Michael Porter’s 5 forces model

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.

Despite its limitations in the technology enabled business era, Porter’s 5 forces model is still the leading framework for the analysis of industry attractiveness. The limitations of the Porter’s 5 forces model induced the introduction of the 6th Force, namely the Complementors.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Although the Porter’s Five forces model is very popular in terms of usage, one must be aware of the limitations of this framework. No framework can be comprehensively understood unless its limitations are understood as well.

By the way do you know what framework you should consider while deciding on a market entry strategy?