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A value network is a business analysis perspective that describes social and technical resources within and between businesses. The nodes in a value network represent people (or roles). The nodes are connected by interactions that represent tangible and intangible deliverables. These deliverables take the form of knowledge or other intangibles and/or financial value. Value networks exhibit interdependence. They account for the overall worth of products and services. Companies have both internal and external value networks.
Internal value networks focus on key activities, processes and relationships that cut across internal boundaries, such as order fulfillment, innovation, lead processing, or customer support. Value is created through exchange and the relationships between roles. Value networks operate in public agencies, civil society, in the enterprise, institutional settings, and all forms of organization. Value networks advance innovation, wealth, social good and environmental well-being.
Christensen defines value network as:
"The collection of upstream suppliers, downstream channels to market, and ancillary providers that support a common business model within an industry. When would-be disruptors enter into existing value networks, they must adapt their business models to conform to the value network and therefore fail at disruption because they become co-opted."
Fjeldstad and Stabell  presents a framework for "value configurations" in which a "value Network" is one of three alternatives ways in which an organisation generates value the others being the value shop and value Chain).
F&S's value networks consists of these components:
An obvious example of a value network is the network formed by phone users. The phone company provides a service, users enter a contract with the phone company and immediately has access to all the value network of other customers of the phone company.
Another less obvious example is a car insurance company: The company provides car insurance. The customers gains access to the roads and can do their thing and interact in various ways while being exposed to limited risk. The insurance policies represent the contracts, the internal processes of the insurance company the service provisioning.
Unfortunately F&S and Christensen's concepts both address the same issue; the conceptual understanding of how a company understands itself and its value creation process, but they are not identical. Christensen's value networks address the relation between a company and its suppliers and the requirements posed by the customers, and how these interact when defining what represents value in the product that is produced.
Fjeldstad & Stabell's value networks is a configuration which emphasize that the value being created is between customers when they interact facilitated by the value networks. This represents a very different perspective from Christensen's but confusingly also one that is applicable in many of the same situations as Christensen's.
Normann and Ramirez argued as early as 1993 that in today's environment, strategy is no longer a matter of positioning a fixed set of activities along a value chain. According to them the focus today should be on the value creating system itself. Where all stakeholders co-produce value. Successful companies conceive of strategy as systematic social innovation. With this article they laid a foundation for the Value Network to emerge as a mental model.
Verna Allee defines value networks as any web of relationships that generates both tangible and intangible value through complex dynamic exchanges between two or more individuals, groups or organizations. Any organization or group of organizations engaged in both tangible and intangible exchanges can be viewed as a value network, whether private industry, government or public sector.
Allee developed Value network analysis, a whole systems mapping and analysis approach to understanding tangible and intangible value creation among participants in an enterprise system. Revealing the hidden network patterns behind business processes can provide predictive intelligence for when workflow performance is at risk. She believes value network analysis provides a standard way to define, map and analyse the participants, transactions and tangible and intangible deliverables that together form a value network. Allee says, value network analysis can lead to profound shifts in perception of problem situations and mobilise collective action to implement change
All exchanges of goods, services or revenue, including all transactions involving contracts, invoices, return receipt of orders, request for proposals, confirmations and payment are considered to be tangible value. Products or services that generate revenue or are expected as part of a service are also included in the tangible value flow of goods, services, and revenue (2). In government agencies these would be mandated activities. In civil society organizations these would be formal commitments to provide resources or services.
Two primary subcategories are included in intangible value: knowledge and benefits. Intangible knowledge exchanges include strategic information, planning knowledge, process knowledge, technical know-how, collaborative design and policy development; which support the product and service tangible value network. Intangible benefits are also considered favors that can be offered from one person to another. Examples include offering political or emotional support to someone. Another example of intangible value is when a research organization asks someone to volunteer their time and expertise to a project in exchange for the intangible benefit of prestige by affiliation (3).
All biological organisms, including humans, function in a self-organizing mode internally and externally. That is, the elements in our bodies--down to individual cells and DNA molecules--work together in order to sustain us. However, there is no central "boss" to control this dynamic activity. Our relationships with other individuals also progress through the same circular free flowing process as we search for outcomes that are best for our well-being. Under the right conditions these social exchanges can be extraordinarily altruistic. Conversely, they can also be quite self-centered and even violent. It all depends on the context of the immediate environment and the people involved.
The purpose of value networks is to create the most benefit for the people involved in the network (5). The intangible value of knowledge within these networks is just as important as a monetary value. In order to succeed knowledge must be shared to create the best situations or opportunities. Value networks are how ideas flow into the market and to the people that need to hear them.
Because value networks are instrumental in advancing business and institutional practices a value network analysis can be useful in a wide variety of business situations. Some typical ones are listed below.
Relationship management typically just focuses on managing information about customers, suppliers, and business partners. A value network approach considers relationships as two-way value-creating interactions, which focus on realizing value as well as providing value.
Resource deployment, delivery, market innovation, knowledge sharing, and time-to-market advantage are dependent on the quality, coherence, and vitality of the relevant value networks, business webs and business ecosystems.
Product and service offerings are constantly changing - and so are the processes to innovate, design, manufacture, and deliver them. Multiple, inter-dependent, and concurrent processes are too complex for traditional process mapping, but can be analyzed very quickly with the value network method.
Mergers, acquisitions, downsizing, expansion to new markets, new product groups, new partners, new roles and functions - anytime relationships change, value interactions and flows change too.
Understanding the transactional dynamics is vital for purposeful networks of all kinds, including networks and communities focused on creating knowledge value. A value network analysis helps communities of practice negotiate for resources and demonstrate their value to different groups within the organization.
Because the value network approach addresses both financial and non-financial assets and exchanges, it expands metrics and indexes beyond the lagging indicators of financial return and operational performance - to also include leading indicators for strategic capability and system optimization.