How do I go about analyzing my industry?

You can gain a lot of traction by starting with what you know. Gather a team and talk about each of the five forces in turn, drawing on your own experience in your industry. After identifying the facts, consider what they mean. Who has the power in this context? Why? Is it shifting? How? Overall, do the forces make the industry an attractive place to do business? Are some parts of the market less/more attractive than others? Are some players positioned worse/better than others? Could you be better positioned yourself?

There is a lot of relevant data outside your firm that can help you in this process: Government agencies and industry trade associations can be excellent sources for facts and statistics; prepackaged industry surveys produced by consulting firms or investment research services like Standard & Poor's often include detailed industry analyses, as do many analyst reports on key industry players.

A local public or university library should have access to publications and databases that can aid in your search, providing comparative data, market research and analyst reports, and recent newspaper and magazine articles. Factiva, Hoover's, LexisNexis, OneSource, Standard & Poor's, Thomson, and Business Source Complete, among others, provide various kinds of industry- and company-specific information and are available in many libraries or by subscription.

For an excellent discussion of these and other sources, see “Finding Information for Industry Analysis,” by Jan W. Rivkin and Ann Cullen, Harvard Business Publishing, Note 708481, January 7, 2010.

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