Porter's five forces


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Porter's five forces

  1. 1. Awareness of the five forces can help a company understand the structure of itsindustry and stake out a position that is more profitable and less vulnerable to attack. 78 Harvard Business Review | January 2008 | hbr.org
  2. 2. THE FIVE COMPETITIVE FORCES THAT SHAPESTRATEGYSTRATEGY by Michael E. Porter IN ESSENCE, the job of the strategist is to under- Editor’s Note: In 1979, Harvard Business Review stand and cope with competition. Often, however, published “How Competitive Forces Shape Strat- managers define competition too narrowly, as if egy” by a young economist and associate professor, it occurred only among today’s direct competi- Michael E. Porter. It was his first HBR article, and it tors. Yet competition for profits goes beyond es- started a revolution in the strategy field. In subsequent tablished industry rivals to include four other decades, Porter has brought his signature economic competitive forces as well: customers, suppliers, rigor to the study of competitive strategy for corpora- potential entrants, and substitute products. The tions, regions, nations, and, more recently, health care extended rivalry that results from all five forces and philanthropy. “Porter’s five forces” have shaped a defines an industry’s structure and shapes the generation of academic research and business practice. nature of competitive interaction within an With prodding and assistance from Harvard Business industry. School Professor Jan Rivkin and longtime colleague As different from one another as industries Joan Magretta, Porter here reaffirms, updates, and might appear on the surface, the underlying driv-Peter Crowther extends the classic work. He also addresses common ers of profitability are the same. The global auto misunderstandings, provides practical guidance for industry, for instance, appears to have nothing users of the framework, and offers a deeper view of in common with the worldwide market for art its implications for strategy today. masterpieces or the heavily regulated health-care hbr.org | January 2008 | Harvard Business Review 79
  3. 3. LEADERSHIP AND STRATEGY | The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy delivery industry in Europe. But to under- stand industry competition and profitabil- The Five Forces That Shape Industry Competitionity in each of those three cases, one mustanalyze the industry’s underlying struc-ture in terms of the five forces. (See the ex- Threathibit “The Five Forces That Shape Industry of NewCompetition.”) Entrants If the forces are intense, as they are in such industries as airlines, textiles, and ho-tels, almost no company earns attractive re-turns on investment. If the forces are benign, Rivalryas they are in industries such as software, Bargaining Among Bargaining soft drinks, and toiletries, many companies Power of Existing Power ofare profitable. Industry structure drives Suppliers Competitors Buyers competition and profitability, not whetheran industry produces a product or service, is emerging or mature, high tech or low tech,regulated or unregulated. While a myriad of factors can affect industry profitability Threat ofin the short run – including the weather Substituteand the business cycle – industry structure, Products or Servicesmanifested in the competitive forces, setsindustry profitability in the medium andlong run. (See the exhibit “Differences inIndustry Profitability.”) Understanding the competitive forces, and their under- The strongest competitive force or forces determine thelying causes, reveals the roots of an industry’s current profit- profitability of an industry and become the most importantability while providing a framework for anticipating and to strategy formulation. The most salient force, however, isinfluencing competition (and profitability) over time. A not always obvious.healthy industry structure should be as much a competitive For example, even though rivalry is often fierce in com- concern to strategists as their company’s own position. Un- modity industries, it may not be the factor limiting profit- derstanding industry structure is also essential to effective ability. Low returns in the photographic film industry, for strategic positioning. As we will see, defending against the instance, are the result of a superior substitute product – as competitive forces and shaping them in a company’s favor Kodak and Fuji, the world’s leading producers of photo-are crucial to strategy. graphic film, learned with the advent of digital photography. In such a situation, coping with the substitute product be- Forces That Shape Competition comes the number one strategic priority.The configuration of the five forces differs by industry. In Industry structure grows out of a set of economic andthe market for commercial aircraft, fierce rivalry between technical characteristics that determine the strength of dominant producers Airbus and Boeing and the bargain- each competitive force. We will examine these drivers in theing power of the airlines that place huge orders for aircraft pages that follow, taking the perspective of an incumbent,are strong, while the threat of entry, the threat of substi- or a company already present in the industry. The analysistutes, and the power of suppliers are more benign. In the can be readily extended to understand the challenges facingmovie theater industry, the proliferation of substitute forms a potential entrant. of entertainment and the power of the movie producers THREAT OF ENTRY. New entrants to an industry bringand distributors who supply movies, the critical input, are new capacity and a desire to gain market share that putsimportant. pressure on prices, costs, and the rate of investment nec- essary to compete. Particularly when new entrants areMichael E. Porter is the Bishop William Lawrence University Pro- diversifying from other markets, they can leverage exist-fessor at Harvard University, based at Harvard Business School in ing capabilities and cash flows to shake up competition, asBoston. He is a six-time McKinsey Award winner, including for his Pepsi did when it entered the bottled water industry, Micro-most recent HBR article, “Strategy and Society,” coauthored with soft did when it began to offer internet browsers, and AppleMark R. Kramer (December 2006). did when it entered the music distribution business.80 Harvard Business Review | January 2008 | hbr.org
  4. 4. The threat of entry, therefore, puts a cap on the profit po- entry by limiting the willingness of customers to buy from atential of an industry. When the threat is high, incumbents newcomer and by reducing the price the newcomer can com-must hold down their prices or boost investment to deter mand until it builds up a large base of customers.new competitors. In specialty coffee retailing, for example, 3. Customer switching costs. Switching costs are fixed costsrelatively low entry barriers mean that Starbucks must in- that buyers face when they change suppliers. Such costs mayvest aggressively in modernizing stores and menus. arise because a buyer who switches vendors must, for ex- The threat of entry in an industry depends on the height ample, alter product specifications, retrain employees to useof entry barriers that are present and on the reaction en- a new product, or modify processes or information systems.trants can expect from incumbents. If entry barriers are low The larger the switching costs, the harder it will be for an en-and newcomers expect little retaliation from the entrenched trant to gain customers. Enterprise resource planning (ERP)competitors, the threat of entry is high and industry profit- software is an example of a product with very high switchingability is moderated. It is the threat of entry, not whether costs. Once a company has installed SAP’s ERP system, for ex-entry actually occurs, that holds down profitability. ample, the costs of moving to a new vendor are astronomical Industry structure drives competition and profitability, not whether an industry is emerging or mature, high tech or low tech, regulated or unregulated. Barriers to entry. Entry barriers are advantages that incum- because of embedded data, the fact that internal processesbents have relative to new entrants. There are seven major have been adapted to SAP, major retraining needs, and thesources: mission-critical nature of the applications. 