Business-level competitive strategies
This strategy mainly calls for the firm to maintain low costs in production within the industry for up to a certain level of the industry. It is achieved by determining average prices through which products are sold in the industry. As a result of the prices, the firm attains comparatively higher profits than those registered by its competitors. Alternatively, the product prices are set below average industry prices in order to attain market share. A firm could still operate on profits as price wars take root. Competitor firms are likely to be operating on losses at such moments. The firm could also enjoy low production costs even as prices go down and the entire industry matures. Consequently, the firm enjoys profits throughout.
However, the cost-leadership strategy becomes a disadvantage when competitors choose to lower their respective cost structures or when they copy the cost leader’s strategy and methods. Equally, attempting to reduce costs may end up affecting demand, in the long run, thus resulting in poor business and profitability. The Walmart retailing stores pursue cost leadership strategy as it is capable of selling products to its consumers at comparatively lower prices than those offered by its competitors (Werther & Chandler, 2006).
Firms pursuing differentiation as their main strategy manufacture their finished goods or services with very distinctive traits. In particular, the traits are considered due to the fact that they are highly valued by the market and superior in comparison to what competitors offer. The value addition on the product’s uniqueness may enable the firm to set a premium price. The firm’s anticipation is that it would recover all the extra expenses incurred through value addition mainly by hiking prices. The final consumers will have limited choices but to pay for extra charges in the form of product prices where suppliers revise their charges. The customers do this as they seek to benefit from the unique product traits unavailable in other substitute products. However, this strategy has limitations in the sense that competitors may easily copy product formulas. Changes in terms of customer tastes may also occur, forcing the company to change product formulas, as well. The established market segments can experience further differentiation through the use of a focus strategy. Rolls Royce car manufacturer pursues a differentiation strategy by seeking to offer customers a unique model of luxury cars.
By paying attention to a niche segment, focus strategy aims at gaining a competitive advantage through differentiation, as well as cost advantage. This strategy premises on the fact that the group’s requirements will be serviced in a better way by maintaining the full focus on the group. Customer loyalty levels are likely to be exceptionally high for firms pursuing the strategy, thus discouraging other competitors within the industry from directly challenging them. This strategy is most effective for firms willing to serve a narrow segment of the market using a broad range of tailor-made products.
Market limitation, however, together with target market changes are the main limitations facing firms pursuing this strategy. It is also easier for a cost leader in the broad market to attain direct competition by adapting its products. Additionally, it is possible for other firms pursuing the focus strategy to target sub-segments which they will be in a position to serve even better.
Generic Strategies Combined
It is not possible for a firm to attain advantages on all fronts if it pursues a combination of generic strategies. For instance, a firm that is well-differentiated as a supplier of high-quality products may risk watering down the same quality if it again sought a cost leadership strategy. It is prudent to point out, therefore, that for a firm to remain prosperous in its business activity, it ought to adopt any of the three distinct strategies rather than combining them together. The combined generic strategies are particularly suitable where firms have separate business units, with each of the units adopting particular generic strategies.
The combined generic strategy, however, is likely to cause a firm to get stuck in the middle. This is particularly so because it will open up more than one area of focus and thus cause the company to have a weak and divided attention.
SWOT Analysis for Apple Inc
Apple Inc manufactures and markets a range of information technology-related products and services, such as personal computers, portable digital devices, peripherals, software, as well as networking solutions.
Apple’s presence is wide and spans across the globe, establishing a presence in virtually all the continents. Although the United States of America is the company’s domestic and largest market, Apple devices are widely used in other parts and countries of the world. This has in turn helped the company to grow steady revenue and register strong financial performance over the years.
Apple’s products and services, personal computers, iPhones, iPods, iPods, networking solutions, peripherals, and related software form a highly synergistic portfolio in nature. This wide product portfolio which also includes online distribution of digital content reduces dependency on a single product line, thereby reducing business risk overly. Equally, the wide range portfolio enhances the cross-selling opportunities.
