Designing a collaborative business model for SMEs

Purpose of the paper: This study aims to contribute to the literature on business model by providing some fresh insights about collaborative business models for SMEs. Specifically, the paper describes and analyzes the business model set up by an Italian start up, Formabilio, which is built up on both network and digital technologies.

Methodology: An explorative, qualitative research design (Burr, 2003; Colurcio et al., 2012) has been employed. Data have been collected through the analysis of documents and texts, non-participant observations, an online semi-structured questionnaire and in-depth interviews.

Findings: The study suggests an holistic and strategic approach to renew the business model. It identifies the foundational elements of a collaboration-based business model to sustain the SMEs competitiveness in a complex and increasingly digital-based ecosystem. Specifically, the analysis of the Formabilio network discloses new possible business configurations that a company can adopt to create value for all the actors engaged in the business ecosystem.

Research limits: The main limitation of the empirical study relates to its explorative nature and the analysis of a single collaborative network.

Practical implications: The study discloses possible business configurations as the pivotal factors for designing value co-creation business models. It offers an opportunity to reflect on the effects of collaboration and networking on a traditional business context as the Italian manufacturing ecosystem.

Originality of the paper: The paper adds value to the existing literature by providing a broader perspective of analysis that merges the managerial perspective on the business model and the marketing perspective of interaction and resources integration, to understand and to guide the managerial behaviour.