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.

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:

Secondary Activities

Secondary value chain activities include:

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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