Your business model sits within a set of way of thinking about how your organisation operates, from your longer-term vision through to the day-to-day implementation of activities. Osterwalder and Pigneur (2010) describe the business model as a ‘framework or logic used to create social and economic value’.
You might can visualise these various modes of thinking as a pyramid. At the top is the overarching mission and vision of your organisation. This is unlikely to change a great deal over time. Regardless of changes in environmental factors, funding landscape or technological changes, your mission and vision will remain relatively stable. The next level down is your strategy. This may have various elements such as marketing, digital and fundraising strategies. All these represent the main approaches you will take to achieve your mission and vision.
At the bottom of the pyramid are the implementation and operations that you engage with on a daily basis. These are the day-to-day tasks needed for your organisation to function. Your business model links your strategy to your implementation. It is how you operationalise your strategic intentions. 
Using the business model canvas, as shown on the resource ‘Using the digital business model canvas to prioritise what to change’, we can explore the choices made by different kinds of heritage organisations. The business model canvas diagram shown below has been drawn from the South East Museum Development Programme report for Arts Council England: ‘An overview of cultural business models in the South East’ (PDF file, 2.12MB)
The diagram offers the kind of questions and potential answers that a typical heritage organisation might see as appropriate for each of the nine segments. All the elements above the ‘Costs’ segment relate to potential areas for improvement to become more efficient. All of the elements above the ‘Revenue’ segment are related to your ‘Value Proposition’ i.e. the value you are offering to your audiences.
Example business model canvases
Below are some examples of how the technique has been used to analyse the business of heritage organisations across the world. While they may not be directly relevant to your organisation, they may prove helpful in generating ideas about your own business model.
Western Australia Museum
The museum developed a model that aimed to ‘reflect the heart of the state and the spirit of its people’ with the intention of giving ‘every visitor and user, physical or virtual, a legitimate way (should they choose) to contribute to the Museum and its content and impact, to share ideas and knowledge, to connect with other people, and to feel like an engaged and respected participant.’
The new model reflects a decision taken in 2009 to move from a conventional museum proposition – safeguarding and managing its assets, objects and knowledge – towards a model that was more focused on reaching out and engaging with the public.
The model is shown below and you can also download a Word version (15.1kb).
The National Archives of the Netherlands
As part of a change to the way the organisation operates, the museum plotted its current ‘as is’ state. The main activities involved storing the archive material and making it available to visiting scholars.
The ‘as is’ model is shown below and you can also download a Word version (12.6kb).
In 2008, the National Archives made some of its materials available to the public on Flickr with the aim of increasing user participation. The experiment was hugely successful and has resulted in a complete change of the business model from analogue to digital, which is shown below. You can also download a Word version (14.1kb).
To conduct your own analysis, download this PDF version of the business model generation canvas (345kb).
Download this short guide ‘Digital for life’ (PDF file, 4.05MB) from the European Cultural Heritage Enterprise which is specifically designed to provide guidance on using the canvas for digital projects in the heritage sector.
Please attribute as: "Selecting a business model to support digital implementation (2022) by Dr Stephen Dobson supported by The Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0