Digital Business Model Innovation in Established Firms – in collaboration with the QUT, Australia

Thesis (MA)

Advisor(s): Dr. Jörg Weking (


Companies increasingly compete on business models. They differentiate themselves with innovative business models rather than high-quality products (Massa et al., 2017). Companies can offer similar products or services with a different business model and quickly gain success: For example, Nespresso offered a capsule coffee machine at a very low price and sold required consumables, i.e., coffee capsules, at five times the price of regular coffee. Xerox introduced a usage-based lease instead of selling its Model 914 (Chesbrough & Rosenbloom, 2002).

Advances in digitalization further increase the competitive potential of digital business models (Chesbrough, 2010). Digital business models are transforming entire economies. For example, companies use digital platforms: eBay, Amazon, Netflix, Apple iTunes, Google Play Store, Tinder, or WeChat (Parker et al., 2016). Google uses digital business models to offer services for free (Afuah, 2014). Skype became the largest telecommunications provider without network infrastructure with the freemium business model.

Research has limitedly studied the business model as a unit of analysis and its impact on business performance. Large parts use business strategy as the unit of analysis with the two main theories of positioning/market-based view (MBV) (Porter, 1980, 2008) and the resource-based view (RBV) (Barney, 1991). Although the business model incorporates these two basic theories and challenges their assumptions (Lanzolla & Markides, 2020; Massa et al., 2017), research on the influence of the business model on competitive advantage remains sparse. Most studies are qualitative in nature with limited generalizability (Lambert & Davidson, 2013) or address startups (Zott & Amit, 2007). However, established firms in particular have difficulty creating value with business model innovations, and many fail (Christensen et al., 2016). Reasons are uncertainty concerning the business model to choose and resulting experimentation (Chesbrough & Rosenbloom, 2002).

To tackle this research gap and reduce uncertainties of firms, a variety of research designs could be applied, including 1) systematic reviewing of literature, 2) case studies or 3) large-scale quantitative studies. The exact scope of the thesis and its research design will be iteratively developed between you and your advisor. This thesis is intended to be written abroad at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane Australia.  


  • Review literature in the respective field
  • Collect and analyze empirical data (e.g., interviews, archives, surveys, large-scale quantitative data)
  • Discuss contributions to information systems and management research and implications for practice


  • Interest in current topics of digital business model innovation
  • Open to studying abroad at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia
  • High degree of autonomy and individual responsibility
  • Experience in and willingness to conduct scientific studies
  • Structured, reliable, and self-motivated work style

Further Information

The thesis can be written in English only. The topic can also be adapted to your interests. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly. Please send your application including our application form, a current transcript of records, and your CV to Please note that we can only consider applications with complete documents. 


Afuah, A. (2014). Business model innovation: Concepts, analysis, and cases  [Book]. Taylor and Francis.

Barney, J. (1991). Firm resources and sustained competitive advantage. Journal of Management, 17(1), 99-120.

Chesbrough, H. (2010). Business model innovation: Opportunities and barriers. Long Range Planning, 43(2), 354-363.

Chesbrough, H., & Rosenbloom, R. S. (2002). The role of the business model in capturing value from innovation: evidence from Xerox Corporation's technology spin-off companies. Industrial and Corporate Change, 11(3), 529-555.

Christensen, C. M., Bartman, T., & Van Bever, D. (2016). The hard truth about business model innovation. Mit Sloan Management Review, 58(1), 31-40.

Lambert, S. C., & Davidson, R. A. (2013). Applications of the Business Model in Studies of Enterprise Success, Innovation and Classification: An Analysis of Empirical Research from 1996 to 2010. European Management Journal, 31(6), 668-681.

Lanzolla, G., & Markides, C. (2020). A business model view of strategy. Journal of Management studies.

Massa, L., Tucci, C. L., & Afuah, A. (2017). A critical assessment of business model research. Academy of Management Annals, 11(1), 73-104.

Parker, G. G., Van Alstyne, M. W., & Choudary, S. P. (2016). Platform Revolution. W. W. Norton & Company.

Porter, M. E. (1980). Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors. Free Press.

Porter, M. E. (2008). The five competitive forces that shape strategy. Harvard Business Review, 86(1), 25-40.

Zott, C., & Amit, R. (2007). Business model design and the performance of entrepreneurial firms. Organization Science, 18(2), 181-199.