas is not a panacea, but we have found it to be a valuable tool for bringing clarity to organisational design and strategy development projects.

Value propositionThe value (e.g. a product or service) that your organisation brings to its audience, addressing their specific needs and problems
Customer/member segmentsThe different groups of people that your organisation aims to serve, targeting their needs and preferences
ChannelsThe means by which your organisation delivers its products or services to its audience, and the ways in which they come into contact with the organisation
RelationshipsThe relationships that your organisation has established with its audience, and the relationships that you aim to harness in the future
Revenue streamsThe various sources of income generated by your organisation
Key resourcesThe assets and systems required for your organisation to effectively deliver value, including physical, intellectual, human and financial resources
Key activitiesThe operations and processes your organisation must perform to create and deliver value, including, for example, production, marketing, and sales activities
Key partnersThe network of suppliers, associates, and collaborators needed to help your organisation achieve its objectives, which may in turn provide access to resources, expertise, manufacturing, or distribution
Cost structureThe costs incurred in running your organisation, including any fixed or variable expenses

From Idea to Execution: The Business Model Canvas in action

Research Consulting has leveraged the Business Model Canvas to enable commercial clients to reshape their strategic objectives, explore untapped opportunities and foster innovation in the face of market competition or shifting landscapes. We have also used the Not-for-Profit Model Canvas on several occasions, for example when working with open scholarly infrastructures.

Examples of the above include:

  • A report for the European Commission, where we used the Business Model Canvas as a tool to investigate possible business models for the Open Research Europe publishing platform. During our research, we developed seven case studies of similar open scholarly infrastructures and used the Canvas to map their strategies. This resulted in a range of options for the European Commission to consider when developing Open Research Europe’s business model and provided guidance on how to expand the platform.
  • A report for the Community-led Open Publication Infrastructures for Monographs (COPIM) , where we sought to identify potential business models and funding streams for Thoth, an open dissemination system for integrating open access books into libraries, digital services, and repositories. By using the Canvas, we were able to develop a shared understanding of potential business models, identify possible revenue streams and the risks associated with these, and outline next steps for the organisation.
  • A sustainability review for the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), where we used the Not-for-Profit Model Canvas to inform discussions about the organisation’s core activities and value add and the need to update the current fee structures. The Canvas prompted reflection on the various users of DOAJ data as well as the extent to which they contribute to financially supporting the platform. After this exercise, DOAJ announced changes to their business model, which can be found on their blog.

Developing or revising your organisation’s business model can feel daunting – and, sometimes, it is! By using the Business Model Canvas, you may be able to unlock previously unknown and untapped opportunities: with its easy-to-follow approach, this tool provides a platform for developing strategies that are focused on driving long-term financial sustainability and value creation.

We believe that every organisation has the ability to thrive, and we are here to help through our extensive knowledge and understanding of the research and scholarly communication landscape. If you are interested in exploring how the Business Model Canvas might help your organisation, please feel free to reach out to us at enquiries@research-consulting.com.

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