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What is the Difference Between Business Model Vs Operating Model?



business model vs operating model

Two essential terms often take center stage in business strategy and management: the business model vs operating model. Understanding the distinction between these two key concepts is like having a compass in the corporate wilderness.

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between the business model vs operating model, shedding light on their unique roles and why their alignment is critical for business success. So, let’s begin on this journey to unravel the secrets behind these fundamental frameworks that shape how organizations operate and thrive.

What is Business Model?

Business Model is a strategic framework that outlines how a company creates, delivers, and captures value. It serves as a blueprint for how a business operates and generates revenue. Essentially, a business model defines the core aspects of a company’s approach to doing business, including its target customer segments, the value it provides to customers, the channels through which it reaches them, and how it monetizes its offerings while managing costs. It is a fundamental concept that helps businesses plan and execute their strategies effectively.

What is Operating Model?

An Operating Model is a comprehensive and detailed plan that defines how an organization structures and manages its internal operations to execute its business model effectively. It serves as the operational backbone of a company, guiding the day-to-day activities, processes, and resources required to deliver on the promises made by the business model.

The operating model addresses various aspects, including organizational structure, processes and workflows, technology and tools, the skills and competencies of employees, and governance and decision-making mechanisms. It ensures that the company’s internal workings align with its strategic goals and objectives, allowing for the efficient execution of its business model.

In essence, while the business model focuses on what the company does to create and capture value in the market, the operating model focuses on how the company does it, emphasizing the practical and operational aspects of running the business successfully.

Differences between Business Model Vs Operating Model

The differences between a Business Model and an Operating Model lie in their focus, scope, and purpose within an organization. Here’s a breakdown of these distinctions:

1. Focus:

Business Model: A business model’s primary focus is on the business’s strategic aspects. It answers fundamental questions about how a company creates, delivers, and captures value. This includes defining target customer segments, the value proposition, revenue sources, and cost structure. It sets the direction for the organization’s overall strategy and positioning in the market.

Operating Model: The operating model, in contrast, is primarily concerned with the tactical and operational aspects of how a company functions internally. It outlines the processes, workflows, and resources required to execute the business model effectively. It deals with the “how” of running the business day-to-day.

2. Scope:

Business Model: The business model provides a high-level view of the business and its interactions with the external environment. It defines the overarching strategy and the key components that shape the company’s value proposition and revenue generation.

Operating Model: The operating model delves into the granular details of internal operations. It covers organizational structure, processes, technology, people, and governance. It provides the nuts and bolts of the company’s strategic objectives.

3. Purpose:

Business Model: The purpose of a business model is to set the strategic direction for the organization. It helps answer questions like “What business are we in?” and “How do we create value for our customers and stakeholders?” It guides product development, pricing, market positioning, and revenue generation decisions.

Operating Model: The operating model’s purpose is to ensure that the organization can effectively implement the strategies defined by the business model. It focuses on optimizing internal operations, resource allocation, and efficiency to deliver on the promises made by the business model.

4. Time Horizon:

Business Model: The business model typically has a longer time horizon and is relatively stable. It may evolve over time but usually at a more strategic and gradual pace.

Operating Model: The model can adapt and change more frequently and rapidly to respond to internal and external factors. It is often adjusted to enhance efficiency, meet changing customer needs, or take advantage of emerging technologies.

5. Audience:

Business Model: The audience for the business model includes top-level executives, investors, and strategic decision-makers who need to understand the overall direction and positioning of the company.

Operating Model: The operating model interests operational managers, process designers, and employees responsible for executing the day-to-day activities and ensuring the company’s operational efficiency.

In summary, while the business and operating models are critical for an organization’s success, they serve different roles and address different aspects of the business. The business model sets the strategic vision and direction, while the operating model defines how that vision is implemented through detailed operational planning and execution.

Importance of Business Model and Operating Model Alignment

Business and operating model alignment is important because it helps organizations achieve their strategic goals. When a company’s business model and operating model are aligned, all of the company’s resources and processes work together to deliver value to customers. This can lead to several benefits, including:

  • Increased efficiency and productivity: When employees understand the company’s business model and how their role contributes to it, they can make decisions and take actions aligned with the company’s overall goals. This can lead to increased efficiency and productivity across the organization.
  • Improved customer satisfaction: When a company’s business model and operating model are aligned, the company is better able to deliver products and services that meet the needs of its customers. This can lead to improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Reduced costs: When a company’s business model and operating model are aligned, the company can eliminate waste and duplication of effort. This can lead to reduced costs and improved profitability.
  • Increased agility and responsiveness to change: When a company’s business model and operating model are aligned, the company can better adapt to changes in the market and competitive landscape. This can help the company to maintain a competitive advantage.

Here are some examples of how business model and operating model alignment can lead to success:

  • A company that sells software on a subscription basis needs to have an operating model that is designed to support recurring revenue and customer retention. This might include having a dedicated customer support team and a process for regularly updating the software.
  • A company that sells physical products online must have an operating model designed to efficiently fulfill orders and deliver products to customers. This might include having a well-designed warehouse and shipping system.
  • A company that provides consulting services needs to have an operating model that is designed to deliver high-quality services to clients on time and within budget. This might include having a team of experienced consultants and a process for managing projects effectively.

Overall, business model and operating model alignment are essential for organizations that want to be successful in the long term. When a company’s business model and operating model are aligned, the company can deliver value to customers, achieve its strategic goals, and maintain a competitive advantage.

Case Study

Let’s look at a real-world example to understand the significance of aligning business and operating models.

Case Study: Amazon

Amazon’s success can be attributed to its business and operating model alignment. Its business model is based on providing a vast selection of products to a global customer base, often at competitive prices. Amazon captures value through its Prime membership program, where subscribers pay an annual fee for benefits like fast shipping, streaming, and more.

Amazon has developed a highly efficient operating model to support this business model. It has invested heavily in technology, automation, and logistics to ensure speedy deliveries. The company’s extensive network of fulfillment centers, advanced algorithms for inventory management, and cutting-edge robotics all contribute to its ability to meet customer expectations.


Understanding the difference between business model vs operating model is essential for anyone involved in business strategy, management, or entrepreneurship. These two concepts, while interconnected, serve distinct purposes. A business model defines how a company creates and captures value, while an operating model outlines how the organization executes its strategy internally.

Alignment between these two models is essential for success. A well-aligned business and operating model can increase efficiency, customer satisfaction, and profitability. Conversely, misalignment can result in operational challenges and financial strain.

So, whether you’re launching a startup, leading an established organization, or simply looking to enhance your business acumen, remember that your business and operating models play integral roles in achieving your objectives. Strive for alignment, and you’ll be better equipped to navigate the complexities of the business world.

Teacher-turned online blogger, Shirley is a full-time backyard homesteader based in Virginia. When she doesn't have her face buried in a book or striding in her garden, she's busy blogging about simple life hacks of the daily life. Shirley hold's a BA in commerce from University of California.

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