Overreliance on key components
Apple is susceptible to risks emanating from the supply of its crucial components. Other external companies such as IBM and Freescale supply processors used by the company in several of its finished products like personal PCs and other portable devices. Thus, Apple’s operations and overall performance basically rely on these two supplier firms, which also happen to be rival firms to Apple in a way.
Closed System of Operation
Apple has mainly adopted a closed system of operation. Its computer operating system cannot connect with systems manufactured by other companies. This inflexibility discourages users from buying Apple products because they feel limited in terms of choice (Watkins & Leigh, 2010). Other portable Apple devices, such as iPhones and iPods, are also locked, and buyers need to unlock them first before using them.
Wireless technology is fast being embraced by users of many digital devices across the world. Wireless connectivity demands, as well as demands for networking products, are on the increase, and Apple has positioned itself strategically with its numerous inventions in the sub-sector. Examples include the AirPort technology invented by Apple which provides users with the chance to be connected to the internet minus any cable tethering.
New Digital Platform
The company has successfully created a digital hub out of its Mac platform. This platform targets to combine iTunes video content with portable devices. The resultant platform has very high potentials for enhancing the company’s already growing digital content. In effect, this will provide stability to its long term growth.
The information technology industry in which Apple operates is highly competitive and involves players who are equally well established. Technological advances are rapidly being announced, and consumers are literally going for the best service and quality. The competition has mostly seen prices lower, and profit margins grow smaller by the day. The company spends huge percentages of its annual profits in sustaining research and development activities, the benefits of which sometimes never profit the company.
The intense competition has equally seen an increase in lawsuits pitting the numerous players in the industry. These lawsuits are expensive because they come with hefty fines slapped on offending companies (Newlands & Hooper, 2009). In the latest lawsuit case pitting Apple Inc., its main rival in the smartphone industry Samsung Mobile accuses the company of aping some of its technology. These lawsuits have the grave implications of also eroding customer trust, thus affecting market performances in the long run.
The organization’s options as to growth strategies
Internal Growth Strategies
These strategies mainly center on the internal environment of the business, including such fundamental aspects as diversification into new lines of business, and new product development. In particular, internal growth strategies involve the following key business aspects; design and development of new products or services, building on products and services that exist currently in order to develop new opportunities and increasing products or services sales by improving the market reach. Additionally, this strategy may also involve expanding the product lines as well as service offerings that already exist, attempting to reach out for markets that are new, as well as expanding to cover foreign markets.
Many organizations prefer the growth of their businesses using this means because it is possible to plan steady growth with it. Beginning with a focus before expanding steadily is also easier for organizations owing to the better control exercise that organizations are likely to enjoy. Planning for resources is also easier as the organizations pursue their growth. One other strength of the internal strategy is the fact that organizational culture issues are not expected to crop up and impede on the strategy, as newly acquired employees brought in purposely for growth-related reasons can easily be adopted into the organization’s cultural folds.
However, internal strategies for growth face limitations in terms of expansion and the speed of growth in general. In particular, this is relevant to industries having scope for much faster growth, in which case businesses resorting to internal growth strategies may be unable to capitalize on rapid growth potentials. Research In Motion, RIM, which is the company behind the manufacturing of BlackBerry is an example of a company that has pursued an internal growth strategy (Capron & Mitchell, 2012).
External Growth Strategy
This strategy mainly involves a firm engaging with other firms through forming mergers, acquisitions, entering into joint ventures, or forming franchises. This is mainly pursued by businesses as they target growth overall. This growth is particularly commonplace in industries where the market is full of potential for growth that is fast-paced, and where organizations may not be wishing to slow down their plans for expansion. Business organizations may resolve to combine both strategies for internal and external growth as they pursue their intentions. The external growth would mainly be realized as a result of forming mergers and acquisitions, pursuing joint ventures, franchising, as well as by licensing agreements, and forming strategic alliances. It is a widely acknowledged fact that with external growth strategies, it is much faster to attain growth as compared to internal growth because in the latter case, capacities are acquired in an instantaneous manner through the support of the external tools of growth.
