Business Modelling : Core Classes

Learn to build powerful living models of plans or issues

Learn to build models with power like no other

Everyone talks about "Business Models", but most popular frameworks are just descriptive - little more than abstract statues! We need models that work, doing what the real-world data says is actually happening, showing how the future may play out, testing how your plans might improve things, then running alongside the real business to manage it from period to period. 

Dynamic, “living” business models simulate reality.

If that is what we need from business models, then this course offers quite simply the easiest, fastest, most reliable method for building them. 

They enable you to transform the performance of any enterprise, or function.

... to tackle challenges - small or large - with confidence. 

... and to constantly adjust your plans as events unfold.

And because you and everyone else can see why everything in the system is changing, you get the joined-up thinking that everyone says they want.

If you are an analyst, consultant, business-teacher or student, then you should know how to build and use these models. The method is not too technical - it applies the same principles we have always used for analysing cash flows to all other business resources (customers, staff, products, capacity and intangible factors), and captures how they depend on each other.

The software we use and helped design - Silico - enables anyone to build models that match the system's structure and mimic its behaviour with uncanny realism - and we provide an easy-to-follow guide on how to use it - if you can use Excel, this is easier!

What will I learn?

This course shows how to build the essential core of a dynamic business model for any issue or plan.  You will become familiar with our “AgileSD” process for getting to a reliable working model with the least effort, and become skilled in using most features of the powerful Silico modelling software.. (See the full curriculum at the end of this page.) 

  • Lessons in each class explain essential principles of the mechanisms that make a business system work (beyond those in our short Getting-Started course)
  • They show how to model each of those mechanisms as you progressively build out several contrasting case-models, each chosen to highlight distinct uses for DBMs 
  • And you will see how to include real-world data alongside the model’s results, to ensure that any model is valid at every stage, and tell you what is needed to achieve future objectives

Specific lessons then add to these general learning points with tips on handling special cases, such as durable products rather than consumables, intermediaries (dealers, retailers etc), and ‘two-sided’ markets

The "RoI" of this course.

Few people believe it is even possible to simulate the performance of a real business, , but this course not only shows that it is possible, but gives you the core skills to actually do it! Applying those skills will give you:-

  • Insights into how many mechanisms in a business actually work
  • confident solutions to many common business challenges – both small and large
  • robust, easily updated plans for business teams and departments
  • … and a visual, quantified language for those plans and solutions that everyone can understand and use

If any of this points to just one better decision, then the course has paid for your time and its cost many times over.

In the examples here consider just how big the $$$ value must have been for the organisations that extracted those benefits from robust modelling of their challenges and plans. But smaller companies too can gain significantly from improved understanding of the underlying dynamics of their business.

Importantly, these models are useful too in not-for-profit situations - the language may be different e.g. beneficiaries or clients rather than customers but the underlying principles still apply.

Even better - getting these benefits is notOh no! Even more work to do!” This is easier, faster and more reliable than anything you could do with a spreadsheet, so it is less work to do a better job. You save even more time by exploiting the common, proven model structures we give you in the course. Then, sharing the transparent models you create will save hours of stressful debate for other people, between conflicting opinions on what to do.

"These are fantastic classes - so great that we are looking to hire people with these skills. Thanks!"
Bob Lamb: Founder & CEO, Foundation for Inclusion

  "Thank you for this great course - the most exciting I have taken. I will definitely do this type of work for my clients at the agency."
Esteban Ribero: VP Strategy - Leo Burnett/Lapiz

    "This class fundamentally changed how I think about issues concerning our company’s future. I plan to use these models on issues we are facing."
Mark Holman: Manager, Regional Coordination at PJM Interconnection

Not just for big corporations. Rod Brown, founding-CEO of home-projects advisor Opun, tells how his DBM helped test, finance and manage the business to a success that led to its buy-out by premium retailer, the John Lewis Partnership.

How long does it take?

You do not have to start at the beginning and slave through all of every lesson to the end - we suggest key items to focus on in each lesson. Working carefully through just those key lessons may take about a half-day per class.

Then you can come back to fill in important extra principles and skills. That could be another ½ to 1 day per class, depending on how deeply you want to get into each lesson and practice it on your own cases – all time that you can claim as self-directed CPD (continuous professional development).

Then, of course, you can spend any time you want on consolidating your skills and following our detailed guidance on how to apply the modelling to your own case and issues. 

Who is this course for?

Business leaders  Some heads of marketing, R&D, HR - even some CEOs, feel it is so important to get a grip on the quality of their business that they invest effort in modelling it themselves - even a top level appreciation of the model will aid your thinking.

Analysts and accountants. Every analyst supporting a business or functional leader should know how to model the quality of their organisation's resources,  and understand how they are changing through time so they can advise leaders on what needs to be done.

Consultants. These models are so powerful that clients will be blown away by the value you bring to their business. It's faster and easier than using spreadsheets and less prone to error. The  approach used provides a valuable addition to a consultants toolbox.

Business students (and teachers*) The mechanisms in this course are a critical element of how business works - so understanding them will give you an important additional method for approaching strategic questions - and employers will really value this skill.

* Teachers - we can provide materials from this course for you to use in your classes - contact us for information. Please do let us know where you teach and approximate student numbers in addition to any  questions or comments you have.

Why use these models - and when? 

Whether launching a new business, tackling a problem or opportunity, or planning for the longer term, surely you would simulate what could happen, just like with other complicated things we do. This lets us: 

Design what we might do before we risk serious cash and effort

Test those plans against all kinds of uncertainties (Would you rather experiment with the real world, using real money and people!?)

Manage the business or issue continually against a living model of what will likely happen next.
... and if you want to be really bold and "re-invent your business model" or undergo "digital transformation" it might be best to explore where you are going before you set out!

What is the alternative? 

Spreadsheets could theoretically calculate-out everything in a business, but no human could reliably capture a living business system with only rows and columns of numbers to work with.

Balanced scorecards transformed business control by looking beyond the financials! But they do not calculate-out what causes what across the business "machine", and they leave out key issues - like competition! There is no better BSC than a good DBM!

KPI systems often try to be more comprehensive than BSCs, but they often go too far, including every indicator and ratio anyone thinks important. There is no better KPI system than a good DBM!

Business-model canvas and tools like Strategyzer or Leanstack share the same limitations as balanced scorecards and spreadsheets.

What you get!

A set of four classes, each of 5-8 short lessons

The essential principles and skills to build  dynamic business models

For business analysts, consultants, and students - needs no special skills

Needs no special skills - our 'AgileSD' process is reliable and easy to follow

Sample models to get started on other cases

Useful for any organisation, of any size

All courses include

  • Comprehensive video lectures 
  • PDF handouts
  • Easily accessible models;  
  • Suggestions for applying to own case
  • Discussion board for specific class help
  • Instant access, no expiry 

Resources for Teachers and trainers

We make our courses available free of charge for academic faculty and at a discount for corporate trainers - more information here

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.

Strategy Dynamics 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.

I’ve always had a problem with web-only software as I am often in situations were web access is difficult - working in hospitals, government departments etc. The problem is not so much building them, but using and exploring them with clients. However, it seems that when they are open everything is stored in cache so I can continue to run the model offline and that may be one way to overcome web access problems.

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.