Strategic analysis tools

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Topic Gateway Series
Strategic Analysis Tools

Strategic Analysis Tools

Topic Gateway Series No. 34

Prepared by Jim Downey and Technical Information Service October 2007

Topic Gateway Series
Strategic Analysis Tools

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Topic Gateway Series
Strategic Analysis Tools

Strategic analysis tools

Definition and concept
Strategic Analysis is:
‘… the process of conducting research on the business environment within which
an organisation operates and on the organisation itself, in order to formulate
BNET Business Dictionary
‘… a theoretically informed understanding of the environment in which an
organisation is operating, together with an understanding of the organisation’s
interaction with its environment in order to improve organisational efficiency and
effectiveness by increasing the organisation’s capacity to deploy and redeploy its
resources intelligently.’
Professor Les Worrall, Wolverhampton Business School
Definitions of strategic analysis often differ, but the following attributes are
commonly associated with it:
1. Identification and evaluation of data relevant to strategy formulation.
2. Definition of the external and internal environment to be analysed.
3. A range of analytical methods that can be employed in the analysis.
Examples of analytical methods used in strategic analysis include:
• SWOT analysis
• PEST analysis
• Porter’s five forces analysis
• four corner’s analysis
• value chain analysis
• early warning scans
• war gaming.
An overview of these strategic analysis tools will be provided in this topic


Topic Gateway Series
Strategic Analysis Tools

In the current CIMA syllabus, students will study and may be examined on
strategic analysis tools as part of the Management Level Paper 5, Integrated
Management. In addition, the tools are commonly used in many organisations
for strategic decision making. It is therefore an advantage to develop good
strategic analytical skills at an early stage.
Related concepts
Strategic planning; strategic management; business analysis; benchmarking;
balanced scorecard; competitor analysis; CIMA Strategic Scorecard™.
Analytical methods and tools are key to ensuring that consistency and an
appropriate level of rigour is applied to the analysis.
There are a number of important considerations to be aware of when using
analytical tools:
1. The tool must help to answer the question that the organisation has asked.
2. The expected benefit of using the tool needs to be defined and it must be
actionable. The more clearly the tool has been defined, the more likely the
analysis will be successful.
3. Many tools benefit from input and collaboration with other people, functions
or even organisations. There should be sufficient time for collaboration and
advance warning given so that people can accommodate the analysis.
4. Proper use of analytical tools may be time consuming. It is important to
ensure that key stakeholders, for example, the board, senior directors and
company departments are aware of this. Otherwise they may not be able to
provide the necessary commitment to complete the analysis.
The aim of the analytical tool is to sharpen the focus of the analysis and to
ensure a methodical, balanced approach.
All analytical tools rely on historical, backward looking data to extrapolate future
assumptions. It is important to exercise caution when interpreting strategic
analysis results. Otherwise the analysis may be unduly influenced by
preconceptions or pressures within the organisation which seek to validate a
particular strategic assumption.


Topic Gateway Series
Strategic Analysis Tools

One of the key skills of a strategic analyst is in understanding which analytical
tools or techniques are most appropriate to the objectives of the analysis. Below
is an overview of some of the more commonly used strategic analysis tools.
SWOT analysis
A SWOT analysis is a simple but widely used tool that helps in understanding the
strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats involved in a project or business
It starts by defining the objective of the project or business activity and identifies
the internal and external factors that are important to achieving that objective.
strengths and weaknesses are usually internal to the organisation, while
opportunities and threats are usually external. Often these are plotted on a
simple 2x2 matrix.
SWOT analysis diagram

• What does your organisation do better
• What political, economic, social-cultural,
than others?
or technology (PEST) changes are taking
• What are your unique selling points?
place that could be favourable to you?
• What do you competitors and customers • Where are there currently gaps in the
in your market perceive as your
market or unfulfilled demand?
• What new innovation could your
• What is your organisations competitive
organisation bring to the market?


