The Drug Enforcement Administration Business Model


The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) operates under a business model that ensures efficient activities of its employees and good cooperation with partners. However, two building blocks of the existing canvas can be altered to enhance the efficiency of operations. Firstly, approaches to the coordination of actions and cooperation can be improved, which would increase the number of successful cases for DEA. Secondly, communication with customers is crucial for the establishment because they both provide valuable information regarding drug trafficking and benefit from successful outcomes. This paper aims to evaluate the business canvas of the DEA and provide recommendations for the improvement of cooperation with partners and communication strategies.

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Business Model Canvas Summary

Figure 1 displays the Business Model Canvas of the DEA, which will help identify specific improvements for the establishment. It was created using the approach designed by Osterwalder, Pigneur, Bernarda, Smith, and Papadakos (2014) and tailored to DEA’s operations. Firstly, the critical activity that will be subjected to research and examination to determine possible issues is coordination with local and foreign authorities.

The primary revenue source is asset forfeiture that occurs when DEA agents can trace drug trafficking channels. The fact that DEA only has one source of obtaining revenue can present challenges because the organization largely depends on the number of illegal substance cases.

Additionally, there are only two channels for reporting such activities – the 1800 number and criminals willing to cooperate with the authorities. The expansion of a number of information resources could present more opportunities for DEA. It should be noted that the organization requires significant costs to maintain its operations and pay wages to agents, analysts, and investigators it employs. Due to the fact that the initial offer of DEA is to investigate and combat drug smuggling activities, it can be concluded that the establishment should focus on improving its communication with customers to enhance outcomes and provide more information regarding its activities.

Business Canvas Model for DEA
Figure 1. Business Canvas Model for DEA (created by the author).

Theoretical and Behavioral Trends

The primary importance of the business model is the delivery of value to customers. In the case of DEA, the organization’s operations enable to control the distribution of illegal substances across the US; thus, providing benefit to the citizens of the country. However, as the Business Model Canvas displays in Figure 1, the primary customers are criminals that violate the national laws regarding the possession and distribution of drugs.

The metaphor that can be applied to DEA is organizations as organisms due to the crucial value of relationships within the DEA and with customers and partners that affects the number of cases, which the administration can investigate.

Additionally, Morgan’s frames offer a proper perspective on DEA’s functioning as an organism. The framework that can explain the DEA’s operations in human resources because the establishment relies significantly on the ability of its agents and investigators to locate drug trafficking channels. This component provides an understanding that investing in personnel’s development can benefit the organization by improving the quality of work and customer satisfaction. The general and behavioral trends of the organization present an understanding that DEA function’s as a cohesive system; however, several improvements can be made to increase productivity.

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The theory, metaphors, and frames that were presented above help understand the operations of DEA more comprehensively. It is evident that the emphasis of prospective recommendations should be on the relationships both within and outside the organization, which would allow leveraging the existing resources. DEA’s leaders pay a lot of attention to their human resources, which can help facilitate the improvements.

The primary idea guiding these enhancements is that the DEA can increase its revenue and establish better relationships with its clients – the US citizens, by improving the cooperation process with other agencies, particularly its international partners. Additionally, by investing in expanding the number of channels through which customers can receive and provide information DEA’s employees will be able to investigate more cases and obtain more revenue for the establishment.

The modernization theory can be applied to explain the importance of DEA adopting new approaches to activities, more specifically, to gathering information from customers. The plan describes changes that inevitably occur in society due to various factors. Thus, the areas that need improvement according to the Business Model Canvas are – channels and key partners. This will help leverage human resources within and outside the organization and contribute to the development of DEA as an organism.


The Business Model Canvas allows identifying two primary issues that DEA can resolve to improve its efficiency. Due to the fact that DEA is a national agency, approaches to its business model differ from those applied by traditional businesses. Therefore, to create these recommendations case studies from both US and foreign organizations were used, for instance, the example of the Food and Beverage Administration and the government of South Australia.

Customer Communications

Firstly, the number of information channels through which the organization receives its knowledge regarding possible illegal activities connected to drug trafficking is two. Expanding the range and providing more possibilities for individuals to contribute to the matter can help DEA capture more criminals and obtain more revenue through forfeiture. Additionally, communication with the organization’s primary stakeholders – US citizens can be improved by providing them with more relevant information that would increase awareness regarding drug trafficking problems within a particular area.

