Digital Business Models

Module description

The module seeks to explain the emerging business models that are enabled by information technologies in the internet age. It provides a way of thinking and crafting strategy that transforms digital opportunities into sustainable competitive advantages. You will be equipped with critical theories and concepts to analyse and differentiate the strategic values of emerging technologies (cloud computing, social media, big data, the internet of things etc.), and evaluate different methods of aligning technological opportunities with business strategy. By examining the business models and strategies of a wide range of internet business, you will be capable of not only identifying the patterns and explaining the mechanisms by which internet business evolves, but also, more importantly, critically evaluating the strategic choices to effectively convert digital opportunities into competitiveness.

Additional Information:


In this module, you will work on a number of case studies of internet start-ups from different countries – Uber and AirBnB from the US, Spotify from Sweden, WeChat and Tabao from China, and Line from South Korea/Japan. Through these case studies you will learn how geographic context of different countries contribute to the success/failure of internet firms, and how the success of digital business in one country can be leverage to achieve global advantages by the Internet networks.

External Engagement

Guest speakers, from the digital innovation sectors (such as Google, Huawei, Cisco, Open Data Initiatives, Smart Cities Catapult, TechCities of London), will contribute to the seminars and evening events. 


You will be able to critically understand the opportunities of digital economy and effectively convert opportunities into viable business models. You will also develop important transferrable skills including strategy presentation to the investors/board level, team-working, evaluating new business ideas/start-ups, research, and consulting report writing.

Ethics and Corporate Responsibility

The module provide theories and concepts to encourage you to reflect upon impacts of the internet and digital innovations, the roles of technological innovation in society, and explores the possibilities of developing successful innovation for not only sustainable business enterprises, but also for the social welfare of wider society.

Research in Teaching

Much of the workshop input, lecture notes, and key readings are based on the lecturer’s own research (digital business management, platform strategy and open innovation). Students are encouraged to base their own research upon existing research literature, in preparation for the final essay assessment. 

Full module specification

Module title:Digital Business Models
Module code:BEMM129
Module level:M
Academic year:2018/9
Module lecturers:
  • Dr Boyi Li - Convenor
Module credit:15
ECTS value:






Duration of module: Duration (weeks) - term 2:


Module aims

This module aims to provide the necessary knowledge and skills to think about business opportunities in context of digital economy. It encourages you to evaluate the trajectory of technology and the patterns of digital business models, and use your creative insights to develop innovative business models. Specifically, the module introduces the theories of digital innovations (strategic information systems, the internet and new media studies, STS etc.), and will enable you to understand the process of transforming technological opportunities to strategic values – social media, big data, cloud computing, the internet of things (IoTs). You will learn how to develop digital business models by having deep understandings of how technology generates management impacts.

The module invites you to critically reflect upon the roles of digital innovation in strategy-making, and to develop practical skills to make sense of the technological possibilities, as well as the practical skills to develop sustainable business models. These skills have been highly valued by those employers of management consultancy, financial institutions, international organizations, and governments.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. critically compare and analyse different digital innovations
  • 2. critically evaluate digital business strategies
  • 3. critically evaluate the business and managerial impacts of emerging technologies
  • 4. demonstrate the skills to develop and pitch innovative business models based on digital innovations

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. critically analyse and evaluate general strategic issues of high-growth and innovative firms
  • 6. apply the knowledge of business models innovation and entrepreneurial skills into real context
  • 7. demonstrate an ability to lead positive social change through digital innovations.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 8. analyse complex business situations by synthesising a variety of sources and pitch solutions
  • 9. apply strategic thinking to develop enterprise and to generate positive impacts in professional ways.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22Formal lectures – (11x2 hours)The lectures provide an overview of theoretical frameworks for the course in ten lecturers (ILOs 1, 2, 3, 4)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching10Seminars – (10x1 hour) A series of seminars will focus on the case study, and give the students the opportunity to engage with concepts and frameworks learned in lectures (ILOs 5, 6, 7, 8, 9). Summary of theories and debates, case study, teamwork, group presentation of business ideas (pitching) (ILOs 8, 9).
Guided Independent Study118

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Debate15 mins1-9Verbal
Discussion15 mins1-9Verbal
Presentation10 mins1-9Verbal/Written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individual Essay1002500 words1-9Written Feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Individual EssayIndividual Essay (2500 words)1-9July/August

Re-assessment notes

A student will be referred in all components if the student fails the module with a mark of below 50% overall.

A student if deferred in a single component will be reassessed in that component only .

Syllabus plan

  • Disruptive Innovations: the Trajectory of the Net Economy
  • From Place to Space: Brick-and-Mortar Models vs. Click-and-Mortar Models
  • Who controls the content? On the Logic of Social Media
  • What constitutes User Experience? And why it matters?
  • The Business of Data Streaming: From Service to “Science”
  • The Wealth of Networks: Digital Commons vs. Digital Property Rights
  • Platform Strategy: How to Govern an Ecosystem? (two lectures)
  • Modularity and Organizational Change: Toward Cloud Corporation?
  • Incubator, Community, and M&As: Why Cluster Matters?
  • Conclusion: Key Principles of Business Models in Digital Age

Each component sheds light on a specific dimension of digital business management, which is combined with case studies of internet start-ups both in lectures and workshops.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

Brynjolfsson, E., & McAfee, A. (2014). The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies: WW Norton & Company.

Benkler, Y. (2006). The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom: Yale University Press.

Van Dijck, J. (2013). The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social Media: Oxford University Press.









Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Web based and electronic resources:

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Other resources:

Avgerou, C., & Li, B. (2013). Relational and institutional embeddedness of Web-enabled entrepreneurial networks: Case studies of netrepreneurs in China. Information Systems Journal, 23, 329–350. doi:10.1111/isj.12012

Baldwin, C. Y., & Clark, K. B. (1997). Managing in an age of modularity. Harvard Business Review, 75, 84–93. doi:10.2139/ssrn.270292

Chesbrough, H. (2007). Business model innovation: it’s not just about technology anymore. Strategy & Leadership. doi:10.1108/10878570710833714

Chesbrough, H. W., & Appleyard, M. M. (2007). Open Innovation and Strategy. California Management Review, 50, 57–77. doi:10.1002/smll.201000755

Gawer, A. (2009). Platforms, markets and innovation. Vasa. doi:10.4337/9781849803311

Gawer, A., & Cusumano, M. A. (2013). Industry Platforms and Ecosystem Innovation. Journal of Product Innovation Management. doi:10.1111/jpim.12105

Lessig, L. (2008). Remix: Making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy: Penguin.

Sako, M. (2012). Business models for strategy and innovation. Communications of the ACM. doi:10.1145/2209249.2209259

Suarez, F. F., & Cusumano, M. a. (2009). The role of services in platform markets. Platforms, Markets and Innovation, 77–98.

Von Hippel, E., & Hippel, E. von. (2001). Innovation by User CommunitiesÃ?¢ï¿½Ã?¯: Learning from Open-Source Software. MIT Sloan Management Review, 2001, 82–86. doi:Article

Van Dijck, J. (2009). Users like you? Theorizing agency in user-generated content. Media, Culture & Society. doi:10.1177/0163443708098245

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