Competitive advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior by Michael E. Porter

By Michael E. Porter

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The threat of substitutes determ ines the extent to which some other product can meet the same buyer needs, and thus places a ceiling on the am ount a buyer is willing to pay for an industry’s product. The power of suppliers determines the extent to which value created for buyers will be appropriated by suppliers rather than by firms in an industry. Finally, the intensity o f rivalry acts similarly to the threat of entry. It determines the extent to which firms already in an industry will compete away the value they create for buyers among themselves, passing it on to buyers in lower prices or dissipating it in higher costs of competing.

W hile such categorizations may be useful in thinking about resource allocation in a diversified firm, it is very misleading to mistake them for strategies. A business unit’s strategy is the route to competitive advantage th at will determ ine its performance. Build, hold, and harvest are the results of a generic strategy, or recognition of the inability to achieve any generic strategy and hence of the need to harvest. Similarly, acquisition and vertical integration are not strategies but means of achieving them.

If a firm can shape structure, it can fundam entally change an industry’s attractiveness for better or for worse. M any suc­ cessful strategies have shifted the rules o f com petition in this way. Figure 1-2 highlights all the elements of industry structure that may drive competition in an industry. In any particular industry, not all of the five forces will be equally im portant and the particular structural factors that are im portant will differ. Every industry is unique and has its own unique structure.

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