The modernization theory that was previously discussed presents an understanding of altering existing approaches to business operations in regard to changes in the external environment. Karjaluoto, Mustonen, and Ulkuniemi (2015) state that digital communication channels (DCC) help companies reach their marketing objectives more effectively when compared to traditional methods.

For DEA this means that more people will be aware of the activities and contribution to public safety that the organization makes. Therefore, they will be more inclined to provide information that can help DEA agents locate and capture criminals. Currently, DEA headquarters have several social media accounts, inclosing those administered by local divisions. However, the updates are not constant, and no two-way communication with individuals is present.

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Examples of other agencies can help DEA create their program for communication with clients. For instance, Shan et al. (2015) present an example of the Food and Beverage Administration and its approaches to customer communication. The main idea is to have a two-way channel between the organization and a customer. Additionally, by using emerging technology that is applied by many people in the US, DEA would be able to enforce a better connection with clients because reaching them would be more comfortable. People already use smartphones to access social media and various websites in their daily lives and DEA can provide them with an easy to use the channel for reporting illegal activities.

Due to the fact that DEA is a governmental agency, its approaches to managing customer relationships differ from those of a traditional business. According to Shan et al. (2015), political organizations typically apply a top-down approach to communication with the public. As was previously mentioned, DEA does provide a possibility for connection, but it implies phone calls. Shan et al. (2015) substantiate this by stating the following: “traditionally, interaction with the public has occurred through channels such as telephone and email” (p. 104). Moreover, even though the majority of establishments created social media accounts, the collaborative style of communication remains. It presents several challenges for these companies because they are neglecting a valid source of instant feedback from clients.

It is essential to understand that for DEA the crucial component that enables successful anti-drug trafficking operation is information that helps locate criminals. Therefore, the first recommendation is to establish an anonymous website that would guarantee its users a secure connection and enable the provision of valuable insight into drug operations. In this way, individuals would be able to inform DEA without subjecting themselves to any possible danger. Secondly, DEA should dedicate more attention to its social media presence.

This will require staff training and additional investment in the creation and development of a secure communication channel. However, the government of South Australia presents a case study of improved customer relationship management, which results in multiple business benefits for the organization (“Case study: Customer relationship management,” 2017). The example emphasizes a need for the leadership to understand technology and changes that are required to implement such solutions. Additionally, resources in the form of technical and customer support will be necessary for successful operations. The anticipated outcomes are discussed in the next section of this paper.

Cooperation with Other Establishments

Another aspect of improvement in collaboration with other agencies, both within the US and outside the country and with other establishments. While the component is crucial and functions adequately, several changes can be made. Thomas and Lee (2015) describe a case study of Cisco entering the Chinese education market. The authors emphasize that both parties cooperated closely on all stages of this project’s development, which enables successful outcomes.

The examples present an understanding that governmental organizations can successfully partner with businesses to leverage their capabilities. A similar case is discussed by Kitzman (2015) who provides evidence to the benefits of combining the two forces because the author states that such action “affects the development of civil society” (p. 313). Thus, the collaborative efforts of DEA and local companies can provide benefits to the communities across the US.

Currently, companies engage in activities that help improve society and particular communities as part of their global strategies. According to Kitzman (2015), “socially engaged corporations combine several novel conceptions of economic growth as a response to the turbulent modern reality: social innovation, sustainability, or even social economy” (p. 313). Therefore, DEA can expect that they would be interested in helping the establishment in its activities. The first recommendation for cooperation is to engage businesses to help DEA raise awareness regarding drug trafficking problems in local areas. This would imply an improvement in the domain of key partners within the Business Model Canvas.

The recommendation is to partner with local businesses and other organizations to focus on preventing drug use, which subsequently affects the trafficking process. As was mentioned in the Business Canvas summary, DEA uses large funds to support its operations; however, nothing in the existing strategy targets the aspect of prevention. According to Wainwright (2016), “when it comes to fighting crime, money is no object – as long as it is spent on enforcement, rather than prevention” (para. 10). The author argues that if agencies were to focus more attention on ensuring that individuals do not engage in using illegal substances, then their value to the customer, in this case, the US society, would increase significantly.

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Businesses should be interested in helping DEA by reporting suspicious activities and raising awareness because they are directly affected by the problem. However, currently, no specific cooperation practice would enable the work is in place. Worall (2015) states that companies globally lose over $352 billion because of drug trafficking and activities connected to it. Therefore, cooperation with DEA would benefit them in various aspects.