1. Supply-side economies of scale. These economies arise 4. Capital requirements. The need to invest large finan-when firms that produce at larger volumes enjoy lower costs cial resources in order to compete can deter new entrants.per unit because they can spread fixed costs over more units, Capital may be necessary not only for fixed facilities but alsoemploy more efficient technology, or command better terms to extend customer credit, build inventories, and fund start-from suppliers. Supply-side scale economies deter entry by up losses. The barrier is particularly great if the capital isforcing the aspiring entrant either to come into the industry required for unrecoverable and therefore harder-to-financeon a large scale, which requires dislodging entrenched com- expenditures, such as up-front advertising or research andpetitors, or to accept a cost disadvantage. development. While major corporations have the financial Scale economies can be found in virtually every activity resources to invade almost any industry, the huge capitalin the value chain; which ones are most important varies requirements in certain fields limit the pool of likely en-by industry.1 In microprocessors, incumbents such as Intel trants. Conversely, in such fields as tax preparation servicesare protected by scale economies in research, chip fabrica- or short-haul trucking, capital requirements are minimaltion, and consumer marketing. For lawn care companies like and potential entrants plentiful.Scotts Miracle-Gro, the most important scale economies are It is important not to overstate the degree to which capitalfound in the supply chain and media advertising. In small- requirements alone deter entry. If industry returns are at-package delivery, economies of scale arise in national logisti- tractive and are expected to remain so, and if capital marketscal systems and information technology. are efficient, investors will provide entrants with the funds 2. Demand-side benefits of scale. These benefits, also known they need. For aspiring air carriers, for instance, financingas network effects, arise in industries where a buyer’s willing- is available to purchase expensive aircraft because of theirness to pay for a company’s product increases with the num- high resale value, one reason why there have been numer-ber of other buyers who also patronize the company. Buyers ous new airlines in almost every region.may trust larger companies more for a crucial product: Re- 5. Incumbency advantages independent of size. No mattercall the old adage that no one ever got fired for buying from what their size, incumbents may have cost or quality advan-IBM (when it was the dominant computer maker). Buyers tages not available to potential rivals. These advantages canmay also value being in a “network” with a larger number of stem from such sources as proprietary technology, preferen-fellow customers. For instance, online auction participants tial access to the best raw material sources, preemption ofare attracted to eBay because it offers the most potential the most favorable geographic locations, established brandtrading partners. Demand-side benefits of scale discourage identities, or cumulative experience that has allowed incum- hbr.org | January 2008 | Harvard Business Review 81
  5. 5. LEADERSHIP AND STRATEGY | The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategybents to learn how to produce more efficiently. Entrants tryto bypass such advantages. Upstart discounters such as Tar- Differences in Industry Profitabilityget and Wal-Mart, for example, have located stores in free-standing sites rather than regional shopping centers where The average return on invested capital varies markedly fromestablished department stores were well entrenched. industry to industry. Between 1992 and 2006, for example, 6. Unequal access to distribution channels. The new en- average return on invested capital in U.S. industries ranged astrant must, of course, secure distribution of its product or low as zero or even negative to more than 50%. At the highservice. A new food item, for example, must displace others end are industries like soft drinks and prepackaged software,from the supermarket shelf via price breaks, promotions, which have been almost six times more profitable than theintense selling efforts, or some other means. The more lim- airline industry over the period.ited the wholesale or retail channels are and the more thatexisting competitors have tied them up, the tougher entryinto an industry will be. Sometimes access to distributionis so high a barrier that new entrants must bypass distribu- able productive capacity, or clout with distribution channelstion channels altogether or create their own. Thus, upstart and customers.low-cost airlines have avoided distribution through travel • Incumbents seem likely to cut prices because they areagents (who tend to favor established higher-fare carriers) committed to retaining market share at all costs or becauseand have encouraged passengers to book their own flights the industry has high fixed costs, which create a strong mo-on the internet. tivation to drop prices to fill excess capacity. 7. Restrictive government policy. Government policy can • Industry growth is slow so newcomers can gain volumehinder or aid new entry directly, as well as amplify (or nul- only by taking it from incumbents.lify) the other entry barriers. Government directly limits or An analysis of barriers to entry and expected retaliation iseven forecloses entry into industries through, for instance, obviously crucial for any company contemplating entry intolicensing requirements and restrictions on foreign invest- a new industry. The challenge is to find ways to surmountment. Regulated industries like liquor retailing, taxi services, the entry barriers without nullifying, through heavy invest-and airlines are visible examples. Government policy can ment, the profitability of participating in the industry.heighten other entry barriers through such means as ex- THE POWER OF SUPPLIERS. Powerful suppliers capturepansive patenting rules that protect proprietary technol- more of the value for themselves by charging higher prices,ogy from imitation or environmental or safety regulations limiting quality or services, or shifting costs to industry par-that raise scale economies facing newcomers. Of course, ticipants. Powerful suppliers, including suppliers of labor,government policies may also make entry easier – directly can squeeze profitability out of an industry that is unablethrough subsidies, for instance, or indirectly by funding ba- to pass on cost increases in its own prices. Microsoft, for in-sic research and making it available to all firms, new and old, stance, has contributed to the erosion of profitability amongreducing scale economies. personal computer makers by raising prices on operating Entry barriers should be assessed relative to the capa- systems. PC makers, competing fiercely for customers whobilities of potential entrants, which may be start-ups, foreign can easily switch among them, have limited freedom to raisefirms, or companies in related industries. And, as some of their prices accordingly.our examples illustrate, the strategist must be mindful of the Companies depend on a wide range of different suppliercreative ways newcomers might find to circumvent appar- groups for inputs. A supplier group is powerful if:ent barriers. • It is more concentrated than the industry it sells to. Expected retaliation. How potential entrants believe in- Microsoft’s near monopoly in operating systems, coupledcumbents may react will also influence their decision to with the fragmentation of PC assemblers, exemplifies thisenter or stay out of an industry. If reaction is vigorous and situation.protracted enough, the profit potential of participating in • The supplier group does not depend heavily on the in-the industry can fall below the cost of capital. Incumbents dustry for its revenues. Suppliers serving many industriesoften use public statements and responses to one entrant will not hesitate to extract maximum profits from each one.to send a message to other prospective entrants about their If a particular industry accounts for a large portion of a sup-commitment to defending market share. plier group’s volume or profit, however, suppliers will want Newcomers are likely to fear expected retaliation if: to protect the industry through reasonable pricing and as- • Incumbents have previously responded vigorously to sist in activities such as R&D and lobbying.new entrants. • Industry participants face switching costs in changing • Incumbents possess substantial resources to fight back, suppliers. For example, shifting suppliers is difficult if com-including excess cash and unused borrowing power, avail- panies have invested heavily in specialized ancillary equip-82 Harvard Business Review | January 2008 | hbr.org
