Case Study: Environmental Analysis based on Competitive Strategy (Flower, 2004)

In 2004, an analysis of the competitive environment surrounding libraries was carried out by Eric Flower. According to Flower, when libraries think of strategic management, they usually fail to take into account competitive strategy. However, with the development of information technology in the beginning of the 1990s and the provision of electronic environments, companies clambered to enter the new library industry. Some of them were (1) search engines like Google and Yahoo!, (2) Microsoft’s eLi- brary and (3) databases like EBSCOhost, LexisNexis and ScienceDirect.

Users did actually use the new services offered by these newcomer companies as an alternative to library services. Flower concluded that in such a competitive environment, libraries needed to survive by outdoing rival businesses that continued to enter the market.

Conclusions About Using Competitive Strategy and Value Chain

Competitive strategy is a management theory that continues to be a major influence in the private sector. However, from the change in the number of references, it is clear that competitive strategy’s influence in the world of libraries is extremely small. Furthermore, competitive strategy had not been adopted in library management textbooks. From this, one can surmise that libraries had not considered competitive strategy, including the pros and cons of introducing it. On the contrary, from the latter half of the 1990s into the 2000s, it was clear from the survey of changes to the number of references that value chains within competitive strategy were considered in a few cases. This period was one in which information technology was commodified with the spread of computers and the Internet in the private sector. The latter half of the 1990s to the 2000s was when tasks were reconsidered based on information technology, and value chains were prevalent and centred on the private sector; there were, however, some cases in libraries as well of reviewing work processes in the same way based on value chains.

By elevating industrial structure theory and marketing theory to the concept of strategic management theory, competitive strategy is a management theory that emphasises the external environment. Product portfolio management (PPM) and PEST (political, economic, social and technological) analysis, developed in the 1970s by the Boston Consulting Group, were other management theories that analysed the market in the same way, but libraries did not adopt these management theories fully. From this, it is clear that in the 1970s and 1980s, libraries largely failed to consider adopting strategic management theories, like competitive strategy, that were focused on the market.

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