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Downes’ three new forces

24 February, 2015 - 17:30

Larry Downes (1999) identifies three new forces that require a totally different perspective towards a strategic framework and a set of very different analytic and business design tools: digitalization, globalization, and deregulation.

Digitalization: As the power of information technology grows, all players in a market will have access to far more information. Thus, totally new business models will emerge in which even players from outside the industry are able to vastly change the basis of competition in a market. Downes gives the example of the rise of electronic shopping malls, operated for instance by telecom operators or credit card organizations. Those who use the Five Forces Model and who base their thinking on today’s industry structure would never see these changes coming in time.

Globalization: Improvements in distribution logistics and communications have allowed nearly all businesses to buy, sell, and cooperate on a global level. Customers, meanwhile, have the chance to shop around and compare prices globally. As a result, even locally oriented mid-sized companies find themselves in a global market, even if they do not export or import themselves. In addition, global and networked markets impose new requirements on organizations' strategies. It is not enough anymore to position oneself as a price-leader or quality-leader (as Porter suggests in his Generic Strategies model). Rather, competitive advantages emerge now from the ability to develop lasting relationships to more mobile customers and to manage far-reaching networks of partners for mutual advantage.

Deregulation: The past decade has seen a dramatic shrinking of government influence in many industries like airlines, communications, utilities, and banking in the US and in Europe. Fueled by the new opportunities provided by information technology, organizations in these industries were able and forced to completely restructure their businesses and to be on the lookout for new opportunities and competitive threats. For example, traditional land line telephone companies that did not enter the wireless telephony market found themselves with a shrinking customer base. This is because young people frequently use only cell phones now and do not bother to have a land line phone in their homes.