Do you have an employee with an ambiguous job title? Think of someone who has been with the company for countless years and does a great job, even if you are unsure of what they do. Now imagine losing that employee.
Many companies exist in this kind of limbo-stage, where they are highly reliant on a specific employee, but don’t fully understand their entire job purpose until the employee retires or moves on. As an employer, it is critical that you identify the qualities and tasks put on these employees before you lose them. Continue reading “3 Tips for Preserving Company Knowledge”
Since the beginning of the 21st century, former presidential candidate and vice president Al Gore travelled the world raising awareness about the effects of global warming. In 2006, his world famous movie “An Inconvenient Truth” hit the movie theatres and people from all over the world flocked to the movie theatres to watchthis movie. It showed how the polar ice cap is melting away and demonstrated very real evidence of what will happen if the ice cap disappears completely. Al Gore’s documentary explains that one of the results of the melted polar ice cap is that all of the freshwater willrun into the sea and slow the Gulf Stream down. The worst-case scenario is that the Gulf Stream will eventually stop flowing. The effects on the northern European climate will be catastrophic as the Gulf Stream is responsible for the summers in northern Europe, and without it there is a very real possibility that the warm summer weather will disappear. Continue reading “The art of saving our planet”
All industries are covered by legislature governing their operational responsibilities. These responsibilities may include anything from finances and employee rights, to health and safety or manufacturing guidelines. The very nature of regulatory responsibilities means that they are, for the most part, governed by law. Therefore, not adhering to them could spell disaster for your company and your employees, not to mention any third parties involved in whichever regulated procedure is being neglected. Continue reading “Is Your Business Meeting Its Regulatory Responsibilities?”
Strategic management literature has established multiple popular frameworks which are used by decision makers to develop a roadmap for business strategy. Some of the popular frameworks for business strategy are Porter’s 5 forces model, BCG / GE McKinsey Matrix, PEST analysis and the Ansoff Matrix. However, all these frameworks focus on factors which are external to the firm. In this article, however, we focus on the frameworks which are a mix of the external view of the macro-environment and the internal view of the strengths and weaknesses existing within the firm, namely the Industry Structure view, the Resource based view and the Relational view of the firm.
The Industrial Structure view is somewhat more macro-industry focused. It postulates that firms operate in an environment of competitive forces of rivalry and forces involving barrier of entry (even exit). In general industry structure refers to the distribution of firms in an industry. The existence of a large number of firms in an industry both reduces and increases opportunities for coordination among firms in the industry. Depending on the degree of consolidation or fragmentation in the industry, the macro-economical dynamics affect the firm’s competency in how it deals with the forces of competition.
In contrast, the Resource based view is somewhat more internal focused. It stresses that the competitive advantage of a firm lies primarily in the application of the bundle of valuable resources at the firm’s disposal. To transform a short-run of competitive advantage for a firm to a sustained competitive advantage is like winning both the battle and the war. It requires creation of resources which are heterogeneous in nature and not perfectly mobile across competing firms. This again translates into the fact that the value of these resources arise from the criticality that they are neither perfectly imitable nor substitutable without great effort.
Similarly, the Relational view is a theory for considering networks and dyads of firms interlinked within the daily intercourse of business transactions, as the unit of analysis to study and frame strategies for sustainable competitive advantage. The relational view argues that idiosyncratic inter-organizational linkages are the sources of competitive advantage, whereby relationships play a major role in development and exploitation of competencies in an industry that is traditionally highly competitive.
In the next diagram, a comparative analysis of these important theories has been presented., which present how these theories are not only different, but also complement each other by taking a different lens to view the competitive landscape for a strategic decision maker.
Do let us know, if you have any query regarding more details on this article. We value the feedback from our readers very highly.
The Balanced Scorecard (BSC) is a framework for strategic management, used to monitor and align performance of an organization or a division of the same. It is a semi-standard yet more or less structured report, supported by some established design methods and tools, that can be used by management executives to keep track of the execution of plans / assignments by the staff within their control and to evaluate the possible consequences arising from the execution of these plans. Introduced by Robert Kaplan (Harvard Business School) and popularized by Bain & Company, the Balanced Scorecard has become one of the most popular frameworks for project monitoring and management and align the same to the vision and mission of the organization, be it an industrial, government, or nonprofit organization.