Currently, DEA works closely with other agencies, including Homeland Security and local police officers that help carry out operations and capture criminals. The factor is facilitated due to a need for engaging outside specialists that can deliver additional knowledge or skills. According to White (2016), sustainable development has become crucial for many corporations across the world, which implies cooperation which governments.

The author emphasizes that such partnerships can be challenging to establish and maintain due to the difference in the nature of the organizations. However, by working with DEA firms would mitigate their risk, which would help them grow and develop. One approach to such cooperation is the ability to attract analysts to form companies that can help structure data and locate drug trafficking channels. Additionally, such practice can be used to enhance daily operations of DEA by analyzing current approaches that the establishment applies and altering them for more efficient ones.

Outside the US the practice of collaboration between agencies and businesses has been developing over the past years. White (2016) provides examples of corporations such as Coca Cola, Heineken, Johnson & Johnson, and others that partners with local officials to create initiatives that would target issues in a particular region. These programs aimed at battling health problems and using local sourcing to support communities. DEA can establish and administer a plan that would help enhance an understanding of drug trafficking issues; thus promoting reporting of illegal activities.

Due to the fact that trafficking hurts legal businesses and communities, it is possible to create a program that would educate individuals and support vulnerable populations. Through this approach, the DEA would be able to eventually minimize its spending and maximize the value to the society that the organization brings. DEA specialists can deliver extended lectures to people by presenting their knowledge and experience to individuals. Cooperation with businesses implies the ability to contact executives and provide information regarding drug trafficking in a particular area that would raise awareness regarding the issue and encourage employees to report illegal activities.


The result expected from these changes is improved efficiency of DEA’s operations and more engagement of the US citizens in preparation for services. Firstly, the implementation of two-way communication through social media will allow DEA to receive information and feedback from its clients – local citizens. This will help the organization understand particular improvements that it can make to enhance its work. Additionally, DEA will be able to present updates on its work to inform the stakeholders regarding successful activities and potential dangers that they should know. Secondly, the secure website for reporting should help increase the number of cases that DEA investigates. Through this, the agency will be able to increase its revenue by capturing criminals.

The third outcome of the changes is improved awareness of the drug trafficking problems through a partnership with businesses and other agencies. This approach will help DEA emphasize the severeness of drug trafficking. It is anticipated that the actions will encourage individuals and business owners to report suspicious activities, which will benefit DEA. The establishment’s specialists can explain the purpose and importance of their work to community members, as well as the dangers of drugs. Through the approach, DEA will leverage its human resources and will enable growth. Finally, the partnerships can be used to improve the existing practices, thus making DEA more productive.


Overall, the current model that DEA uses for its operations is valid and ensures efficiency. Several changes were offered considering the organizations as organisms theory, human resources frame, and modernization theory. Firstly, DEA should improve its customer communication by establishing a two-way channel and providing an additional opportunity to report suspicious activities through an online website. Secondly, the cooperation practices should be enhanced to attract more attention to DEA’s actions and improve the understanding of the organization’s work within the communication. The anticipated outcome of these changes is an increase in revenue due to a more significant number of cases and improved cooperation with other organizations.


Case study: Customer relationship management. (2017). Web.

Karjaluoto, H., Mustonen, N., & Ulkuniemi, P. (2015). The role of digital channels in industrial marketing communications. Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing, 30(6), 703-710. Web.

Kitzman, K. (2015). The need for cooperation between enterprises and non-governmental organizations. Zarzadzanie Publiczne, 4(32) 2015, 313–324. Web.

Osterwalder, A., Pigneur, Y., Bernarda, G., Smith, A., & Papadakos, T. (2014). Value proposition design: How to create products and services customers want. Haboken, NJ: Willey.

Shan, L. C., Panagiotopoulos, P., Regan, A., De Brun, A., Bernett, J., Wall, P., & McCononc, A. (2015). Interactive communication with the public: Qualitative exploration of the use of social media by food and health organizations. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 47(1), 104-108. Web.

Thomas, H., & Lee, R. P. (2015). Cisco and cloud-based education in China. Harvard Business Review. Web.

Wainwright, T. (2016). Narconomics: The business of drug trafficking. Houston Chronicle. Web.

White, D. (2016). Business collaboration with government: Does reward outweigh risk? Web.

Worall, S. (2015). How the cocaine trade affects everyone’s lives. National Geographic. Web.

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