External growth strategy, however, faces the limitation of loss of control, together with the increased overreliance on third-party companies for growth. There is also the problem of decision-making freedom being curtailed and compromised upon, as well as additional complications that come about as a result of selecting the wrong partners based on business intelligence that is either skewed or incomplete. Additionally, sudden growth instances also require that additional resources are put in place in order to sustain the sudden spurt adequately. Computers manufacturing company Hewlett-Packard is a perfect example of a firm that is pursuing an external growth strategy (Jones, McCormick & Dewing, 2012).
Value chain analysis in the case of a differentiation strategy based upon speed
The supply chain strategy in this case will need to be a responsive one in general. Thus, there will be a need to respond quickly to the fluctuating market conditions, both in terms of product configurations and volume. It will be necessary to keep higher safety stock levels in order to be able to address stock-out situations sufficiently. The lead times will have to be maintained at very short durations as possible even in cases where the costs are escalating. The basis of choosing suppliers will mainly be on flexibility and speed in order to assure the company that at no time would production or operations get delayed as a result of a slow supplier.
Long-term relationships with the customers will also be targeted by the firm mainly based on interactivity. This will aid in understanding the customers deeply, as well as providing a chance to the very customers to understand the company in a more amicable way. The same interactive relationship will be extended to the suppliers in order to also enable them to understand critically how the firm operates overly, and thus adjust their strategies to fit such expectations. Other partners, such as distributors, will also have to enjoy the interactive relationship with the firm so as to enable them to deliver goods and products in a reasonable time.
To further enhance the efficiency of the supply chain, the company will undertake extensive research to determine the needs of the customers, as well as those customers who buy directly from their first customers. This reasoning is based on the fact that if the firm’s first level customers benefit from the efficiency in service and performance, then everybody within the supply chain stands a chance to grow, as well. The logistics approach by the firm will also be customized to further enhance efficiency. This may involve tailoring the capabilities of the supply chain such that value is added uniquely to match the specific needs of the customer. A service menu is extended by the firm to all customers showcasing the main capabilities, attributes, as well as value-added service, from where customers make a choice of their most preferred attributes and services (Guptaa, Gollakota & Srinivasan, 2005).
The firm may also uniquely combine services in order to strategically offer to the varying customer tastes and preferences in the market. This will involve extensive research activity, pre-specifying, as well as the development of appropriate material inputs, together with the required capabilities. The value chain will similarly call for quick and flexible adjustments to be conducted on the capabilities of the supply chain, together with its other related combinations so as to be able to take into consideration the changing customer needs. The chain must also be in a position to reflect the evolving competitor offerings with time (Porter, 1998). The emphasis on higher communication and collaboration levels with customers is mainly done to gain vital information about the capabilities of the customer’s requirement and for purposes of tracking performance with all the partners involved.
The impact of the product life cycle impact on the choice of competitive strategy
As the product goes through the numerous stages of its life cycle, the choice of competitive strategy also gets affected as the right balance is sought. The firm does this mainly in order to fight off competition rivals and, therefore, remain afloat in its business. If a firm adopts the use of price as its main strategy of competition, for instance, pricing changes will be made at every distinct stage of the cycle in order to create or gain the intended competitive advantage. At the introductory stage of the product, the pricing strategy will particularly be critical as it will be setting the standard on which price changes will be determined over time. When changes in price are noticed as the product undergoes the life cycle, the original price set when the product was being introduced will determine whether the product will result in profits for the firm or will end up resulting in losses. By the time it moves into the maturity stage, the competitive dynamics will have established ranges of the price which will be both acceptable and expected by the market.
The Introduction Stage
The market’s price sensitivity often determines the initial strategy to be adopted by the firm in setting up the price. Where the market is found to be comparatively insensitive to price, the prices are set high in order to recoup investment as well as generate higher profits. This is referred to as a price skimming strategy and is mainly pursued to fuel growth. However, where the market remains sensitive to prices, then the prices are either set at par or lower in comparison to those of the competitors in order to gain a foothold. This is referred to as a price penetration strategy.