Ref: Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, “Using the Balanced Scorecard as a Strategic Management System”, 1996, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 76.
There are 4 major process that needs to be balanced in BSC:
The Learning & Growth process
The Business process
The Customer process
The Financial process
The learning and growth process involves all the plans and programs an organization or a department is undertaking in terms of training and development related to both individual and corporate self-improvement. It extends the concept that in a knowledge based organization,people or the human resource is the most critical resource to organizational development. This section posits the use of metrics to evaluate performance, progress and development of the human resources of an organization.
The Business Process takes into consideration to develop metrics to measure the performance of the internal processes of an organization. It helps to map development in process efficiencies with incremental changes in internal processes. Process management metrics and workflow management metrics are used in this process to evaluate performance vis-a-vis improvements. Incremental improvements the the processes in terms of meeting targets (say process efficiencies) are measured and how the implementation of plans to meet such targets were conducted, is scrutinized in this process.
The customer process takes into account the philosophy of customer orientation in an organization. In current times, there has been an increasing realization of the importance of customer focus and customer satisfaction in any business. The focus in this process is predominantly Customer Lifetime Value management and in the next stage, harness the Customer’s network value. Incremental improvements in each objectives in terms of meeting targets is measured and how the implementation to meet such targets were planned, is scrutinized in this process.
The financial process is another crucial dimension in the BSC. Although managers using the BSC do not have to rely solely on short-term financial measures as the most important indicators of the division’s performance, financial measures are none the less, extremely relevant and are often recognized as the most critical process by many practitioners. Measures such as financial ratios, total revenue from sales, total cost, cost structure improvements, and indirect sources of revenue are scrutinized against their targets, in this process.
These processes are mapped against each other to check how the organizational vision and mission are being adhered to within a division while implementing ploys and strategies. These help in providing a way to construct a concrete step-by-step path of development for the executives of a division or of an organization.
However, the limitation of the Balanced Scorecard is that it has been severely criticized by scholars for its inability to link a company’s long-term strategy with its short-term ploy. It has become overused in many organizations, sometime not in the most desirable way, as it was conceived when developed.
PEST analysis stands for “Political, Economic, Social, and Technological analysis“. It is a framework for Strategic analysis of markets to evaluate macro-environmental factors used in the environmental scanning component. Some analysts add the Legal factors to the analysis.
Thus when the PEST analysis is expanded to incorporate legal and environmental factors; this is called a PESTLE analysis or a PESTEL analysis.
Political factors pertain to how the government intervenes in the economic functioning of the country (market) and more specifically how it affects the firm strategic decision making. Political factors such as tariffs, tax policy, labor laws, trade restrictions,environmental law, and political stability. Political stability is a major factor which affect the firm’s strategic decision making and overall legal framework.
Economic factors consists of interest rates, government bond rates, risk free rate of interest, economic growth, inflation rate (adjusted) and exchange rates. These factors have major impacts on how a firm can operate in a market. Inflation rate and potential GDP affect the demand and prices of goods.
Social factors include the cultural dimensions of the population in which the firm will operate and include gender consciousness, gender based product/service bias, population growth rate, age spread, health consciousness, career attitudes and risk appetite of the target segment.
Technological factors consists of factors such as research and development focus in general industries, intellectual property protection laws, technology adoption rates, change assimilation culture, automation and the rate of technological change. They affect entry barriers, technology enabled products and service assimilation, product prices, quality, and innovation.
Environmental factors consists of factors like ecological and environmental aspects such as forestry and climatic conditions which may especially affect industries such as tourism, farming, and insurance.
Legal factors focus on discrimination laws, intellectual property protection laws, labor laws, consumer laws, antitrust laws, employment laws, health laws, safety laws and social security laws which can affect how a firm operates, its bottom-line (cost structure) and the demand and distribution for its products and services.
