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Porter, Michael E. Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors. Free Press, 1980.

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Industry Analysis | Healthcare Industry | Public Health

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"Many small business owners and executives consider themselves at worst victims, and at best observers of what goes on in their industry. They sometimes fail to perceive that understanding your industry directly impacts your ability to succeed. Understanding your industry and anticipating its future trends and directions gives you the knowledge you need to react and control your portion of that industry," Kenneth J. Cook wrote in his book The AMA Complete Guide to Strategic Planning for Small Business. "However, your analysis of this is significant only in a relative sense. Since both you and your competitors are in the same industry, the key is in finding the differing abilities between you and the competition in dealing with the industry forces that impact you. If you can identify abilities you have that are superior to competitors, you can use that ability to establish a competitive advantage."

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The first step in performing an industry analysis is to assess the impact of Porter's five forces. "The collective strength of these forces determines the ultimate profit potential in the industry, where profit potential is measured in terms of long term return on invested capital," Porter stated. "The goal of competitive strategy for a business unit in an industry is to find a position in the industry where the company can best defend itself against these competitive forces or can influence them in its favor." Understanding the underlying forces determining the structure of the industry can highlight the strengths and weaknesses of a small business, show where strategic changes can make the greatest difference, and illuminate areas where industry trends may turn into opportunities or threats.


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An industry analysis consists of three major elements: the underlying forces at work in the industry; the overall attractiveness of the industry; and the critical factors that determine a company's success within the industry.

Industry analysis is a tool that facilitates a company's understanding of its position relative to other companies that produce similar products or services. Understanding the forces at work in the overall industry is an important component of effective strategic planning. Industry analysis enables small business owners to identify the threats and opportunities facing their businesses, and to focus their resources on developing unique capabilities that could lead to a competitive advantage.

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Porter identified four generic categories of support activities, the details of which are industry-specific.Support activities often are viewed as "overhead", but some firms successfully have used them to develop a competitive advantage, for example, to develop a cost advantage through innovative management of information systems.
Value Chain AnalysisIn order to better understand the activities leading to a competitive advantage, one can begin with the generic value chain and then identify the relevant firm-specific activities.

A PESTLE analysis for the pharmaceutical industry

One way in which to compare a particular business with the average of all participants in the industry is through the use of ratio analysis and comparisons. Ratios are calculated by dividing one measurable business factor by another, total sales divided by number of employees, for example. Many of these ratios may be calculated for an entire industry with data available from many reports and papers published by the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Labor.

Industry Analysis, Sample Industry Analysis

Plunkett Research Online provides a great ‘one stop shop’ for us to quickly come up to speed on major industries. It provides us with an overall analysis of the market, key statistics, and overviews of the major players in the industry in an online service that is fast, easy to navigate, and reliable.

What is in a Business Plan: Industry Analysis (Part 6 of 11)

By comparing a particular ratio for one company with that of the industry as a whole, a business owner can learn much about where her business stands in comparison with the industry average. For example, a small nursing home business can compare its "payroll per employee" ratio with the average for all residential care operators in the U.S. in order to determine if it is within a competitive range. If her business's "payroll per employee" figure is higher than the industry average, she may wish to investigate further. Checking the "employees per establishment" ratio would be a logical place to look next. If this ratio is lower than the industry average it may justifying the higher per-employee payroll figure. This sort of comparative analysis is one important way in which to assess how one's business compares with all others involved in the same line of work. There are various sources for the industry average ratios, among them is the industry analysis series published by Thomson Gale as the USA series.