• What do other organisations do better
• What political, economic, social-cultural,
than you?
or technology (PEST) changes are taking
• What elements of your business add
place that could be unfavourable to you?
little or no value?
• What restraints to you face?
• What do competitors and customers in
• What is your competition doing that
your market perceive as your weakness?
could negatively impact you?


Topic Gateway Series
Strategic Analysis Tools

When using SWOT analysis, it should be ensured that:
• Only specific, verifiable statements are used. An example might be ‘price
is £1.50 per unit lower than competition’ rather than ‘good value for
• Internal and external factors are prioritised so that time is spent
concentrating on the most significant factors. This should include a risk
assessment to ensure that high risk or high impact threats and
opportunities are clearly identified and are dealt with in priority order.
• Issues identified are retained for later in the strategy formation process.
• The analysis is pitched at the project or business activity level rather than
at a total company level, which may be less actionable.
• It is not used in exclusivity. No one tool is likely to be completely
comprehensive, so a mixture of option-generating tools should be used.
PEST analysis
PEST analysis is a scan of the external macro-environment in which an
organisation exists. It is a useful tool for understanding the political, economic,
socio-cultural and technological environment that an organisation operates in. It
can be used for evaluating market growth or decline, and as such the position,
potential and direction for a business.
Political factors. These include government regulations such as employment
laws, environmental regulations and tax policy. Other political factors are trade
restrictions and political stability.
Economic factors. These affect the cost of capital and purchasing power of an
organisation. Economic factors include economic growth, interest rates, inflation
and currency exchange rates.
Social factors. These impact on the consumer’s need and the potential market
size for an organisation’s goods and services. Social factors include population
growth, age demographics and attitudes towards health.
Technological factors. These influence barriers to entry, make or buy decisions
and investment in innovation, such as automation, investment incentives and the
rate of technological change.
PEST factors can be classified as opportunities or threats in a SWOT analysis. It is
often useful to complete a PEST analysis before completing a SWOT analysis.


Topic Gateway Series
Strategic Analysis Tools

It is also worth noting that the four paradigms of PEST vary in significance
depending on the type of business. For example, social factors are more
obviously relevant to consumer businesses or a B2B business near the consumer
end of the supply chain. Conversely, political factors are more obviously relevant
to a defence contractor or aerospace manufacturer.
Porter’s five forces
Porter's five forces of competitive position analysis was developed in 1979 by
Michael E. Porter of Harvard Business School as a simple framework for assessing
and evaluating the competitive strength and position of a business organisation.
This theory is based on the concept that there are five forces which determine
the competitive intensity and attractiveness of a market. Porter’s five forces helps
to identify where power lies in a business situation. This is useful both in
understanding the strength of an organisation’s current competitive position, and
the strength of a position that an organisation may look to move into.
Strategic analysts often use Porter’s five forces to understand whether new
products or services are potentially profitable. By understanding where power
lies, the theory can also be used to identify areas of strength, to improve
weaknesses and to avoid mistakes.
The five forces are:
1. Supplier power. An assessment of how easy it is for suppliers to drive up
prices. This is driven by:
• the number of suppliers of each essential input
• the uniqueness of their product or service
• the relative size and strength of the supplier
• the cost of switching from one supplier to another.
2. Buyer power. An assessment of how easy it is for buyers to drive prices
down. This is driven by:
• the number of buyers in the market
• the importance of each individual buyer to the organisation
• the cost to the buyer of switching from one supplier to another.


