Selecting a business model to support digital implementation

Business models from the cultural heritage sector are presented here in the format of the business model canvas. Each demonstrates different forms of business model and may act as a template or guide for introducing digital to your own organisation.

A young girl has her picture taken while looking through a guillotine made of ice
Image courtesy of Visit York ©

Selecting a business model to support digital implementation

1. Introduction

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. [1]

 

Pyramid representing the operation of an organisation showing in descending order mission and vision; strategy; business model and implementation plans. All are affected by environmental factors
Pyramid representing the operation of an organisation showing in descending order mission and vision; strategy; business model and implementation plans. All are affected by environmental factors.

[1] Osterwalder, Alexander & Pigneur, Yves. (2010). Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers.

2. A review of business models

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 business model canvas template
The business model generation canvas

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 Western Australia Museum model
The Western Australia Museum model

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).

The National Archives of the Netherlands 'as is' model
The National Archives of the Netherlands ‘as is’ model

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).

The National Archives of the Netherlands current model
The National Archives of the Netherlands current model

To conduct your own analysis, download this PDF version of the business model generation canvas (345kb).

Further reading

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.



More help here


Blue dragon performer during a Chinese festival

Using the digital business model canvas to prioritise what to change

In this resource you will explore the use of the digital business model canvas to help prioritise where your organisation may benefit most from digital change. The digital business model canvas offers a focussed approach to visualising what digital innovation in your organisation might look like.

 
Three cyclists enjoying a bike ride

Managing change using an eight-step model

It is important that a new business model is broken down into actionable steps. This guide offers advice and a framework to help identify a roadmap which provides clear steps to ensure buy-in.

 

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Business Business model Digital Economic
Published: 2022
Resource type: Articles


Creative Commons Licence Except where noted and excluding company and organisation logos this work is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) Licence

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




 
 


More help here



Digital Heritage Hub is managed by Arts Marketing Association (AMA) in partnership with The Heritage Digital Consortium and The University of Leeds. It has received Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and National Lottery funding, distributed by The Heritage Fund as part of their Digital Skills for Heritage initiative. Digital Heritage Hub is free and answers small to medium sized heritage organisations most pressing and frequently asked digital questions.

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