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LECTURE NOTES-applied economics

By: Pebles Ann Ecevedo
Chapter 3
Most firms face external environments that are highly turbulent, complex, and global - conditions that make
interpreting them increasingly difficult. To cope with what are often ambiguous and incomplete environmental
data and to increase their understanding of the general environment, firms engage in a process called external
environmental analysis. Those analysing the external environment should understand that completing this
analysis is a difficult, yet significant, activity. In performing an analysis of your organisations environment, the
following tools and techniques will be essential:
key success factors.
five forces analysis.
four Links model.
PESTLE analysis.
scenario building.
Prescriptive v. Emergent debate
Despite uncertainties, the environment can usefully be predicted for many markets. Others argue that the
environment maybe turbulent and therefore, predications may be inaccurate and therefore serve no useful
Regardless of the corporate strategy, the environment will always possess an element of uncertainty. New
strategies have to be undertaken against a backdrop that cannot be guaranteed and this difficulty must be
addressed as corporate strategies are developed.
Range of Influences
In theory, every element of an organisation’s environment may influence corporate strategy. This makes it
difficult for individuals and organisations to manage every item. A solution to this is to identify the factors for
success in the industry and then to direct the environmental analysis towards these factors.
When analysing the environment, it is also important to draw a distinction between two types of results from
the analysis:
proactive outcomes: the environmental analysis will identify positive opportunities or negative threats.
Proactive strategies will then be developed to explore and cope with the situation.
reactive outcomes: environmental analyses will highlight important strategic changes over which the
organisation has no control but to which, if they occur, it will need to be able to react.
An important objective of studying the general environment is identifying opportunities and threats. An
opportunity is a condition in the general environment that if exploited, helps a company achieve strategic
competitiveness. The fact that 1 billion of the world’s total population of 6 billion has cheap access to a
telephone is a huge opportunity for global telecommunications companies. And General Electric believes that
“e-business represents a revolution that may be the greatest opportunity for growth that the Company has
ever seen. (Pearce & Robinson, 2004)
A threat is a condition in the general environment that may hinder a company’s efforts to achieve strategic
competitiveness. The once revered firm Polaroid can attest to the seriousness of external threats. Polaroid was
a leader in its industry and considered one of the top 50 firms in the United States, but filed for bankruptcy in
2001. When its competitors developed photographic equipment using digital technology, Polaroid was
unprepared and never responded effectively. Mired in substantial debt, Polaroid was unable to reduce its costs
to acceptable levels and eventually had to declare bankruptcy. (Pearce & Robinson, 2004)
1) Why is it a necessity in strategic terms for an organisation to analyse its environment?
The industry context is made up from:
 customers or buyers - who purchase goods or services from your organisation.
 suppliers - who supply services or products to your organisation.
 competitors - those who are competing to win your customers.
Therefore it is in an organisations best interest not to lose sight of the importance of customers when
searching for competitive advantages for your organisation. One way of linking customers to your
organisation is by analysing key success factors.
In economics, "competition" is the rivalry among sellers trying to achieve such goals as increasing profits,
market share, and sales volume by varying the elements of the marketing mix: price, product,
distribution, and promotion.
A customer is an individual or business that purchases the goods or services produced by a business.
Attracting customers is the primary goal of most public-facing businesses, because it is
the customer who creates demand for goods and services.
A supplier, also called a vendor, is a person or company that provides goods and/or services to other
companies as one of the contributors to the development process on the way to the ultimate customer.
Substitute goods are goods which, as a result of changed conditions, may replace each other in use (or
consumption). A substitute good, in contrast to a complementary good, is a good with a positive cross
elasticity of demand.
Key success factors (KSFs) or critical success factors as they are sometimes known are the resources, skills and
attributes of the organisations in the industry that are essential to deliver success in the market place. As Daft,
2005 reveals, success often means profitability. KSF for organisations are common within industries and do not
differentiate between companies. An example is the steel industry where common KSF include:
 general wage levels in the country.
 government regulations and attitudes to worker redundancy, because high wage costs can be reduced
by sacking employees.
 trade union strength to fight labour force redundancies.
KSF do however differentiate between industries and that is why it is important to identify them for particular
industries. KSFs can be used to assess the ‘health of the business’; the indicators of success or failure. By
comparing your organisation’s KSFs with those of your main competitors you can identify possible relative
strengths and weaknesses which may indicate areas for improvement. Many organisations have already
identified a few key success factors. Some of the main areas for KSFs are as follows:
 business performance, e.g. fast, efficient service, customer perception.
 quality, e.g. reliability of product or service, warranty claims.
 product or service features, e.g. cost-effectiveness, reliability, value for money.
 marketing, e.g. market share, image, brand names, pricing.
 operational effectiveness, e.g. process technology, efficiency, information systems.
 technology and development, e.g. technical leadership, new products and processes.
 people, e.g. levels of achievement and skills.
An industry analysis involves looking at the forces influencing the organisation. The objective of such a study is
to develop the competitive advantage of the organisation and enable it to defeat its rival companies. Porter’s 5
Forces identifies five basic forces that can act on the organisation: 1) the bargaining power of suppliers.
2) the bargaining power of buyers.
3) the threat of potential new entrants.
4) the threat of substitutes.
5) the extent of industry competitors.