  6. 6. Average Return on Invested Capital Profitability of Selected U.S. Industries in U.S. Industries, 1992–2006 Average ROIC, 1992–2006 10th percentile 25th Median: 75th percentile 90th percentile 50 Security Brokers and Dealers 40.9% 7.0% percentile 14.3% 18.6% 25.3% 10.9% Soft Drinks 37.6% Prepackaged Software 37.6% 40 Pharmaceuticals 31.7% Perfume, Cosmetics, Toiletries 28.6% Advertising Agencies 27.3% Distilled Spirits 26.4% 30 Semiconductors 21.3%Number of Industries Medical Instruments 21.0% Men’s and Boys’ Clothing 19.5% 20 Tires 19.5% Household Appliances 19.2% Malt Beverages 19.0% Child Day Care Services 17.6% 10 Household Furniture 17.0% Drug Stores 16.5% Grocery Stores 16.0% 0 Iron and Steel Foundries 15.6% 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% Cookies and Crackers 15.4% or lower or higher ROIC Mobile Homes 15.0% Average industry ROIC in the U.S. Wine and Brandy 13.9% 14.9% Bakery Products 13.8% Return on invested capital (ROIC) is the appropriate measure Engines and Turbines 13.7% of profitability for strategy formulation, not to mention for equity Book Publishing 13.4% investors. Return on sales or the growth rate of profits fail to Laboratory Equipment 13.4% account for the capital required to compete in the industry. Here, Oil and Gas Machinery 12.6% we utilize earnings before interest and taxes divided by average Soft Drink Bottling 11.7% invested capital less excess cash as the measure of ROIC. This Knitting Mills 10.5% measure controls for idiosyncratic differences in capital structure Hotels 10.4% Catalog, Mail-Order Houses 5.9% and tax rates across companies and industries. Airlines 5.9% Source: Standard & Poor’s, Compustat, and author’s calculationsment or in learning how to operate a supplier’s equipment THE POWER OF BUYERS. Powerful customers – the flip(as with Bloomberg terminals used by financial profession- side of powerful suppliers – can capture more value by forc-als). Or firms may have located their production lines adja- ing down prices, demanding better quality or more servicecent to a supplier’s manufacturing facilities (as in the case (thereby driving up costs), and generally playing industryof some beverage companies and container manufacturers). participants off against one another, all at the expense ofWhen switching costs are high, industry participants find it industry profitability. Buyers are powerful if they have nego-hard to play suppliers off against one another. (Note that tiating leverage relative to industry participants, especiallysuppliers may have switching costs as well. This limits their if they are price sensitive, using their clout primarily to pres-power.) sure price reductions. • Suppliers offer products that are differentiated. Phar- As with suppliers, there may be distinct groups of custom-maceutical companies that offer patented drugs with dis- ers who differ in bargaining power. A customer group hastinctive medical benefits have more power over hospitals, negotiating leverage if:health maintenance organizations, and other drug buyers, • There are few buyers, or each one purchases in volumesfor example, than drug companies offering me-too or ge- that are large relative to the size of a single vendor. Large-neric products. volume buyers are particularly powerful in industries with • There is no substitute for what the supplier group pro- high fixed costs, such as telecommunications equipment, off-vides. Pilots’ unions, for example, exercise considerable sup- shore drilling, and bulk chemicals. High fixed costs and lowplier power over airlines partly because there is no good marginal costs amplify the pressure on rivals to keep capac-alternative to a well-trained pilot in the cockpit. ity filled through discounting. • The supplier group can credibly threaten to integrate for- • The industry’s products are standardized or undifferenti-ward into the industry. In that case, if industry participants ated. If buyers believe they can always find an equivalentmake too much money relative to suppliers, they will induce product, they tend to play one vendor against another.suppliers to enter the market. • Buyers face few switching costs in changing vendors. hbr.org | January 2008 | Harvard Business Review 83
  7. 7. LEADERSHIP AND STRATEGY | The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy • Buyers can credibly threaten to integrate backward and Producers often attempt to diminish channel cloutproduce the industry’s product themselves if vendors are through exclusive arrangements with particular distributorstoo profitable. Producers of soft drinks and beer have long or retailers or by marketing directly to end users. Compo-controlled the power of packaging manufacturers by threat- nent manufacturers seek to develop power over assemblersening to make, and at times actually making, packaging ma- by creating preferences for their components with down-terials themselves. stream customers. Such is the case with bicycle parts and A buyer group is price sensitive if: with sweeteners. DuPont has created enormous clout by • The product it purchases from the industry represents advertising its Stainmaster brand of carpet fibers not onlya significant fraction of its cost structure or procurement to the carpet manufacturers that actually buy them butbudget. Here buyers are likely to shop around and bargain also to downstream consumers. Many consumers requesthard, as consumers do for home mortgages. Where the prod- Stainmaster carpet even though DuPont is not a carpetuct sold by an industry is a small fraction of buyers’ costs or manufacturer.expenditures, buyers are usually less price sensitive. THE THREAT OF SUBSTITUTES. A substitute performs • The buyer group earns low profits, is strapped for cash, the same or a similar function as an industry’s product by aor is otherwise under pressure to trim its purchasing costs. different means. Videoconferencing is a substitute for travel.Highly profitable or cash-rich customers, in contrast, are gen- Plastic is a substitute for aluminum. E-mail is a substituteerally less price sensitive (that is, of course, if the item does for express mail. Sometimes, the threat of substitution isnot represent a large fraction of their costs). downstream or indirect, when a substitute replaces a buyer • The quality of buyers’ products or services is little af- industry’s product. For example, lawn-care products and ser-fected by the industry’s product. Where quality is very much vices are threatened when multifamily homes in urban areasaffected by the industry’s product, buyers are generally less substitute for single-family homes in the suburbs. Softwareprice sensitive. When purchasing or renting production qual- sold to agents is threatened when airline and travel websitesity cameras, for instance, makers of major motion pictures substitute for travel agents.opt for highly reliable equipment with the latest features. Substitutes are always present, but they are easy to over-They pay limited attention to price. look because they may appear to be very different from the • The industry’s product has little effect on the buyer’s industry’s product: To someone searching for a Father’s Dayother costs. Here, buyers focus on price. Conversely, where gift, neckties and power tools may be substitutes. It is a sub-an industry’s product or service can pay for itself many times stitute to do without, to purchase a used product rather thanover by improving performance or reducing labor, material, a new one, or to do it yourself (bring the service or productor other costs, buyers are usually more interested in quality in-house).than in price. Examples include products and services like tax When the threat of substitutes is high, industry profitabil-accounting or well logging (which measures below-ground ity suffers. Substitute products or services limit an industry’sconditions of oil wells) that can save or even make the buyer profit potential by placing a ceiling on prices. If an industrymoney. Similarly, buyers tend not to be price sensitive in ser- does not distance itself from substitutes through productvices such as investment banking, where poor performance performance, marketing, or other means, it will suffer incan be costly and embarrassing. terms of profitability – and often growth potential. Most sources of buyer power apply equally to consum- Substitutes not only limit profits in normal times, theyers and to business-to-business customers. Like industrial also reduce the bonanza an industry can reap in good times.customers, consumers tend to be more price sensitive if they In emerging economies, for example, the surge in demandare purchasing products that are undifferentiated, expensive for wired telephone lines has been capped as many con-relative to their incomes, and of a sort where product perfor- sumers opt to make a mobile telephone their first and onlymance has limited consequences. The major difference with phone line.consumers is that their needs can be more intangible and The threat of a substitute is high if:harder to quantify. • It offers an attractive price-performance trade-off to the Intermediate customers, or customers who purchase the industry’s product. The better the relative value of the sub-product but are not the end user (such as assemblers or distri- stitute, the tighter is the lid on an industry’s profit poten-bution channels), can be analyzed the same way as other buy- tial. For example, conventional providers of long-distanceers, with one important addition. Intermediate customers telephone service have suffered from the advent of inex-gain significant bargaining power when they can influence pensive internet-based phone services such as Vonage andthe purchasing decisions of customers downstream. Con- Skype. Similarly, video rental outlets are struggling with thesumer electronics retailers, jewelry retailers, and agricultural- emergence of cable and satellite video-on-demand services,equipment distributors are examples of distribution chan- online video rental services such as Netflix, and the rise ofnels that exert a strong influence on end customers. internet video sites like Google’s YouTube.84 Harvard Business Review | January 2008 | hbr.org
  8. 8. • The buyer’s cost of switching to the substitute is low. may participate in an industry for image reasons or to offerSwitching from a proprietary, branded drug to a generic a full line. Clashes of personality and ego have sometimesdrug usually involves minimal costs, for example, which is exaggerated rivalry to the detriment of profitability in fieldswhy the shift to generics (and the fall in prices) is so substan- such as the media and high technology.tial and rapid. • Firms cannot read each other’s signals well because of Strategists should be particularly alert to changes in other lack of familiarity with one another, diverse approaches toindustries that may make them attractive substitutes when competing, or differing goals.they were not before. Improvements in plastic materials, for The strength of rivalry reflects not just the intensity ofexample, allowed them to substitute for steel in many au- competition but also the basis of competition. The dimen-tomobile components. In this way, technological changes sions on which competition takes place, and whether rivals Rivalry is especially destructive to profitability if it gravitates solely to price because price competition transfers profits directly from an industry to its customers.or competitive discontinuities in seemingly unrelated busi- converge to compete on the same dimensions, have a majornesses can have major impacts on industry profitability. Of influence on profitability.course the substitution threat can also shift in favor of an Rivalry is especially destructive to profitability if it gravi-industry, which bodes well for its future profitability and tates solely to price because price competition transfers prof-growth potential. its directly from an industry to its customers. Price cuts are RIVALRY AMONG EXISTING COMPETITORS. Rivalry usually easy for competitors to see and match, making suc-among existing competitors takes many familiar forms, in- cessive rounds of retaliation likely. Sustained price competi-cluding price discounting, new product introductions, ad- tion also trains customers to pay less attention to productvertising campaigns, and service improvements. High rivalry features and service.limits the profitability of an industry. The degree to which ri- Price competition is most liable to occur if:valry drives down an industry’s profit potential depends, first, • Products or services of rivals are nearly identical andon the intensity with which companies compete and, second, there are few switching costs for buyers. This encourageson the basis on which they compete. competitors to cut prices to win new customers. Years of air- The intensity of rivalry is greatest if: line price wars reflect these circumstances in that industry. • Competitors are numerous or are roughly equal in size • Fixed costs are high and marginal costs are low. Thisand power. In such situations, rivals find it hard to avoid creates intense pressure for competitors to cut prices belowpoaching business. Without an industry leader, practices de- their average costs, even close to their marginal costs, to stealsirable for the industry as a whole go unenforced. incremental customers while still making some contribution • Industry growth is slow. Slow growth precipitates fights to covering fixed costs. Many basic-materials businesses, suchfor market share. as paper and aluminum, suffer from this problem, especially • Exit barriers are high. Exit barriers, the flip side of entry if demand is not growing. So do delivery companies withbarriers, arise because of such things as highly specialized fixed networks of routes that must be served regardless ofassets or management’s devotion to a particular business. volume.These barriers keep companies in the market even though • Capacity must be expanded in large increments to bethey may be earning low or negative returns. Excess capacity efficient. The need for large capacity expansions, as in theremains in use, and the profitability of healthy competitors polyvinyl chloride business, disrupts the industry’s supply-suffers as the sick ones hang on. demand balance and often leads to long and recurring peri- • Rivals are highly committed to the business and have ods of overcapacity and price cutting.aspirations for leadership, especially if they have goals that • The product is perishable. Perishability creates a stronggo beyond economic performance in the particular industry. temptation to cut prices and sell a product while it still hasHigh commitment to a business arises for a variety of reasons. value. More products and services are perishable than isFor example, state-owned competitors may have goals that commonly thought. Just as tomatoes are perishable becauseinclude employment or prestige. Units of larger companies they rot, models of computers are perishable because they hbr.org | January 2008 | Harvard Business Review 85
  9. 9. LEADERSHIP AND STRATEGY | The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategysoon become obsolete, and information may be perishable opportunities for all competitors. But fast growth can putif it diffuses rapidly or becomes outdated, thereby losing its suppliers in a powerful position, and high growth with lowvalue. Services such as hotel accommodations are perishable entry barriers will draw in entrants. Even without new en-in the sense that unused capacity can never be recovered. trants, a high growth rate will not guarantee profitability if Competition on dimensions other than price – on product customers are powerful or substitutes are attractive. Indeed,features, support services, delivery time, or brand image, for some fast-growth businesses, such as personal computers,instance – is less likely to erode profitability because it im- have been among the least profitable industries in recentproves customer value and can support higher prices. Also, years. A narrow focus on growth is one of the major causesrivalry focused on such dimensions can improve value rela- of bad strategy decisions.tive to substitutes or raise the barriers facing new entrants. Technology and innovation. Advanced technology or in-While nonprice rivalry sometimes escalates to levels that novations are not by themselves enough to make an indus-undermine industry profitability, this is less likely to occur try structurally attractive (or unattractive). Mundane, low-than it is with price rivalry. technology industries with price-insensitive buyers, high As important as the dimensions of rivalry is whether ri- switching costs, or high entry barriers arising from scalevals compete on the same dimensions. When all or many economies are often far more profitable than sexy indus-competitors aim to meet the same needs or compete on the tries, such as software and internet technologies, that attractsame attributes, the result is zero-sum competition. Here, competitors.2one firm’s gain is often another’s loss, driving down profit- Government. Government is not best understood as aability. While price competition runs a stronger risk than sixth force because government involvement is neither in-nonprice competition of becoming zero sum, this may not herently good nor bad for industry profitability. The besthappen if companies take care to segment their markets, way to understand the influence of government on competi-targeting their low-price offerings to different customers. tion is to analyze how specific government policies affect the Rivalry can be positive sum, or actually increase the aver- five competitive forces. For instance, patents raise barriersage profitability of an industry, when each competitor aims to entry, boosting industry profit potential. Conversely, gov-to serve the needs of different customer segments, with dif- ernment policies favoring unions may raise supplier powerferent mixes of price, products, services, features, or brand and diminish profit potential. Bankruptcy rules that allowidentities. Such competition can not only support higher av- failing companies to reorganize rather than exit can lead toerage profitability but also expand the industry, as the needs excess capacity and intense rivalry. Government operates atof more customer groups are better met. The opportunity multiple levels and through many different policies, each offor positive-sum competition will be greater in industries which will affect structure in different ways.serving diverse customer groups. With a clear understand- Complementary products and services. Complementsing of the structural underpinnings of rivalry, strategists can are products or services used together with an industry’ssometimes take steps to shift the nature of competition in product. Complements arise when the customer benefita more positive