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Strategic Analysis Tools

If a business has just a few powerful buyers, they are often able to dictate terms.
3. Competitive rivalry. The key driver is the number and capability of
competitors in the market. Many competitors, offering undifferentiated
products and services, will reduce market attractiveness.
4. Threat of substitution. Where close substitute products exist in a market, it
increases the likelihood of customers switching to alternatives in response to
price increases. This reduces both the power of suppliers and the
attractiveness of the market.
5. Threat of new entry. Profitable markets attract new entrants, which erodes
profitability. Unless incumbents have strong and durable barriers to entry, for
example, patents, economies of scale, capital requirements or government
policies, then profitability will decline to a competitive rate.
Porter's five forces diagram
Threats of substitution

• Buyer switching cost
• Buyer propensity to
• Product differentiation
Buyer power e.g.
Rivaltry e.g.
Supplier power e.g.

• Buyer information
• Number of competitors
• Supplier concentration
• Buyer volume
• Size of competitors
• Importance of volume
• Buyer price sensitivity
• Industry growth rate
to supplier
• Buyer switching costs
• Differentiation
• Cost relative to selling
• Bargaining leverage
• Exit barriers
Threat of new entry

• Switching costs
• Economies of scale
• Learning curve
• Capital requirements
• Patents

Based on Michael Porter's five forces of competitive position model
[Accessed 12 February 2008]


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Strategic Analysis Tools

Four corner’s analysis
Developed by Michael Porter, the four corner’s analysis is a useful tool for
analysing competitors. It emphasises that the objective of competitive analysis
should always be on generating insights into the future.
The model can be used to:
• develop a profile of the likely strategy changes a competitor might make and

how successful they may be
• determine each competitor’s probable response to the range of feasible

strategic moves other competitors might make
• determine each competitor’s probable reaction to the range of industry shifts

and environmental changes that may occur.
The ‘four corners’ refers to four diagnostic components that are essential to
competitor analysis: future goals; current strategy; assumptions; and capabilities.
A summary of Porter's four corner's analysis
Current strategy
• Financial goals
• How the business creates value
• Corporate culture
• Where the business is choosing to
• Organisational structure
• Leadership team backgrounds
• Relationships and networks the
• External constraints
business has developed
• Business philosophy

Management assumptions
• Company’s perceptions of its
• Marketing skills
strengths and weaknesses
• Ability to service channels
• Cultural traits
• Skills and training to work force
• Organisational value
• Patents and copyrights
• Perceived industry forces
• Financial strength
• Belief about competitor’s goals
• Leadership qualities of CEO


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Strategic Analysis Tools

Many organisations carry out basic SWOT analysis and have an appreciation for
their competitor’s strategies. However, motivational factors are often overlooked
and yet are generally the key drivers of competitive behaviour.
Understanding the following four components can help predict how a
competitor may respond to a given situation.
Motivation – drivers. Analysing a competitor’s goals assists in understanding
whether they are satisfied with their current performance and market position.
This helps predict how they might react to external forces and how likely it is that
they will change strategy.
Motivation – management assumptions. The perceptions and assumptions
that a competitor has about itself, the industry and other companies will
influence its strategic decisions. Analysing these assumptions can help identify
the competitor’s biases and blind spots.
Actions – strategy. A company’s strategy determines how a competitor
competes in the market. However, there can be a difference between ‘intended
strategy’ (the strategy as stated in annual reports, interviews and public
statements) and the ‘realised strategy’ (the strategy that the company is following
in practice, as evidenced by acquisitions, capital expenditure and new product
Where the current strategy is yielding satisfactory results, it is reasonable to
assume that an organisation will continue to compete in the same way as it
currently does.
Actions – capabilities. The drivers, assumptions and strategy of an organisation
will determine the nature, likelihood and timing of a competitor’s actions.
However, an organisation’s capabilities will determine its ability to initiate or
respond to external forces.
Value chain analysis
Before making a strategic decision, it is important to understand how activities
within the organisation create value for customers. One way to do this is to
conduct a value chain analysis.
Value chain analysis is based on the principle that organisations exist to create
value for their customers. In the analysis, the organisation’s activities are divided
into separate sets of activities that add value. The organisation can more
effectively evaluate its internal capabilities by identifying and examining each of
these activities. Each value adding activity is considered to be a source of
competitive advantage.