To read this content please select one of the options below:

Conceptualising, delineating and analysing business networks

Frans Prenkert (Department of Marketing, BI Norwegian School of Management, Sandvika, Norway)
Lars Hallén (Department of Social Sciences, Mid‐Sweden University, Sundsvall, Sweden)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 1 March 2006




The purpose of this article is to explore possible contributions to the development of models to define business networks conceptually, and identify and delineate them empirically by integrating concepts and ideas from “market exchange theory” originating in the works of Alderson.


Following a conceptual discussion defining business networks as a type of exchange system, empirical data were used to exemplify and illustrate the theoretical development ideas. From data on 22 business firms collected in 1999‐2001 in the form of transcribed interviews and other print documentation, a business network as a type of exchange system was identified comprising five business entities. This case serves as illustration to the remainder of the theoretical discussions throughout the paper.


Based on a conceptualisation of business networks as a type of exchange system and a notion of interaction encompassing exchange processes stemming from both market exchange theory and social exchange theory, it is suggested that business networks can be more consistently identified and delineated empirically using this theoretical base.

Research limitations/implications

The empirical case is merely illustrative, and more extensive empirical work is needed to further test the ideas of business networks as a type of exchange system. The implications to the study of markets‐as‐networks are that these ideas can be used as a basis for identification, delineation and analysis of business networks.


This paper extends Alderson's work by suggesting a fourth type of transformation: transformation in ownership, as well as by developing a typology with five resource types in the exchange system. Furthermore, it provides a conceptual tool that can be used by researchers to identify, delineate and analyse business networks and incorporates market exchange theory.



Prenkert, F. and Hallén, L. (2006), "Conceptualising, delineating and analysing business networks", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 40 No. 3/4, pp. 384-407.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles