Dynamic Business Modelling : Core Course

How to build powerful living models of plans or issues in half the time of using spreadsheets

Why is it so hard to model business plans and challenges with spreadsheets?

Businesses hire highly-paid analysts or consultant for strategic planning and tackling issues. They use spreadsheets to model those plans and issues.

Spreadsheet-based planning seems simple enough.

There’s nothing like opening a spreadsheet and starting a brain dump. It’s a familiar tool, and you know how to use it. Spreadsheets are easy to create and share too. And that’s what makes spreadsheets the most-used tool for analysing businesses

But your business is more than a spreadsheet can handle. 

The model could be for your overall business or for a specific issue that needs dealing with.

You start by creating a simple worksheet, with simple calculations. But then the model needs more detail. So you add more rows and columns and more calculations. 

And then, you add a second worksheet. A third worksheet follows. And you make connections between those worksheets. Before you know it, you find yourself in the middle of a spreadsheet jungle. 

Your business is an interconnected system.

And these spreadsheets should be linked too - linked to other cells in the same worksheet, and to other cells in different worksheets.

And then, you add new sections, and yet more formulae. All with those abstract cell-reference codes. Then you create newer versions of some spreadsheets.

What you now have is not a model of your business or issue. It’s spreadsheet spaghetti

Let’s say you decide to launch a new product.

You know that the launch will lead to more customers and sales. This would put pressure on the service teams, damaging service quality. And that could lead to a loss of customers and sales. And that’s where the struggle begins with spreadsheet-based planning.

A basic spreadsheet analysis will simply project two results: the growth in customers and sales, and the growth in service staff and costs. So you calculate the balance between the two. And that shows you need to hire more people.

You need reliable joined-up models.

What if hiring takes longer? What if work pressure raises staff turnover? What if a competitor is about to launch a new product too? How do all these elements interact? And what does all this mean to the bottom line? Then the product launch starts. So things start changing - fast.

And this is just a single self-contained issue. Your business plan needs to cover all the business functions, and all the interactions between them.

So your business model needs to be much more dynamic and joined up than a spreadsheet can possibly deliver.

Introducing the Dynamic Business Modeling Core Course

We show you how to create a “digital twin” of your business that offers quantified, time-based, visual simulations of how the business actually works, with all the inter-dependencies, tipping points and feedbacks we know are out there.

You will see how to get reliable models, much faster, so you can finally focus on your plans or issues, rather than spreadsheet problems. Then you can use your time to grow the business - and your career! 

What you will learn

Modeling Performance Over Time: You’ll learn how to visualise the changing performance of your business as it actually works - not with linear assumptions. So you can see the impact of your decisions in a safe space before implementing them in the real world. This will help you present unambiguous recommendations, with confidence.

Factors Driving Performance Outcomes: You will learn to model how that changing performance depends on changes happening to key resources in the business, like customers, staff, products, and capacity. Knowing just this can help you see deeper insights and make powerful recommendations.

How resources accumulate: You will understand a critical real-world phenomenon - how quantities of customers, staff, products, and capacity build up and deplete over time. Understanding these mechanisms helps you avoid imbalances in the system, and understand delays between decisions and their intended impact.

Connectedness, feedback, and growth: For the first time since using spreadsheets, you will learn how to model the interdependencies between business resources. You will see (yes, literally, see!) how feedback can accelerate growth of customers and sales. How resource-limits can strangle that growth, or drive a decline. How the entire business develops and performs over time

Build a complete model from scratch: You will learn how to build a simple but complete dynamic business model from scratch for a common example. You will follow me step-by-step as you build a business model for a table-service restaurant, including its customers, product range, staff, sales, service quality, profits, and more. 

Build a model to tackle any issue: Using this course, you can create dynamic business models to find solutions to pressing business problems that you are dealing with right now. And develop and test robust plans to tackle big challenges or opportunities. 

Build living plans for any function: Behind your plans for the whole business, you need plans for all the functions that make it up. You need a marketing strategy. An HR staff development plan. An IT strategy, and so on. And these need continual updating to keep up with changes happening through the business and in the outside world. 

Selling Dynamic Business Models: Once you learn to use dynamic business models, you will find it hard to go back to using spreadsheets, or any other approach. We explain how to pitch dynamic business modeling to your management so you can continue to deliver the value it offers, continue to use the software, and be seen as the go-to expert for any issue they want to tackle. 

By the end of the course, you will see how it is possible to create a “digital twin” of your business that behaves just like the real world. So you can run what-if tests and scenarios with high success rates.

Why bother learning another approach?