When the product gets into the growth stage, prices are gradually lowered in order to fight competition from other similar products by rival firms. Other factors may also be the expanding of economies of scale, which in turn also reduces costs such as those related to marketing and production in general. Equally, the product also gradually grows in appeal to cover a widened base of customers, the majority of them being quite sensitive in as far as the prices of products are concerned.
At this stage, the company is forced to further decrease the price of its product due to intensifying competition from rival firms and their respective products. The ineffective firms also get eliminated at this stage and, therefore, many companies opt to maintain relatively lower prices in order to avoid elimination from the market. In particular, most firms at this stage will be focusing their attention and energies on cost savings, synergies in production, promotion, as well as distribution in order to achieve desirable margins of profits. Some specific tactics on pricing at this stage may encourage consumers to switch brands as the firms desperately attempt to deny their competitors some business opportunities.
When products finally enter the decline stage, firms continue to reduce the prices even further. At that particular stage, even firms continuously get eliminated to a level where very few or even only one firm remains in the market. This leads to a change in strategy as the firm now stabilize the prices or even increase them, depending on the level of competition still existent in the market. This is a desperate attempt by the firms to try and squeeze as much as possible the remaining bit of profit from the product. In case the popularity or unique appeal of a product still remains high, the firm can effectively utilize the advantage by sharply increasing the prices (Ferrell & Hartline, 2011).
Market failure, taper integration, and quasi integration
This is a situation or condition which occurs as a result of the market equilibrium occasioning too many or too few resources required for use in the production of goods or services (Tucker, 2008). In other words, higher transaction costs which end up encouraging a firm to produce in-house rather than making purchases in the open market results in a market failure.
A firm that has some of its requirements met in-house and the other portion of its requirements sourced from the market is said to have taper integration.
Firms pursuing quasi integration pay for most of their requirements from varied firms with which they have possession rights. Forms of quasi integration include outsourcing via a sub-contractor, and ancillary industrial units (Kozami, 2002).
Violation of Market Failure in pursuit of Taper Integration
Firms may mainly pursue a change of strategy from market failure to taper integration principles, mainly to achieve higher efficiency levels in terms of productivity and performance. Where the taper integration involves new and technological complementary processes, the resultant costs realized by carrying out processes that are successive are eliminated.
This may also occur as a result of the firm seeking to avoid product-specific assets owner from being held up by a firm in the upstream or downstream, which also owns important materials or facilities. If the firm realizes that a taper integration by merger could result in the transaction costs being reduced, such as costs incurred in advertising and inter-corporate selling, then the firm could easily seek to pursue taper integration.
The integration could also create a scenario where the costs and risks involved in entering short-term contracts in place of long-term ones could be considerably reduced. Additionally, the costs of coordinating the steady flow of materials could also be suited to the exact needs of the firm, including the requirement of a manufacturing firm to continuously need supplies of a product undergoing redesigning. In this context, given the imperfections of market information and large variable numbers that could affect production, the firm may see no need of entering into a fully-fledged supply contract due to the associated risks.
Firms may also notice that pursuing a taper integration could offer it efficient information exchanges, as well as offer it maximum economies in terms of observation and policies compared to if it had pursued market failure principals. Such economies will quickly result in the firm making adjustments, and instead pursuing a taper integration system. Equally, firms may be driven into making this decision on the understanding that vertical merger has little capabilities of enhancing the overall abilities to raise prices or lowering output. This will not result in inefficiencies in the long run (Michaels, 2011). The understanding is that where each production level was able to produce a competitive return before the merger, each of the levels will continuously make a competitive return when the merger is operational.
Consistency of the functional level strategy
Firstly, there ought to be a consistent decision-making practice and procedure. The functional decisions need to be aligned such that they remain consistent with the overall business strategy. If, for instance, the objective of a firm is to achieve a premium positioning, then a functional level strategy that targets low-end discount channels of distribution may not end up assisting the company to achieve this goal.