direction. of two products combined is greater than the sum of each product’s value in isolation. Computer hardware and soft-Factors, Not Forces ware, for instance, are valuable together and worthless whenIndustry structure, as manifested in the strength of the five separated.competitive forces, determines the industry’s long-run profit In recent years, strategy researchers have highlighted thepotential because it determines how the economic value role of complements, especially in high-technology indus-created by the industry is divided – how much is retained tries where they are most obvious.3 By no means, however,by companies in the industry versus bargained away by cus- do complements appear only there. The value of a car, for ex-tomers and suppliers, limited by substitutes, or constrained ample, is greater when the driver also has access to gasolineby potential new entrants. By considering all five forces, a stations, roadside assistance, and auto insurance.strategist keeps overall structure in mind instead of gravitat- Complements can be important when they affect theing to any one element. In addition, the strategist’s atten- overall demand for an industry’s product. However, liketion remains focused on structural conditions rather than government policy, complements are not a sixth force de-on fleeting factors. termining industry profitability since the presence of strong It is especially important to avoid the common pitfall of complements is not necessarily bad (or good) for industrymistaking certain visible attributes of an industry for its un- profitability. Complements affect profitability through thederlying structure. Consider the following: way they influence the five forces. Industry growth rate. A common mistake is to assume The strategist must trace the positive or negative influencethat fast-growing industries are always attractive. Growth of complements on all five forces to ascertain their impact ondoes tend to mute rivalry, because an expanding pie offers profitability. The presence of complements can raise or lower86 Harvard Business Review | January 2008 | hbr.org
  10. 10. barriers to entry. In application software, for example, barri- ers to entry were lowered when producers of complemen-Industry Analysis in Practice tary operating system software, notably Microsoft, provided tool sets making it easier to write applications. Conversely,Good industry analysis looks rigorously at the the need to attract producers of complements can raise bar-structural underpinnings of profitability. A first riers to entry, as it does in video game hardware.step is to understand the appropriate time The presence of complements can also affect the threathorizon. One of the essential tasks in industry of substitutes. For instance, the need for appropriate fuelinganalysis is to distinguish temporary or cyclical changes stations makes it difficult for cars using alternative fuels tofrom structural changes. A good guideline for the substitute for conventional vehicles. But complements canappropriate time horizon is the full business cycle for also make substitution easier. For example, Apple’s iTunesthe particular industry. For most industries, a three- hastened the substitution from CDs to digital music.to-five-year horizon is appropriate, although in some Complements can factor into industry rivalry either posi-industries with long lead times, such as mining, theappropriate horizon might be a decade or more. It is tively (as when they raise switching costs) or negatively (asaverage profitability over this period, not profitability in when they neutralize product differentiation). Similar analy-any particular year, that should be the focus of analysis. ses can be done for buyer and supplier power. Sometimes The point of industry analysis is not to declare companies compete by altering conditions in complemen-the industry attractive or unattractive but to tary industries in their favor, such as when videocassette-understand the underpinnings of competition recorder producer JVC persuaded movie studios to favorand the root causes of profitability. As much as its standard in issuing prerecorded tapes even though ri-possible, analysts should look at industry structure val Sony’s standard was probably superior from a technicalquantitatively, rather than be satisfied with lists of standpoint.qualitative factors. Many elements of the five forces Identifying complements is part of the analyst’s work. Ascan be quantified: the percentage of the buyer’s with government policies or important technologies, thetotal cost accounted for by the industry’s product (to strategic significance of complements will be best under-understand buyer price sensitivity); the percentage of stood through the lens of the five forces.industry sales required to fill a plant or operate a logis-tical network of efficient scale (to help assess barriers Changes in Industry Structureto entry); the buyer’s switching cost (determining the So far, we have discussed the competitive forces at a singleinducement an entrant or rival must offer customers). The strength of the competitive forces affects point in time. Industry structure proves to be relatively sta-prices, costs, and the investment required to ble, and industry profitability differences are remarkablycompete; thus the forces are directly tied to persistent over time in practice. However, industry structurethe income statements and balance sheets of is constantly undergoing modest adjustment – and occasion-industry participants. Industry structure defines ally it can change abruptly.the gap between revenues and costs. For example, Shifts in structure may emanate from outside an industryintense rivalry drives down prices or elevates the costs or from within. They can boost the industry’s profit potentialof marketing, R&D, or customer service, reducing or reduce it. They may be caused by changes in technology,margins. How much? Strong suppliers drive up input changes in customer needs, or other events. The five com-costs. How much? Buyer power lowers prices or petitive forces provide a framework for identifying the mostelevates the costs of meeting buyers’ demands, such important industry developments and for anticipating theiras the requirement to hold more inventory or provide impact on industry attractiveness.financing. How much? Low barriers to entry or close Shifting threat of new entry. Changes to any of the sevensubstitutes limit the level of sustainable prices. How barriers described above can raise or lower the threat of newmuch? It is these economic relationships that sharpen entry. The expiration of a patent, for instance, may unleashthe strategist’s understanding of industry competition. new entrants. On the day that Merck’s patents for the cho- Finally, good industry analysis does not just listpluses and minuses but sees an industry in over- lesterol reducer Zocor expired, three pharmaceutical mak-all, systemic terms. Which forces are underpinning ers entered the market for the drug. Conversely, the prolif-(or constraining) today’s profitability? How might shifts eration of products in the ice cream industry has graduallyin one competitive force trigger reactions in others? filled up the limited freezer space in grocery stores, makingAnswering such questions is often the source of true it harder for new ice cream makers to gain access to distribu-strategic insights. tion in North America and Europe. Strategic decisions of leading competitors often have a major impact on the threat of entry. Starting in the 1970s, for hbr.org | January 2008 | Harvard Business Review 87
  11. 11. LEADERSHIP AND STRATEGY | The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategyexample, retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kmart, and Toys “R” Us and geographic segments (such as riverboats, trophy proper-began to adopt new procurement, distribution, and inven- ties, Native American reservations, international expansion,tory control technologies with large fixed costs, including and novel customer groups like families). Head-to-head ri-automated distribution centers, bar coding, and point-of-sale valry that lowers prices or boosts the payouts to winners hasterminals. These investments increased the economies of been limited.scale and made it more difficult for small retailers to enter The nature of rivalry in an industry is altered by mergersthe business (and for existing small players to survive). and acquisitions that introduce new capabilities and ways of Changing supplier or buyer power. As the factors under- competing. Or, technological innovation can reshape rivalry.lying the power of suppliers and buyers change with time, In the retail brokerage industry, the advent of the internettheir clout rises or declines. In the global appliance industry, lowered marginal costs and reduced differentiation, trigger-for instance, competitors including Electrolux, General Elec- ing far more intense competition on commissions and feestric, and Whirlpool have been squeezed by the consolidation than in the past.of retail