Maybe your spreadsheet-based model is working fine. And perhaps you are comfortable using it too. But spreadsheets are error-prone. As many as 85 percent of all business spreadsheets contain significant errors.

In 2018, a major drinks retailer in the UK lost 60 percent of its market value in a few weeks because of an “arithmetic error” in a spreadsheet.

In 2019, a large Canadian firm in the emerging legal cannabis industry cited “spreadsheet error” as a cause of under-reporting earnings.

You can easily find thousands of other corporate spreadsheet catastrophes.

These errors arise because spreadsheet calculations are abstract and because you can’t visualise the causal linkages between rows and columns of numbers. The larger the spreadsheet, the higher the chance for error. And as you know, tracking changes made to spreadsheets is a nightmare.

“I don’t have time to learn a new approach. How can I justify this to my boss?”

So, unlike spreadsheets, you’ll be able to model comprehensive plans with much less risk of linkage errors and other issues.  

That’s understandable. And yes, I would have the same concerns if I were your boss too. But here’s something to think about - dynamic business modeling will halve the time and effort you put into modeling a plan or issue.  

How can that be possible?  

You can literally see every linkage between every pair of items as you add them (yes, really!) 

Calculations by default use only items that are visibly linked, making it hard to make those dreaded cell-reference errors .

Calculations use natural-language names (“sales”) instead of abstract cell-references (“AF$23”).

Models display mini-charts of real-world values (actuals or targets) alongside calculated values for any and all items - if the lines don’t match, there’s a problem! 

And your boss will get big benefits too: 

They will, for the first time, see an easily understandable picture of how the business works.

They will see results that clearly match how things have worked up to now and could match their wishes for the future,

... and that match-up does not just apply to the performance results but to everything that drives those results too.

They will be able to test differing assumptions and scenarios much faster and more flexibly than ever before.

So they will have much more confidence in their plans, and in the decisions to deliver on those plans.

Here's an outline of everything you’ll learn in the course

We offer two enrolment options:

The Essentials plan

Learn key principles, highlighted below
Build a complete business model
Fully refundable on upgrade to the full course

The Full course plan

Learn all the principles and methods
Get matching slides, for quick reference
Build more models - for you to keep and adapt
Take self-assessment quizzes

Class 1: Specifying your desired performance outcomes

Creating time-charts of past performance and desired future outcomes.

Past performance tells you how the business works, and is already driving future progress (customers won last year still drive sales today).

Choosing the right time-scale and time-units for a model.

Adding simple calculations

How to explore performance with the model.

Useful tricks and modeling principles.

Class 2: How resources drive results

The importance of resource “Stocks” (things that accumulate over time - like customers, staff, cash ...), both in the real world and in your models*

Stocks, Decisions, and External Factors drive performance

Standard customers-to-sales relationships, and standard supply-side relationships (e.g. staff drive service capacity and cost).  

What if your objective is not for a performance result? (e.g. "Hit 2 million customers by year-end").  

Using "lookup" relationships when normal calculations do not apply (e.g. how many customers are won as marketing increases)

Modeling separate groups or segments of customers or staff

* These resource-stocks drive performance at all times - today's customers drive today's sales; today's staff drive the capacity to get things done, and they drive labour costs ...

Class 3: How customers, staff, products, and capacity accumulate and deplete

How “flows”  drive changes to customers, staff, and other resources * - new customers/month, staff lost/week ...

Where flows of resources come from - and go to - e.g. customers won from a limited potential market.

A common, powerful structure for growth of customers and sales.

Calculating period-end and average values of resource-stocks

Adding delays to when flows happen (e.g. 3-month staff training).

Modeling sales of durable products and one-time services .

How to model stock-flow structures for groups or segments.

* If resource-stocks drive performance at all times, then these "flows" of resource are the key factors that change performance. They are the key strategy levers.

Class 4: How resources work as a system, driving performance.

Interdependence creates the core business system - its "strategic architecture".

How existing Stocks drive changes to other Stocks - sales staff win customers; too few service staff drives customer losses ...

Decisions and External Factors also drive flow rates - we decide the hiring rate; competitors' prices affect our customer growth).

How feedback may accelerate growth, or hold it back.

Modeling intermediaries (retailers or dealers).

Multi-stock feedback - winning consumers helps a brand win retailers ... which wins more consumers.

How to automate decisions and policies.

Course wrap-up.

Review and next steps

"Selling" dynamic models.

How extension structures increase the contribution and power of dynamic models.

Developing your skills.

What's inside?

