What is the Difference Between Operating Model and Business Model?

When it comes to running a successful business, understanding the difference between an operating model and a business model is crucial. These two concepts are often used interchangeably, but they serve distinct purposes in the world of business. In this article, we will explore the disparities between an operating model and a business model, and how each contributes to the overall success of a company.

Defining the Business Model

A business model is the foundational framework that outlines how a company plans to create and deliver value to its customers while generating revenue in the process. It serves as a blueprint for the entire business and encompasses various elements, including:

  • Target market and customer segments
  • Value proposition and unique selling points
  • Revenue streams and pricing strategies
  • Distribution channels and customer relationships

The business model essentially answers the question: “How will the company make money?” It’s the high-level strategy that guides a company’s growth and sustainability.

Understanding the Operating Model

An operating model, on the other hand, delves into the nitty-gritty details of how a company carries out its day-to-day operations. It is a set of processes, procedures, and practices that ensure the business model is implemented effectively and efficiently. The operating model includes components such as:

  • Organizational structure and responsibilities
  • Workflow and business processes
  • Resource allocation and technology infrastructure
  • Performance metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs)

The operating model answers the question: “How will the company execute its business model?” It focuses on the internal workings of the organization and is designed to maximize operational efficiency.

The Key Differences

Now that we’ve defined the two models, let’s delve into the key differences between them:

1. Focus and Scope:

– Business Model: It has a broad focus on the overall strategy and value creation for the company. It addresses questions related to target markets, value delivery, and revenue generation.

– Operating Model: It has a narrow focus on the internal processes and structures required to execute the business model effectively. It deals with how resources are allocated and how tasks are carried out within the organization.

2. Time Horizon:

– Business Model: It is relatively stable over time and doesn’t change frequently. A business model may evolve but typically has a longer time horizon.

– Operating Model: It can change more frequently to adapt to changing market conditions, new technologies, or operational improvements. The operating model is more dynamic and can be adjusted as needed.

3. Strategic vs. Tactical:

– Business Model: It is a strategic concept that guides the overall direction and purpose of the company. It answers questions about what the company offers and who it serves.

– Operating Model: It is more tactical, dealing with the day-to-day execution of the strategy outlined in the business model. It focuses on how things get done within the organization.

The Interplay Between the Two

It’s important to note that the business model and the operating model are not isolated from each other. In fact, they are intricately connected and influence each other’s development. A strong business model informs the design of an effective operating model, and an efficient operating model supports the execution of the business model.

For example, if a company’s business model relies on rapid product innovation and reaching a broad customer base, its operating model should include agile development processes and efficient distribution channels to align with these strategic goals. Conversely, the operating model’s performance metrics and KPIs should reflect the objectives and revenue streams outlined in the business model.


In the world of business, understanding the difference between an operating model and a business model is essential for creating a sustainable and successful company. While the business model sets the strategic direction and answers questions about value creation and revenue generation, the operating model ensures that these strategies are executed efficiently in the day-to-day operations of the organization.

Both models play critical roles in shaping the business’s present and future. To achieve long-term success, it’s important to develop a coherent and integrated approach that aligns the business model with the operating model to maximize the organization’s potential.

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