channels (the decline of appliance specialty stores, In some industries, companies turn to mergers and con-for instance, and the rise of big-box retailers like Best Buy solidation not to improve cost and quality but to attempt toand Home Depot in the United States). Another example is stop intense competition. Eliminating rivals is a risky strat-travel agents, who depend on airlines as a key supplier. When egy, however. The five competitive forces tell us that a profitthe internet allowed airlines to sell tickets directly to cus- windfall from removing today’s competitors often attractstomers, this significantly increased their power to bargain new competitors and backlash from customers and suppli-down agents’ commissions. ers. In New York banking, for example, the 1980s and 1990s Shifting threat of substitution. The most common reason saw escalating consolidations of commercial and savingssubstitutes become more or less threatening over time is banks, including Manufacturers Hanover, Chemical, Chase,that advances in technology create new substitutes or shift and Dime Savings. But today the retail-banking landscapeprice-performance comparisons in one direction or the other. of Manhattan is as diverse as ever, as new entrants such asThe earliest microwave ovens, for example, were large and Wachovia, Bank of America, and Washington Mutual havepriced above $2,000, making them poor substitutes for con- entered the market.ventional ovens. With technological advances, they becameserious substitutes. Flash computer memory has improved Implications for Strategyenough recently to become a meaningful substitute for low- Understanding the forces that shape industry competitioncapacity hard-disk drives. Trends in the availability or per- is the starting point for developing strategy. Every companyformance of complementary producers also shift the threat should already know what the average profitability of itsof substitutes. industry is and how that has been changing over time. The New bases of rivalry. Rivalry often intensifies naturally five forces reveal why industry profitability is what it is. Onlyover time. As an industry matures, growth slows. Competi- then can a company incorporate industry conditions intotors become more alike as industry conventions emerge, strategy.technology diffuses, and consumer tastes converge. Industry The forces reveal the most significant aspects of the com-profitability falls, and weaker competitors are driven from petitive environment. They also provide a baseline for sizing Eliminating rivals is a risky strategy. A profit windfall from removing today’s competitors often attracts new competitors and backlash from customers and suppliers.the business. This story has played out in industry after in- up a company’s strengths and weaknesses: Where does thedustry; televisions, snowmobiles, and telecommunications company stand versus buyers, suppliers, entrants, rivals, andequipment are just a few examples. substitutes? Most importantly, an understanding of industry A trend toward intensifying price competition and other structure guides managers toward fruitful possibilities forforms of rivalry, however, is by no means inevitable. For ex- strategic action, which may include any or all of the follow-ample, there has been enormous competitive activity in the ing: positioning the company to better cope with the currentU.S. casino industry in recent decades, but most of it has competitive forces; anticipating and exploiting shifts in thebeen positive-sum competition directed toward new niches forces; and shaping the balance of forces to create a new in-88 Harvard Business Review | January 2008 | hbr.org
  12. 12. Using the five forces framework, creative strategists may be able to spot an industry with a good future before this good future is reflected in the prices of acquisition candidates.dustry structure that is more favorable to the company. The has tailored every single part of the value chain to cope wellbest strategies exploit more than one of these possibilities. with the forces in its segment. As a result, Paccar has been Positioning the company. Strategy can be viewed as build- profitable for 68 years straight and has earned a long-runing defenses against the competitive forces or finding a posi- return on equity above 20%.tion in the industry where the forces are weakest. Consider, In addition to revealing positioning opportunities withinfor instance, the position of Paccar in the market for heavy an existing industry, the five forces framework allows com-trucks. The heavy-truck industry is structurally challenging. panies to rigorously analyze entry and exit. Both depend onMany buyers operate large fleets or are large leasing com- answering the difficult question: “What is the potential ofpanies, with both the leverage and the motivation to drive this business?” Exit is indicated when industry structure isdown the price of one of their largest purchases. Most trucks poor or declining and the company has no prospect of a su-are built to regulated standards and offer similar features, so perior positioning. In considering entry into a new industry,price competition is rampant. Capital intensity causes rivalry creative strategists can use the framework to spot an indus-to be fierce, especially during the recurring cyclical down- try with a good future before this good future is reflected inturns. Unions exercise considerable supplier power. Though the prices of acquisition candidates. Five forces analysis maythere are few direct substitutes for an 18-wheeler, truck buy- also reveal industries that are not necessarily attractive forers face important substitutes for their services, such as cargo the average entrant but in which a company has good reasondelivery by rail. to believe it can surmount entry barriers at lower cost than In this setting, Paccar, a Bellevue, Washington–based com- most firms or has a unique ability to cope with the industry’spany with about 20% of the North American heavy-truck competitive forces.market, has chosen to focus on one group of customers: Exploiting industry change. Industry changes bring theowner-operators – drivers who own their trucks and contract opportunity to spot and claim promising new strategic posi-directly with shippers or serve as subcontractors to larger tions if the strategist has a sophisticated understanding oftrucking companies. Such small operators have limited clout the competitive forces and their underpinnings. Consider,as truck buyers. They are also less price sensitive because of for instance, the evolution of the music industry during thetheir strong emotional ties to and economic dependence on past decade. With the advent of the internet and the digitalthe product. They take great pride in their trucks, in which distribution of music, some analysts predicted the birth ofthey spend most of their time. thousands of music labels (that is, record companies that Paccar has invested heavily to develop an array of fea- develop artists and bring their music to market). This, thetures with owner-operators in mind: luxurious sleeper cabins, analysts argued, would break a pattern that had held sinceplush leather seats, noise-insulated cabins, sleek exterior styl- Edison invented the phonograph: Between three and sixing, and so on. At the company’s extensive network of dealers, major record companies had always dominated the industry.prospective buyers use software to select among thousands The internet would, they predicted, remove distribution asof options to put their personal signature on their trucks. a barrier to entry, unleashing a flood of new players into theThese customized trucks are built to order, not to stock, and music industry.delivered in six to eight weeks. Paccar’s trucks also have aero- A careful analysis, however, would have revealed thatdynamic designs that reduce fuel consumption, and they physical distribution was not the crucial barrier to entry.maintain their resale value better than other trucks. Paccar’s Rather, entry was barred by other benefits that large musicroadside assistance program and IT-supported system for dis- labels enjoyed. Large labels could pool the risks of develop-tributing spare parts reduce the time a truck is out of service. ing new artists over many bets, cushioning the impact ofAll these are crucial considerations for an owner-operator. inevitable failures. Even more important, they had advan-Customers pay Paccar a 10% premium, and its Kenworth and tages in breaking through the clutter and getting their newPeterbilt brands are considered status symbols at truck stops. artists heard. To do so, they could promise radio stations and Paccar illustrates the principles of positioning a company record stores access to well-known artists in exchange forwithin a given industry structure. The firm has found a por- promotion of new artists. New labels would find this nearlytion of its industry where the competitive forces are weaker – impossible to match. The major labels stayed the course, andwhere it can avoid buyer power and price-based rivalry. And it new music labels have been rare. hbr.org | January 2008 | Harvard Business Review 89