The objective of this analysis is to investigate how the organisation needs to form its strategy in order to develop
opportunities in its environment and protect itself against competition and other threats. It revolves around the
forces driving industry competition. These general principles can also be applied to Non Profitable Organisations
where they compete for resources such as government funding and charitable donations.
Porter identifies five forces that shape the level of competition and underlying profit opportunities within an
industry. These forces are shown in the diagram below. By analysing these five forces managers can identify the
factors in their industry which make it more or less difficult to achieve a competitive advantage. They are then
in a much better position to develop successful strategies. We will look at these forces in turn.
Bargaining Power Of Suppliers
The term ‚suppliers‘ comprises all sources for inputs that are needed in order to provide goods or services.
Supplier bargaining power is likely to be high when:
 the market is dominated by a few large suppliers rather than a fragmented source of supply.
 there are no substitutes for the particular input.
 the suppliers customers are fragmented, so their bargaining power is low.
 the switching costs from one supplier to another are high.
 there is the possibility of the supplier integrating forwards in order to obtain higher prices and margins.
This threat is especially high when:
 the buying industry has a higher profitability than the supplying industry.
 forward integration provides economies of scale for the supplier.
 the buying industry hinders the supplying industry in their development (e.g. reluctance to accept new
releases of products).
 the buying industry has low barriers to entry.
Bargaining Power Of Customers
Similarly, the bargaining power of customers determines how much customers can impose pressure on margins
and volumes. Customers bargaining power is likely to be high when:
 they buy large volumes, there is a concentration of buyers.
 the supplying industry comprises a large number of small operators.
 the supplying industry operates with high fixed costs.
the product is undifferentiated and can be replaces by substitutes.
switching to an alternative product is relatively simple and is not related to high costs.
customers have low margins and are price-sensitive.
customers could produce the product themselves.
the product is not of strategical importance for the customer.
the customer knows about the production costs of the product.
there is the possibility for the customer integrating backwards.
Threat Of New Entrants
The competition in an industry will be the higher, the easier it is for other companies to enter this industry. In
such a situation, new entrants could change major determinants of the market environment (e.g. market
shares, prices, customer loyalty) at any time. There is always a latent pressure for reaction and adjustment for
existing players in this industry. The threat of new entries will depend on the extent to which there are barriers
to entry. These are typically:
economies of scale (minimum size requirements for profitable operations).
 high initial investments and fixed costs.
 cost advantages of existing players due to experience curve effects of operation with fully depreciated
 brand loyalty of customers.
 protected intellectual property like patents, licenses etc.
 scarcity of important resources, e.g. qualified expert staff.
 access to raw materials is controlled by existing players.
 distribution channels are controlled by existing players.
 existing players have close customer relations, e.g. from long-term service contracts.
 high switching costs for customers.
 legislation and government action.
Threat Of Substitutes
A threat from substitutes exists if there are alternative products with lower prices of better performance
parameters for the same purpose. They could potentially attract a significant proportion of market volume and
hence reduce the potential sales volume for existing players. This category also relates to complementary
products. Similarly to the threat of new entrants, the treat of substitutes is determined by factors like:
 brand loyalty of customers.
 close customer relationships.
 switching costs for customers.
 the relative price for performance of substitutes.
 current trends.
Competitive Rivalry Between Existing Players
This force describes the intensity of competition between existing players (companies) in an industry. High
competitive pressure results in pressure on prices, margins, and hence, on profitability for every single company
in the industry. Competition between existing players is likely to be high when:
 there are many players of about the same size.
 players have similar strategies.
 there is not much differentiation between players and their products, hence, there is much price
 low market growth rates (growth of a particular company is possible only at the expense of a
 barriers for exit are high (e.g. expensive and highly specialised equipment).
Use Of The Information Form Five Forces Analysis
Five forces analysis can provide valuable information for three aspects of corporate planning. (Recklies, 2006)
1) Statical Analysis
The Five Forces Analysis allows determining the attractiveness of an industry. It provides insights on profitability.
Thus, it supports decisions about entry to or exit from and industry or a market segment. Moreover, the model
can be used to compare the impact of competitive forces on the own organisation with their impact on
competitors. Competitors may have different options to react to changes in competitive forces from their
different resources and competences. This may influence the structure of the whole industry.
2) Dynamical Analysis
In combination with a PESTLE-Analysis, which reveals drivers for change in an industry, Five Forces Analysis can
reveal insights about the potential future attractiveness of the industry. Expected political, economical, sociodemographical and technological changes can influence the five competitive forces and thus have impact on
industry structures. Useful tools to determine potential changes of competitive forces are scenarios.
3) Analysis of Options
With the knowledge about intensity and power of competitive forces, organisations can develop options to
influence them in a way that improves their own competitive position. The result could be a new strategic
direction, e.g. a new positioning, differentiation for competitive products of strategic partnerships.
Thus, Porters model of Five Competitive Forces allows a systematic and structured analysis of market structure
and competitive situation. The model can be applied to particular companies, market segments, industries or
regions. Therefore, it is necessary to determine the scope of the market to be analysed in a first step. Following,
all relevant forces for this market are identified and analysed. Hence, it is not necessary to analyse all elements
of all competitive forces with the same depth. The Five Forces Model is based on microeconomics. It takes into
account supply and demand, complementary products and substitutes, the relationship between volume of
production and cost of production, and market structures like monopoly, oligopoly or perfect competition.
(Hitt & Ireland, 2003)