The PEST framework has been recognized as an extremely popular framework for market analysis. It is a part of the external analysis conducted while demonstrating an in-depth strategic analysis during new market entry or doing market research for a new product launch or even sometimes during a product extension, and gives an overview of the different macroenvironmental factors that the company has to take into consideration. It is a useful theoretical tool for estimating market growth or decline, business position, potential and direction for operations.
It is an important complementary extension of the Marketing Mix strategies and often it is used as an alternative analytical tool for Porter’s 5 forces model (although not appropriate for the same).
To create sustainable, long-term value for all the stakeholders of a firm, it is important to explicitly establish an appropriate stakeholder value target. However what would constitute the “success” condition for all the stakeholders of a firm would vary from the goals of individual stakeholder. For an investor in a firm, value may be seen as through higher market price of his stocks and bonds, where as, for a mid level worker, value may mean better returns in terms of satisfaction from the job, maybe in terms of pay grade improvements or in terms of job satisfaction. Although, what constitutes “value creation” may be dependent on stakeholder perception, for a generic strategic framework, there is a need to conceptualize a generic framework to achieve a target so the value may be created for the firm as a whole, in strict strategic sense.
The key to reach this target and achieve a sustainable competitive advantage is the alignment of business strategy, financial strategy, technology strategy, marketing strategy and investor strategies. One such model developed in strategic management literature is that of Strategy Maps.
In Strategic Maps framework, value is created through 3 main organizational resources, namely Human Capital, Information capital and Organization Capital.
As depicted in this model, value for a firm is essentially created through the interaction of four processes, namely, “Operations management processes“, “Customer relationship management processes“, “Innovation processes” and “Regulatory and Social processes“. Under each process, there are lots of transaction level processes which create value. Monitoring and strategizing on the value creation of transaction level processes is the functionality of Mid Level management in the organization which may be termed as “Ploy for Value Creation“. Focus here could be “Ploys” for improving cost structure or improving asset utilization within the firm. The objective at this level is to focus on productivity enhancing strategies.
For the executive senior management, strategy formulation for the purpose of “Value creation” would have a different focus. Their objective could be to expand the revenue opportunities through entering a new market , decide a growth strategy for a product or market, or focus on Business Diversification strategies. In short, the role of the executives would be to evaluate various growth strategies for the firm, which could lead to huge revenues and thus economic value creation in the near future, upon realization of the plan post implementation of the strategy.
There are many other strategic frameworks for the creation of value for businesses which have their individual merits and limitations. Another popular framework for value creation is that of Prahlad et al. (2004)
An international market entry strategy is defined as the planning and implementation of delivering goods or services to a new target international market. It often requires establishing and further managing contracts in a new foreign country. Few firms successfully operate their business in a niche market without ever planning to expand into new markets (mostly due to the localized nature of their Business) but most firms strive to expand through increased sales, brand awareness and business stability by entering a new market. Developing a win-win market entry strategy involves a thorough analysis of multiple factors, in a planned sequential manner.
There are 2 basic Strategic Frameworks for Market Entry Strategies which are all dependent on Product type and the Product Lifecycle.
These frameworks have been developed built upon the theories of Innovation Diffusion Models in monopoly and a competitive Game Theory frameworks based on theories of Business Economics.
The Waterfall Strategy
In a Waterfall strategy, the business is spread in international markets sequentially. First a firm enters a new market and establishes an identity in the same. Establishing an identity involves estimation of potential market size and revenue patterns, identification of target segment, creation of brand awareness, identification and creation of possible distribution channels and finally formulation and implementation of sales strategy. All these strategies at individual stage is dependent on the product type and the life cycle.
Once the product identity is established in the new market, the learning from the same is utilized to expand into another new market, somewhat with similar structure, sequentially. Learning is an iterative process in such a strategy formulation and it is a less risky process of expansion of business.
Typically, products with a longer product life-cycle or in the maturity phase would follow a Waterfall Strategy, for expansion into new markets.