  13. 13. LEADERSHIP AND STRATEGY | The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy This is not to say that the music industry is structurally share of profits that leak to suppliers, buyers, and substitutesunchanged by digital distribution. Unauthorized download- or are sacrificed to deter entrants.ing created an illegal but potent substitute. The labels tried To neutralize supplier power, for example, a firm can stan-for years to develop technical platforms for digital distribu- dardize specifications for parts to make it easier to switchtion themselves, but major companies hesitated to sell their among suppliers. It can cultivate additional vendors, or altermusic through a platform owned by a rival. Into this vacuum technology to avoid a powerful supplier group altogether. Faced with pressures to gain market share or enamored with innovation for its own sake, managers can spark new kinds of competition that no incumbent can win.stepped Apple with its iTunes music store, launched in 2003 To counter customer power, companies may expand servicesto support its iPod music player. By permitting the creation that raise buyers’ switching costs or find alternative meansof a powerful new gatekeeper, the major labels allowed in- of reaching customers to neutralize powerful channels. Todustry structure to shift against them. The number of major temper profit-eroding price rivalry, companies can investrecord companies has actually declined – from six in 1997 to more heavily in unique products, as pharmaceutical firmsfour today – as companies struggled to cope with the digital have done, or expand support services to customers. To scarephenomenon. off entrants, incumbents can elevate the fixed cost of com- When industry structure is in flux, new and promising peting – for instance, by escalating their R&D or marketingcompetitive positions may appear. Structural changes open expenditures. To limit the threat of substitutes, companiesup new needs and new ways to serve existing needs. Estab- can offer better value through new features or wider productlished leaders may overlook these or be constrained by past accessibility. When soft-drink producers introduced vendingstrategies from pursuing them. Smaller competitors in the machines and convenience store channels, for example, theyindustry can capitalize on such changes, or the void may well dramatically improved the availability of soft drinks relativebe filled by new entrants. to other beverages. Shaping industry structure. When a company exploits Sysco, the largest food-service distributor in North Amer-structural change, it is recognizing, and reacting to, the in- ica, offers a revealing example of how an industry leaderevitable. However, companies also have the ability to shape can change the structure of an industry for the better. Food-industry structure. A firm can lead its industry toward new service distributors purchase food and related items fromways of competing that alter the five forces for the better. farmers and food processors. They then warehouse and de-In reshaping structure, a company wants its competitors liver these items to restaurants, hospitals, employer cafete-to follow so that the entire industry will be transformed. rias, schools, and other food-service institutions. Given lowWhile many industry participants may benefit in the process, barriers to entry, the food-service distribution industry hasthe innovator can benefit most if it can shift competition in historically been highly fragmented, with numerous localdirections where it can excel. competitors. While rivals try to cultivate customer relation- An industry’s structure can be reshaped in two ways: by re- ships, buyers are price sensitive because food represents adividing profitability in favor of incumbents or by expanding large share of their costs. Buyers can also choose the substi-the overall profit pool. Redividing the industry pie aims to tute approaches of purchasing directly from manufacturersincrease the share of profits to industry competitors instead or using retail sources, avoiding distributors altogether. Sup-of to suppliers, buyers, substitutes, and keeping out potential pliers wield bargaining power: They are often large com-entrants. Expanding the profit pool involves increasing the panies with strong brand names that food preparers andoverall pool of economic value generated by the industry in consumers recognize. Average profitability in the industrywhich rivals, buyers, and suppliers can all share. has been modest. Redividing profitability. To capture more profits for indus- Sysco recognized that, given its size and national reach, ittry rivals, the starting point is to determine which force or might change this state of affairs. It led the move to intro-forces are currently constraining industry profitability and duce private-label distributor brands with specifications tai-address them. A company can potentially influence all of the lored to the food-service market, moderating supplier power.competitive forces. The strategist’s goal here is to reduce the Sysco emphasized value-added services to buyers such as90 Harvard Business Review | January 2008 | hbr.org
  14. 14. credit, menu planning, and inventory management to shift provement. Often, it is more in the interests of an industrythe basis of competition away from just price. These moves, leader than any other participant to invest for the commontogether with stepped-up investments in information tech- good because leaders will usually benefit the most. Indeed,nology and regional distribution centers, substantially raised improving the industry may be a leader’s most profitablethe bar for new entrants while making the substitutes less strategic opportunity, in part because attempts to gain fur-attractive. Not surprisingly, the industry has been consolidat- ther market share can trigger strong reactions from rivals,ing, and industry profitability appears to be rising. customers, and even suppliers. Industry leaders have a special responsibility for improv- There is a dark side to shaping industry structure that ising industry structure. Doing so often requires resources that equally important to understand. Ill-advised changes in com-only large players possess. Moreover, an improved industry petitive positioning and operating practices can underminestructure is a public good because it benefits every firm in industry structure. Faced with pressures to gain market sharethe industry, not just the company that initiated the im- or enamored with innovation for its own sake, managers may Defining the The five forces are the basic tool to has a similar structure in every country Relevant Industry resolve these questions. If industry (rivals, buyers, and so on), the pre- Defining the industry in which competi- structure for two products is the same sumption is that competition is global, tion actually takes place is important or very similar (that is, if they have the and the five forces analyzed from a for good industry analysis, not to same buyers, suppliers, barriers to en- global perspective will set average mention for developing strategy and try, and so forth), then the products are profitability. A single global strategy is setting business unit boundaries. Many best treated as being part of the same needed. If an industry has quite differ- strategy errors emanate from mistak- industry. If industry structure differs ent structures in different geographic ing the relevant industry, defining it too markedly, however, the two products regions, however, each region may broadly or too narrowly. Defining the may be best understood as separate well be a distinct industry. Otherwise, industry too broadly obscures differ- industries. competition would have leveled the dif- ences among products, customers, or In lubricants, the oil used in cars is ferences. The five forces analyzed for geographic regions that are important similar or even identical to the oil used each region will set profitability there. to competition, strategic positioning, in trucks, but the similarity largely ends The extent of differences in the five and profitability. Defining the industry there. Automotive motor oil is sold to forces for related products or across too narrowly overlooks commonalities fragmented, generally unsophisticated geographic areas is a matter of degree, and linkages across related products or customers through numerous and of- making industry definition often a mat- geographic markets that are crucial to ten powerful channels, using extensive ter of judgment. A rule of thumb is that competitive advantage. Also, strate- advertising. Products are packaged in where the differences in any one force gists must be sensitive to the possibil- small containers and logistical costs are are large, and where the differences ity that industry boundaries can shift. high, necessitating local production. involve more than one force, distinct The boundaries of an