Text lessons

... explain key principles 

... link to matching videos and slide-PDFs

... link to models for each step

... offer Discussions for Q&A

... offer TIPS and small exercises

"Follow me" videos

... explain more about the key principles 

... give step-by-step instructions

... demonstrate those steps

... link to matching models

PDF slides

... match the videos

... give live links to models that match each step

... provide a useful quick-reference for later

Working models

... a model for each step of the process 

... help you check your own modelling

... can be adapted to your own similar cases

... are yours to keep and share

Self-test quizzes

... check your learning as you go

... 1-2 quizzes in each class

Bonus lesson

... how a dynamic model matches a spreadsheet

... dynamic models -v- process mapping

 The Bonus Bundle

Our bonus resources offer still more insight into how best to develop and use dynamic business models - helping you to build the confidence to apply the method to your business.

Bonus models: The lessons in each class take you through the steps needed to build a variety of simple models. Each class ends with examples of models that will widen your understanding of what dynamic models can do, and how they are developed and laid out.

Start from our models: Yes, we give you the detailed principles and the instructions to build models from a clean sheet. But it is quite unusual that you need to do all of that - most times you can start from models that already exist. Because you get to keep our models (including the bonus models). you can copy and adapt those models - or any useful sections of them - for your own purposes. This can more than halve the time and effort to develop the models you need for your own business. 

Your questions answered: Every lesson offers a Discussion option, in which you can offer comments and raise questions. If you have a question, it's very likely that others will be interested to know the answers too. Over the past two decades I, Kim Warren, have worked on literally hundreds of different cases, so will almost certainly have come across the same issues, and figured out the answers. So I will personally answer any questions you may have.

... and a bonus lesson: We make a strong case that dynamic business models are much more powerful than any spreadsheet that may attempt to solve the same challenge. BUT - this does not mean dynamic business models are mysterious or technical! This bonus lesson shows both a spreadsheet and a dynamic model for the same case (the launch of a consumer-tech product). You will see that the two models are exactly the same. But you will also see that the dynamic model is much easier to build, and much easier to understand. And this is a small model - try anything more complex and it's simply impossible to get your head around how you could build a spreadsheet to solve your challenges.

FAQs

Will I have access to the models?

YES. You will have access to all the models as soon as you purchase the course. These include surprisingly powerful, common model structures that you can use yourself – what exactly drives changes to sales, revenues, and costs; how to grow sales from managing customer gains, losses and sales rates, for example.

And the models are yours to keep - they do not 'expire'.

What is the format of the course?

The course is made up of short text lessons, explanatory videos, and models for you to copy. Work through them at your own pace. The text is precise, and the videos are shot with me, Kim Warren, talking you through every step to build the models.

When will I get access to this course?

You will get complete access as soon as you purchase the course by making the payment. 

How long will I have access to this course?

Once you make the payment, you will have full lifetime access to this course.

What support do I get ? 

This is a self-study course. You learn by yourself, at your own pace. However, the course includes Discussion threads where you can ask questions that we will answer. 

Is there a money-back guarantee?

Never buy a course that does not offer a 100% guarantee. You get our “Digital Twin Guarantee”. So if you believe what you learn in this course is useless, we’ll be happy to give all your money back. No questions asked. Just send us an email within 15 days for a full refund. And I’ll make sure you get your refund with a smile. 

How can I learn more about Dynamic Business Modeling?

That’s great. If you’ve found this course useful, you will like to know that dynamic models can do still more. "Extensions" classes that add still more powerful tools to your tool-box - how to model business quality; developing customers and other resources through stages; mastering competition; making reliable policies, understanding and managing intangibles and capabilities.  

See the Extensions classes here

Dynamic Business Modeling is Unique

Spreadsheets are the universal tool for analysing business issues and plans. They can theoretically calculate everything in a business. But capturing all of the interactions of a living business system in rows and columns is just impossible.

 Yes, you could try other techniques like Balanced Scorecards or the Business Model Canvas. But they have their limitations too.  

Yes, numbers matter.

Qualitative frameworks like Business Model Canvas can’t tell you what to do, when or how much, or how the business will perform. Even if Balanced Scorecards are quantified, they lack the rigour that underpins dynamic business models,  They just cannot get close to fully capturing the reality of how a business works.  

And spreadsheets soon become a nightmare. Managing abstract formulae, understanding dependencies you cannot see, avoiding cell reference errors, handling connections between worksheets ... 

Only Dynamic Business Modeling can give you what you need. 