Secondly, balanced decision making is also necessary. In other words, the decisions made and passed by the respective functions must be balanced such that they contribute to the overall strategic intent of the organization. If, for instance, the targeted goal is the achievement of low-cost leadership, the manufacturing function may seek to ensure it maintains zero inventory always, and throughout. However, the downside of maintaining inventory levels at zero could be the loss of sales in some instances, declining levels of customer satisfaction, as well as declining economies of scale and thus affecting profitability in the long-run. Therefore, the manufacturing function of such a firm may need to balance its decision-making by allowing some level of inventory to be kept in order to enable the realization of the company’s overall strategic intent.
The functional level strategy must also be consistent by way of responsive decision making. Decisions made and passed by the functions at the company must accurately and effectively respond to the situations of the environment, as well as be flexible enough to adapt to the environmental situation. For instance, a firm whose customers are mainly small scale and local may experience changes in as far as the needs of the customers are concerned the moment the customers gradually evolve and develop global tastes. This may also be the case the moment new competitors enter into the market or industry and introduce innovative products. Such a situation may call for the firm to alter its products or service offers to make them more attractive and highly competitive. However, there will be a need for the firm to maintain its operating costs at low levels, while it ensures that it adapts to the functional level strategies (Gollakota, et al., 2007).
The limitations of accounting-based measures as control measures in strategic management
Lack of Standardization
Accounting-based control measures lack any form of standardization. This is in comparison to financial accounting which enjoys high levels of standardization with its many constant guiding principles. This makes management accounting to be less effective and least efficient when it comes to being adopted for use in measuring and controlling organizational strategy. A particular method used by one accountant can be very different from what another accountant could be using. The result of this is the fact that inconsistencies could be noticed in the way financial benchmarks, and the respective evaluations are done. It also calls for more knowledge on the part of the accounting officers such that they may be in a position to interpret the systems of accounting developed by others accurately.
Organizations and their management can eliminate the problem of standardization of accounting methods by seeking to establish a general and more acceptable system whose results will be truly reflective of the organization’s actual position. Experts can be drawn in to streamline and devise a truly acceptable accounting system that can have the approval of managers, and which also touches on all aspects of the organization. Apart from simply receiving approval from the management, such a system will be accurate in giving direction to the strategic position of the company.
While measuring strategic organizational performances, it is highly possible that the use of financial-based accounting systems could end up being subjective rather than being objective. This is particularly a disadvantage to the organization in the sense that the accounting officer could have other biases together with personal beliefs, which could affect performance measurement. For instance, in a situation where the management account is expected to evaluate workers’ productivity, the officer in charge could end up directing his entire focus on the outputs only while failing to consider worker inputs, which is significant in determining overall production (Bowhil, 2008). The negative effects of this problem could affect both the employees at the firm and the whole company as a whole. The employees are affected in the sense that information being generated is erroneous and, therefore, they could feel being evaluated unfairly. On the other hand, the company will be affected by the fact that the information being utilized for managerial decision making will be inaccurate.
The organization needs to determine the respective teams to participate in all accounting evaluation of strategy. An average of the team’s verdict should be evaluated to represent the actual general strategy position of the company. The larger the number of members involved in accounting-based strategy control measures, the higher the chances of the final results being less subjective to individual feelings and judgment.
Overreliance on Quantitative Details
Accounting based mechanisms used for strategic control purposes mainly focus on exclusive quantitative measures while also ignoring other significant factors that may not be quantified in terms of monetary values. For instance, although relocating a production plant to an area considered being of lower wage costs may appear to be a laudable move, it could also happen that the accounting mechanism can calculate the savings realized from wages together with other related cost increases. However, the accounting measure will not be able to factor in such things as problems emanating from public relations, or the savings connected to the community member’s goodwill within the region. In other words, the rationality of the accounting system could end up disadvantaging the firm.
Other auxiliary measurements to support the accounting-based strategy control measures need to be devised in order to make the results realistic. Although it is difficult to quantify every measure in terms of monetary values, the firm can still adopt other measurement tools to quantify most of the difficult results, and thus give the organization a better chance to measure and control its strategy.
