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From Business Model to Business Modelling: Modularity and Manipulation

aCass Business School, City University London, London, UK
bDepartment of Economics and Management, Università degli Studi di Trento, Trento, Italy
cCass Business School, City University London, London, UK and Senior Fellow, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania USA

Business Models and Modelling

ISBN: 978-1-78560-463-8, eISBN: 978-1-78560-462-1

Publication date: 27 October 2015


The concept of modularity has gained considerable traction in technology studies as a way to conceive, describe, and innovate complex systems, such as product design or organizational structures. In the recent literature, technological modularity has often been intertwined with business model innovation, and scholarship has started investigating how modularity in technology affects changes in business models, both at the cognitive and activity system levels. Yet we still lack a theoretical definition of what modularity is in the business model domain. Business model innovation also encompasses different possibilities of modelling businesses, which are not clearly understood nor classified. We ask when, how, and if modularity theory can be extended to business models in order to enable effective and efficient modelling. We distinguish theoretically between modularity for technology and for business models, and investigate the key processes of modularization and manipulation. We introduce the basic operations of business modelling via modular operators adapted from the technological modularity domain, using iconic examples to develop an analogical reasoning between modularity in technology and in business models. Finally, we discuss opportunities for using modularity theory to foster the understanding of business models and modelling, and develop a challenging research agenda for future investigations.




We thank Mary Morgan for many insightful discussions on the role of cognition and modularity in business models. We gratefully acknowledge the AiSM Special Issue Senior Editor Vincent Mangematin and the two anonymous reviewers for their expert and constructive comments. We also thank Santi Furnari, Alessandro Giudici, Alessandro Narduzzo, Simone Santoni, Valerie Sabatier, Marco Zamarian, Enrico Zaninotto, and all the participants at the internal “brown-bag” seminar series and the Business Model Mini Conference at Cass Business School for their precious suggestions. We also thank Jon Morgan of Paraphrase for his careful and insightful editing assistance. This work was supported by the European Commission’s Marie-Curie Actions (Project nr. 301688 – Project Acronym AJ86RH5GYM – FP7-PEOPLE-2011-IEF) and the EPSRC UK Research Council (EP/K039695/1 Building Better Business Models).


Aversa, P., Haefliger, S., Rossi, A. and Baden-Fuller, C. (2015), "From Business Model to Business Modelling: Modularity and Manipulation", Business Models and Modelling (Advances in Strategic Management, Vol. 33), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 151-185.



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