The Sprinkler Strategy
Markets are approached simultaneously in the sprinkler strategy. While this is a more risky strategic framework for entering new markets, typically it is more suitable for products with a shorter life cycle (like Technology products) or are at the Introduction and Growth Stage of the Product Life Cycle. In such a strategic framework, markets are entered simultaneously and often a Skimming Product Pricing strategy is used to generate as much profits as possible from sales. Experiences from market responses are limited to individual markets and the same are not replicated in the other markets.
While there is a third Strategic Framework (Namely the Wave Strategy ), it is much less popular for its limitations.
The Ansoff Growth matrix is a tool that helps firms decide their product and market growth strategy based on objective analysis of industry structure and product type. It is one of the more popular tools for strategic management analysis, in the scenario of deciding the case for a related diversification of businesses and firms, which itself is a highly risky strategic decision. Continue reading “Ansoff Matrix”
Porter’s 5 forces model is one of the most recognized framework for the analysis of business strategy. Porter, the guru of modern day business strategy, used theoretical frameworks derived from Industrial Organization (IO) economics to derive five forces which determine the competitive intensity and therefore attractiveness of a market. This theoretical framework, based on 5 forces, describes the attributes of an attractive industry and thus suggests when opportunities will be greater, and threats less, in these of industries.
Attractiveness in this context refers to the overall industry profitability and also reflects upon the profitability of the firm under analysis. An “unattractive” industry is one where the combination of forces acts to drive down overall profitability. A very unattractive industry would be one approaching “pure competition”, from the perspective of pure industrial economics theory. It is important to note that this framework is not for the analysis of individual firms but for the analysis of the industry.
This model comprises of an analysis dependent on 4 entities external to the firm and the fifth force: the Industry structure. These forces are defined as follows:
The threat of the entry of new competitors: This encompasses the challenges surrounding if new competitors were to enter the same industry, how would the profitability be affected? This is measured by the indicators which are detailed subsequently and is a proxy measure for the degree of attractiveness of the industry. Factors couls be issues surrounding economies of scale, proprietory product differences, brand identity, switching costs for the customers, capital intensive nature of the industry, access to distribution channels, absolute cost advantages, government policy surrounding new entrants and potential retaliation or fallouts. Higher is the threats of entry of new competitors, lower is the industry attractiveness.
The intensity of competitive rivalry: This is captured by a number of metrics like the growth rate of the industry, the ratio of cost structure to the value added, cost of over-capacity, degree of output differences among competitors, impact of brand and its conversion to sales, switching costs, concentration among the leading players (Herfindal Index), Information flow and complexity, diversity of competing businesses and exit barriers. Higher is the intensity, lower is the industry attractiveness.
The threat of substitute products or services: This is captured to understand to what extent there is a possibility of the industry’s product or services being substituted by some other category of products or services. Factors which predominantly matter in this force are the relative price advantage of the substitutes, relative functional performance advantage of the substitute, switching costs of the customer for moving to the substitute and the customer’s propensity to substitute.
The bargaining power of customers / buyers: This force tries to estimate the degree of bargaining of post-facto relationships that may be empowered due to the dynamics of the relationship. This could be captured through some metrics like the buyer’s concentration as compared to the Industry’s concentration, customer’s volume vs industry output, customer’s switching cost, price sensitivity, degree of product differences, buyer’s profits and decision maker’s incentives. Higher is the bargaining power of the customer, lower is the industry attractiveness.
The bargaining power of suppliers: This force tries to explore the impact of the bargaining power of the industry’s suppliers and how much they can force the industry to share the benefits of value creation through this bargaining power. Factors are covered in terms of differentiation of inputs, switching cost of the suppliers, relationship specific investments required, presence of substitute inputs, supplier’s industry concentration, importance of volume to the suppliers, cost relative to the total purchases in the industry, impact of supplier’s inputs to overall cost structure or differentiation, threats of forward integration, and potential for backward integration. Higher is the bargaining power of the suppliers, lower is the industry attractiveness.
A detailed explanation of what these forces comprise of is provided in the diagrammatic representation of these 5 forces next.