industry con- Truck and power generation lubricants industries may well be present. sist of two primary dimensions. First is are sold to entirely different buyers in Fortunately, however, even if indus- the scope of products or services. For entirely different ways using a separate try boundaries are drawn incorrectly, example, is motor oil used in cars part supply chain. Industry structure (buyer careful five forces analysis should of the same industry as motor oil used power, barriers to entry, and so forth) reveal important competitive threats. in heavy trucks and stationary engines, is substantially different. Automotive A closely related product omitted from or are these different industries? The oil is thus a distinct industry from oil the industry definition will show up as a second dimension is geographic scope. for truck and stationary engine uses. substitute, for example, or competitors Most industries are present in many Industry profitability will differ in these overlooked as rivals will be recognized parts of the world. However, is com- two cases, and a lubricant company as potential entrants. At the same petition contained within each state, will need a separate strategy for com- time, the five forces analysis should or is it national? Does competition take peting in each area. reveal major differences within overly place within regions such as Europe Differences in the five competi- broad industries that will indicate the or North America, or is there a single tive forces also reveal the geographic need to adjust industry boundaries or global industry? scope of competition. If an industry strategies. hbr.org | January 2008 | Harvard Business Review 91
  15. 15. LEADERSHIP AND STRATEGY | The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy trigger new kinds of competition that no incumbent can win. When taking actions to improve their own company’s com- Typical Steps in Industry Analysis petitive advantage, then, strategists should ask whether they are setting in motion dynamics that will undermine industry Define the relevant industry: ■ What products are in it? Which ones are part of structure in the long run. In the early days of the personal computer industry, for instance, IBM tried to make up for another distinct industry? ■ What is the geographic scope of competition? its late entry by offering an open architecture that would set industry standards and attract complementary makers Identify the participants and segment them into of application software and peripherals. In the process, it groups, if appropriate: ceded ownership of the critical components of the PC – the Who are operating system and the microprocessor – to Microsoft and ■ the buyers and buyer groups? Intel. By standardizing PCs, it encouraged price-based rivalry ■ the suppliers and supplier groups? and shifted power to suppliers. Consequently, IBM became ■ the competitors? the temporarily dominant firm in an industry with an endur- ■ the substitutes? ingly unattractive structure. ■ the potential entrants? Expanding the profit pool. When overall demand grows, the industry’s quality level rises, intrinsic costs are reduced, Assess the underlying drivers of each competitive or waste is eliminated, the pie expands. The total pool of force to determine which forces are strong and which value available to competitors, suppliers, and buyers grows. are weak and why. The total profit pool expands, for example, when channels Determine overall industry structure, and test the become more competitive or when an industry discovers analysis for consistency: latent buyers for its product that are not currently being ■ Why is the level of profi tability what it is? served. When soft-drink producers rationalized their inde- ■ Which are the controlling forces for profi tability? pendent bottler networks to make them more efficient and ■ Is the industry analysis consistent with actual effective, both the soft-drink companies and the bottlers long-run profitability? benefited. Overall value can also expand when firms work ■ Are more-profi table players better positioned in collaboratively with suppliers to improve coordination and relation to the five forces? limit unnecessary costs incurred in the supply chain. This lowers the inherent cost structure of the industry, allowing Analyze recent and likely future changes in each higher profit, greater demand through lower prices, or both. force, both positive and negative. Or, agreeing on quality standards can bring up industrywide Identify aspects of industry structure that might be quality and service levels, and hence prices, benefiting rivals, influenced by competitors, by new entrants, or by suppliers, and customers. your company. Expanding the overall profit pool creates win-win oppor- tunities for multiple industry participants. It can also reduce the risk of destructive rivalry that arises when incumbents Common Pitfalls attempt to shift bargaining power or capture more mar- ket share. However, expanding the pie does not reduce the In conducting the analysis avoid the following com- importance of industry structure. How the expanded pie mon mistakes: ■ Defining the industry too broadly or too narrowly. is divided will ultimately be determined by the five forces. ■ Making lists instead of engaging in rigorous The most successful companies are those that expand the industry profit pool in ways that allow them to share dispro- analysis. ■ Paying equal attention to all of the forces rather than portionately in the benefits. Defining the industry. The five competitive forces also digging deeply into the most important ones. ■ Confusing effect (price sensitivity) with cause hold the key to defining the relevant industry (or industries) in which a company competes. Drawing industry boundaries (buyer economics). ■ Using static analysis that ignores industry trends. correctly, around the arena in which competition actually ■ Confusing cyclical or transient changes with true takes place, will clarify the causes of profitability and the ap- propriate unit for setting strategy. A company needs a sepa- structural changes. ■ Using the framework to declare an industry attractive rate strategy for each distinct industry. Mistakes in industry definition made by competitors present opportunities for or unattractive rather than using it to guide strategic staking out superior strategic positions. (See the sidebar choices.“Defining the Relevant Industry.”)92 Harvard Business Review | January 2008 | hbr.org
  16. 16. Competition and Value investment success than the financial projections and trend The competitive forces reveal the drivers of industry compe- extrapolation that dominate today’s investment analysis. tition. A company strategist who understands that competi- If both executives and investors looked at competition tion extends well beyond existing rivals will detect wider this way, capital markets would be a far more effective force competitive threats and be better equipped to address them. for company success and economic prosperity. Executives At the same time, thinking comprehensively about an in- and investors would both be focused on the same funda- dustry’s structure can uncover opportunities: differences in mentals that drive sustained profitability. The conversation customers, suppliers, substitutes, potential entrants, and ri- between investors and executives would focus on the struc- vals that can become the basis for distinct strategies yielding tural, not the transient. Imagine the improvement in com- superior performance. In a world of more open competition pany performance – and in the economy as a whole – if all and relentless change, it is more important than ever to the energy expended in “pleasing the Street” were redirected think structurally about competition. toward the factors that create true economic value. Understanding industry structure is equally important for investors as for managers. The five competitive forces 1. For a discussion of the value chain framework, see Michael E. Porter, Com- petitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance (The Free reveal whether an industry is truly attractive, and they help Press, 1998). investors anticipate positive or negative shifts in industry 2. For a discussion of how internet technology improves the attractiveness of structure before they are obvious. The five forces distinguish some industries while eroding the profitability of others, see Michael E. Porter, “Strategy and the Internet” (HBR, March 2001). short-term blips from structural changes and allow investors 3. See, for instance, Adam M. Brandenburger and Barry J. Nalebuff, Co-opetition to take advantage of undue pessimism or optimism. Those (Currency Doubleday, 1996). companies whose strategies have industry-transforming potential become far clearer. This deeper thinking about Reprint R0801E competition is a more powerful way to achieve genuine To order, see page 139.P.C. Vey “Do you have to barge into my office every day and talk about work?” hbr.org | January 2008 | Harvard Business Review 93