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Value Chain Analysis

Author: Jim Riley  Last updated: Sunday 23 September, 2012

Introduction

Value Chain Analysis describes the activities that take place in a business and relates them to an analysis of the competitive strength of the business. Influential work by Michael Porter suggested that the activities of a business could be grouped under two headings:

(1) Primary Activities - those that are directly concerned with creating and delivering a product (e.g. component assembly); and

(2) Support Activities, which whilst they are not directly involved in production, may increase effectiveness or efficiency (e.g. human resource management). It is rare for a business to undertake all primary and support activities.

Value Chain Analysis is one way of identifying which activities are best undertaken by a business and which are best provided by others ("out sourced").

Linking Value Chain Analysis to Competitive Advantage

What activities a business undertakes is directly linked to achieving competitive advantage. For example, a business which wishes to outperform its competitors through differentiating itself through higher quality will have to perform its value chain activities better than the opposition. By contrast, a strategy based on seeking cost leadership will require a reduction in the costs associated with the value chain activities, or a reduction in the total amount of resources used.

Primary Activities

Primary value chain activities include:

Primary Activity Description
Inbound logistics
All those activities concerned with receiving and storing externally sourced materials
Operations
The manufacture of products and services - the way in which resource inputs (e.g. materials) are converted to outputs (e.g. products)
Outbound logistics
All those activities associated with getting finished goods and services to buyers
Marketing and sales
Essentially an information activity - informing buyers and consumers about products and services (benefits, use, price etc.)
Service
All those activities associated with maintaining product performance after the product has been sold

Support Activities

Support activities include:

Secondary Activity
Description
Procurement
This concerns how resources are acquired for a business (e.g. sourcing and negotiating with materials suppliers)
Human Resource Management
Those activities concerned with recruiting, developing, motivating and rewarding the workforce of a business
Technology Development
Activities concerned with managing information processing and the development and protection of "knowledge" in a business
Infrastructure
Concerned with a wide range of support systems and functions such as finance, planning, quality control and general senior management

Steps in Value Chain Analysis

Value chain analysis can be broken down into a three sequential steps:

(1) Break down a market/organisation into its key activities under each of the major headings in the model;

(2) Assess the potential for adding value via cost advantage or differentiation, or identify current activities where a business appears to be at a competitive disadvantage;

(3) Determine strategies built around focusing on activities where competitive advantage can be sustained




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