The 5 forces model has been developed as a response to the SWOT analysis of competitiveness of firms, and has continued to remain the most popular framework in business strategy.
The individual dimensions of the 5 forces has been described in details in the diagrammatic representation of the five forces model. The individual scores on theses dimensions may be mapped to a 7 point Likert Scale. Likert scale basically is an ordered, one-dimensional scale from which respondents choose one option that best aligns with their view.The linguistic values for the same would be Very Strongly agree, Strongly agree, Tend to agree, Neither agree nor disagree, Tend to disagree, Strongly disagree and Very strongly disagree.
These responses on the Likert Scale can then mapped quantitatively to -3 to +3 on the extreme points. The mean of the score can be reconverted in the linguistic variables on the Likert Scale and then expressed as whether the particular force is Very Strong, Strong, Slightly strong, Neither strong nor weak, Slightly weak, Weak, Very Weak.
“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage” ~ Jack Welch
Today, the firms operate in an even more competitive industry dictated by an ever unparalleled dynamism. Jack Welch never said anything more meaningful. In current times, when change is the only thing that is constant, a firm’s ability to learn, and more importantly “unlearn and then relearn” creates the most important distinguishing factor for sustainable competitive advantage.
Michael Porter’s framework for competitive advantage probably explains few of the focus issues firms may keep in mind while formulating strategies at the top level.
However, this is the way to achieve sustainable competitive advantage and a firm’s top executive needs to understand the core to his firm, based on which he can take this call. However, due to the dynamism of the industry structure, he needs to continually analyze and re-evaluate his strategies, based on the core.
A firm probably has multiple dimensions of personality traits, talents, resources and skills, and hundreds of other characteristics, but what is it that when all the others are surgically removed distinguishes the character of the firm at the very core? This is essentially the key which needs to be leveraged successfully and innovated upon continually to attain that otherwise illusive competitive advantage.
So how does one recognize one’s core?
One may argue that achieving “customer loyalty” may be a step towards achieving a sustainable competitive advantage. It’s not a secret that loyal customers are good for an organization or brand. You don’t see too many executives saying they don’t want more of them. But in spite of that what intrigues me is how few companies truly acknowledge, take care of and leverage those loyal customers in a way that measurably accelerates market share and recurring revenue while mitigating competitive risk and reducing sales & marketing costs. But in spite of “customers” being a crucial focal point for business, it is required to recognize that in current times, the very nature of business is evolving. With the very definition of a firm’s role in an industry or even the definition of the industry under such a strict evolution, it is crucial to note that the very target customers are deemed to change in this dynamic market structure. So identifying and acquiring new customers, in spite of the spiraling costs of new customer acquisitions, may play a key role for sustenance.
Thus a firm’s source of resources for the “Ultimate Competitive Advantage” is much more than the sources of revenue. Smaller firms whose ability to learn and “unlearn and then relearn”have reaped the benefits in the past. The problem started after they grew to a certain size where they couldn’t stay so nimble on their feet, and faced competition from other firms, who were more adaptive to the dynamic industry structure.
Sometimes, one tends to think that probably a firm’s organization structure and the culture is the inherent and most important source of competitive advantage. But how can a firm leverage that to quantifiable profits since at the end of the day, business decisions are based on ROI figures and financial achievements. This is probably where a firm needs to rediscover itself.
Business Models are crucial for the success of an enterprise or even a startup. So what do you need to focus on while building up your business from scratch? A Business model or a Business Plan (B-Plan) helps you to plan this properly.
What are the firm’s core capabilities?
How does the firm deliver value to its clients? How does the network with its partners/collaborators (value chain) add to its core competencies. How does the value chain model collaborate with the firms current strategies?
What is the cost structure in the business vis-a-vis that of the firm?
How is the value proposition unique and sustainable in the long run?
How does the firm manage its distribution channels and relationships / liasons with the customers?
How is the targeted customer contacted, acquired and retained?
What are the sources of revenue and the structure of the same?
How does the vision/mission statement adhere with what the firm is doing now and what it is planning to do in the future.