Porter's Five Forces Framework is a tool for analyzing competition of a business. It draws from industrial organization (IO) economics to derive five forces that determine the competitive intensity and, therefore, the attractiveness (or lack of it) of an industry in terms of its profitability. An "unattractive" industry is one in which the effect of these five forces reduces overall profitability. The most unattractive industry would be one approaching "pure competition", in which available profits for all firms are driven to normal profit levels. The five-forces perspective is associated with its originator, Michael E. Porter of Harvard University. This framework was first published in Harvard Business Review in 1979.
Porter refers to these forces as the microenvironment, to contrast it with the more general term macroenvironment. They consist of those forces close to a company that affect its ability to serve its customers and make a profit. A change in any of the forces normally requires a business unit to re-assess the marketplace given the overall change in industry information. The overall industry attractiveness does not imply that every firm in the industry will return the same profitability. Firms are able to apply their core competencies, business model or network to achieve a profit above the industry average. A clear example of this is the airline industry. As an industry, profitability is low because the industry's underlying structure of high fixed costs and low variable costs afford enormous latitude in the price of airline travel. Airlines tend to compete on cost, and that drives down the profitability of individual carriers as well as the industry itself because it simplifies the decision by a customer to buy or not buy a ticket. A few carriers--Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic is one--have tried, with limited success, to use sources of differentiation in order to increase profitability.
Porter's five forces include three forces from 'horizontal' competition--the threat of substitute products or services, the threat of established rivals, and the threat of new entrants--and two others from 'vertical' competition--the bargaining power of suppliers and the bargaining power of customers.
Porter developed his five forces framework in reaction to the then-popular SWOT analysis, which he found both lacking in rigor and ad hoc. Porter's five-forces framework is based on the structure-conduct-performance paradigm in industrial organizational economics. It has been applied to try to address a diverse range of problems, from helping businesses become more profitable to helping governments stabilize industries. Other Porter strategy tools include the value chain and generic competitive strategies.
Profitable industries that yield high returns will attract new firms. New entrants eventually will decrease profitability for other firms in the industry. Unless the entry of new firms can be made more difficult by incumbents, abnormal profitability will fall towards zero (perfect competition), which is the minimum level of profitability required to keep an industry in business.
The following factors can have an effect on how much of a threat new entrants may pose:
A substitute product uses a different technology to try to solve the same economic need. Examples of substitutes are meat, poultry, and fish; landlines and cellular telephones; airlines, automobiles, trains, and ships; beer and wine; and so on. For example, tap water is a substitute for Coke, but Pepsi is a product that uses the same technology (albeit different ingredients) to compete head-to-head with Coke, so it is not a substitute. Increased marketing for drinking tap water might "shrink the pie" for both Coke and Pepsi, whereas increased Pepsi advertising would likely "grow the pie" (increase consumption of all soft drinks), while giving Pepsi a larger market share at Coke's expense.
The bargaining power of customers is also described as the market of outputs: the ability of customers to put the firm under pressure, which also affects the customer's sensitivity to price changes. Firms can take measures to reduce buyer power, such as implementing a loyalty program. Buyers' power is high if buyers have many alternatives. It is low if they have few choices.
The bargaining power of suppliers is also described as the market of inputs. Suppliers of raw materials, components, labor, and services (such as expertise) to the firm can be a source of power over the firm when there are few substitutes. If you are making biscuits and there is only one person who sells flour, you have no alternative but to buy it from them. Suppliers may refuse to work with the firm or charge excessively high prices for unique resources.
Potential factors are:
For most industries the intensity of competitive rivalry is the major determinant of the competitiveness of the industry.
Strategy consultants occasionally use Porter's five forces framework when making a qualitative evaluation of a firm's strategic position. However, for most consultants, the framework is only a starting point. They might use value chain or another type of analysis in conjunction. Like all general frameworks, an analysis that uses it to the exclusion of specifics about a particular situation is considered naive.
According to Porter, the five forces framework should be used at the line-of-business industry level; it is not designed to be used at the industry group or industry sector level. An industry is defined at a lower, more basic level: a market in which similar or closely related products and/or services are sold to buyers. (See industry information.) A firm that competes in a single industry should develop, at a minimum, one five forces analysis for its industry. Porter makes clear that for diversified companies, the primary issue in corporate strategy is the selection of industries (lines of business) in which the company will compete. The average Fortune Global 1,000 company competes in 52 industries (lines of business).
Porter's framework has been challenged by other academics and strategists. For instance, Kevin P. Coyne and Somu Subramaniam claim that three dubious assumptions underlie the five forces:
An important extension to Porter's work came from Adam Brandenburger and Barry Nalebuff of Yale School of Management in the mid-1990s. Using game theory, they added the concept of complementors (also called "the 6th force") to try to explain the reasoning behind strategic alliances. Complementors are known as the impact of related products and services already in the market. The idea that complementors are the sixth force has often been credited to Andrew Grove, former CEO of Intel Corporation. Martyn Richard Jones, while consulting at Groupe Bull, developed an augmented 5 forces model in Scotland in 1993. It is based on Porter's Framework and includes Government (national and regional) as well as Pressure Groups as the notional 6th force. This model was the result of work carried out as part of Groupe Bull's Knowledge Asset Management Organisation initiative.
Porter indirectly rebutted the assertions of other forces, by referring to innovation, government, and complementary products and services as "factors" that affect the five forces.
It is also perhaps not feasible to evaluate the attractiveness of an industry independently of the resources that a firm brings to that industry. It is thus argued (Wernerfelt 1984) that this theory be combined with the Resource-Based View (RBV) in order for the firm to develop a sounder framework.