It is based on rock-solid science from the field of systems dynamics. You can model your business just like it works in the real world. Visible links, natural-language formulae and charts on every item help avoid errors. So you can model your business and test scenarios with high precision and confidence. And that’s what you learn when you sign up for this course.

Dynamic Business Modeling is not “more work”.

You can do all the time-based modeling you already do in half the time. And you can do it with much greater accuracy and transparency. So you save much of the frustration of error-checking. And you can model plans and issues of much wider scope and complexity. The best part is this – it’s not complicated or hard to use.

People even tell us it is fun, which you can hardly say about spreadsheets! 

It’s not just unique. It works.

Dynamic Business Modeling is in a class of its own.

It is the only way to model your business so you can analyze and present an easily understandable, accurate, and well-articulated plan. This approach is not just unique - it works. And you’ll see this for yourself inside this course as you access and explore the restaurant model in software that uses Dynamic Business Modeling at its core. 

Get "Dynamic Business Modeling" now

the ESSENTIALs course

£50

The essential model principles.
"Follow me" demos.
Build a complete business model.
Discussion-list for your questions.

Full refund on upgrade to the full core course

The full core course

£375

As the Essentials course, plus ...  

More uses for dynamic models.
More "follow me" demos.
More models to keep and use.
+ slides and self-test quizzes

Resources for Teachers and trainers

Our courses are available for academic faculty and for corporate trainers. 

And we can create bespoke courses for you.

Class summaries

Class 1: Performance Through Time
Whether we want to grow the business cash-flow, fix poor service quality, or fight off a competitive threat, improvements will happen over time. So the starting point for any business plan, or for tackling any challenge, is a clear definition and picture of how key performance outcomes have changed up to now, and may change into the future. This class shows how to specify this performance-over-time for one or more indicators, and how to set this up as a time-chart so that the model we build will show exactly how that improvement will happen.

Class 2: Stocks, Decisions, External factors and performance 
We know that resources drive performance - customers drive sales, staff and capacity drive our ability to serve those customers and fulfil those sales. So we can understand changing performance much better if we lay out these causal relationships rigorously, including the simple arithmetic defining how each item depends on others. And those factors driving performance must also be changing, so this class shows the value of displaying time-charts on those factors too - rates of change for customer-numbers, purchase rates, staffing, productivity, and so on.

Class 3: Stocks accumulate and deplete 
If performance is driven by the resources we have, then our business or department can deliver sustained, strong performance by building and retaining those resources. These so-called Stocks "accumulate" - filling up and draining away over time. In many cases, big improvements can be made by giving proper attention to driving the in-flow and limiting the out-flow, using time-charts to show how those win- and loss-rates are changing.

Class 4: Interdependence, feedback and the core system 
This is where you get the "joined up" view of the business you always wanted! Growing and retaining resources strongly always depends on what we already have - strong products win customers, service staff retain customers, work-pressure drives staff losses, and so on. These are more than obvious principles - you can quantify and model these causal relationships. Interdependencies also lead, always, to feedback. So we can create reinforcing feedback that drives growth, and cut out 'balancing' feedback so that too-limited resources do not hold us back When all such relationships are added, you have a core working model that explains the performance of the organisation or function, or of any challenge you take on.

Kim has brought together a very impressive and clear process with great supporting materials.

The software is really user friendly. As I am going through the Business Modeling course I’m building a model for Synergia and as we have two business - one in Australia and one in NZ - the sub-models are great. The example in the instruction video of ‘region1' and 'region 2' fits perfectly.

David Rees
Founding partner, Synergia

- synergia.co.nz

Course Curriculum

Kim Warren

Kim is an experienced strategy professional, teacher and publisher of online courses and teaching resources on business modeling – fast becoming a main-stream capability for executives, consultants and business students. He also offers resources to help model non-business challenges, notably in health-care and international aid.

After senior corporate strategy roles, Kim joined London Business School, to teach on MBA and Executive programs. To overcome serious limitations with standard strategy methods, he developed the powerful strategy dynamics modelling method for designing and managing strategy for any organisation or challenge. Once a specialist skill, building these simulations is now easier, faster and more reliable than spreadsheet modeling. Such models mimic real-world behaviour and performance of businesses and other organisations with uncanny realism.

Kim is author of the prize-winning Competitive Strategy Dynamics (Wiley, 2002), a major strategy textbook Strategic Management Dynamics (Wiley, 2008), and summary e-book now widely used in MBA and executive teaching – Strategy Dynamics Essentials (Kindle, 2011). He is also co-founder of Strategy Dynamics Ltd, which publishes "serious games" and online courses exploiting the user-friendly modelling application, Silico.