The Limitations of Five Forces Analysis
Five forces analysis is useful, but it has some limitations too. The description of five forces analysis provided by its creator, Michael Porter, seems to assume that competition is a zero-sum game, meaning that the amount of profit potential in an industry is fixed. One implication is that, if a firm is to make more profit, it must take that profit from a rival, a supplier, or a buyer. In some settings, however, collaboration can create a larger pool of profit that benefits everyone involved in the collaboration. In general, collaboration is a possibility that five forces analysis tends to downplay. The relationships among the rivals in an industry, for example, are depicted as adversarial. In reality, these relationships are sometimes adversarial and sometimes collaborative. General Motors and Toyota compete fiercely all around the world, for example, but they also have worked together in joint ventures. Similarly, five forces analysis tends to portray a firm’s relationships with its suppliers and buyers as adversarial, but many firms find ways to collaborate with these parties for mutual benefit. Indeed, concepts such as just-in-time inventory systems depend heavily on a firm working as a partner with its suppliers and buyers.
• “How much profit potential exists in our industry?” is a key question for executives. Five forces analysis provides an answer to this question. It does this by considering the interactions among the competitors in an industry, potential new entrants to the industry, substitutes for the industry’s offerings, suppliers to the industry, and the industry’s buyers.
1. What are the five forces?
2. Is there an aspect of industry activity that the five forces seems to leave out?
3. Imagine you are the president of your college or university. Which of the five forces would be most important to you? Why?
3.4 Evaluating the Industry 100
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