The three methods of strategic control
This method seeks to determine what the organization’s strengths and weaknesses are, as far as its operations are concerned (Henry, 2008). Several factors within the organization are considered in determining the evaluation, including the cost controls being employed by the firm, the skill levels of the workers, quality levels in terms of production and performance, as well as the product line breadth and on-time delivery of products to customers.
This control method works through the analysis of profit contribution registered by each product item or service rendered. When the profits are growing big gradually, it is an indication to the firm and its management that the strategy is performing well. However, when profits are minimal or gradually grow smaller, it acts as a pointer to the management about the failures of the strategy. In particular, several financial measures and indicators are used to determine the viability of a strategy, including stock prices, cash flows registered by the company, as well as the earnings stability of the firm, and Returns on Investments, abbreviated as ROI (Parnell, 2009).
This control mechanism mainly seeks to evaluate the customer’s satisfaction levels as far as the performance of the organization is concerned (Nilsson & Rapp, 2005). The main contributors of the customer’s satisfaction levels include customer service activities conducted by the firm towards its customers, the actual value derived by the customers after consuming the products or services, the innovation pursued by the company, as well as the pricing mechanism, and the overall quality of the finished product or service purchased by the consumer.
The grand strategies of concentration, integration, and diversification
Concentration Growth Strategies
This strategy mainly involves the company concentrating on its main line of business, seeking ways to boost its operation levels with the business. The most significant benefit of the concentration strategy is the fact that the company or enterprise pursuing it remains within its core industry. Often, this strategy is suitable for companies electing to remain in one business. In particular, the concentration strategy means a lot of focus by the company is directed towards improving operations. Some of the means and methods through which the company adopts to improve its business operations include introducing a new product idea to a market that is new for as much as the company maintains its operations and focus within the core industry.
The strategy, therefore, offers the company an opportunity to be experts in the kind of business they are dealing in. Equally, it allows the company an opportunity to understand the overall market and competition deeply, and thus fine-tune its entire operations effectively. The biggest weakness of the concentration strategy, however, is the fact that it can end up exposing the company to numerous market vulnerabilities, thus leaving it with no fallback at all. Delta Air Lines is an example of a company pursuing a concentration strategy (Enz, 2010).
An integration strategy involves the expansion of a business into other areas that serve varying points of the same production line. This occurs vertically, where the company controls its supplies and distribution chain. Forward integration is where the company gains control over its distribution channel, while backward integration is where the company acquires control over the supply channel so as to reduce dependency. Horizontal integration strategy involves the expansion of production lines by a company to cover varying products, but which are similar to its existing main products.
The integration strategy helps companies eliminate transaction costs as well as give an assurance of a steady supply of materials. It also creates entry barriers that competitors may find difficult to beat (Goldman & Nieuwenhuizen, 2006). However, vertical integration may limit a firm’s profitability chances by locking it into an unprofitable adjacent business. Equally, it may be difficult for a firm to excel in all the vertical supply chains it pursues, thus limiting efficiency in general. Walmart’s chain of stores is an example of a company pursuing an integration strategy (Hill & Jones, 2010).
This is a strategy whereby a company or business enterprise elects to deal with varied products and markets. In this case, the company mainly targets growth by moving its operations into other different industries. Diversification strategy mainly targets to improve on a company’s total transaction costs by utilizing additional resources to enhance efficiency in overall operations. A diversification strategy can basically be divided into related and unrelated types. Related diversification implies the company is spreading its services by expansion into another industry that is the same as its main product. Unrelated diversification implies the expansion by the company is towards an industry that is totally unrelated (Flouris & Oswald, 2006).
Related diversification creates synergies in the existing businesses and reduces the overall risk of a company through the acquisition of businesses that face varying uncertainties and threats within the markets and industries. Unrelated diversification, on the other hand, provides the assurance of stability over time due to the different cycles through which the varied businesses undergo at any given time. However, the diversification strategy may lead to an increase in bureaucratic costs, thus limiting the profitability of the company. It may also limit the competitive advantage of a company. Apple Inc. is a perfect example of a company pursuing a differentiation strategy (Harrison & St. John, 2010).
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