Identifying Sustainable Business by Mapping your Product Portfolio

Updated: Jun 27, 2019

Note: This is based on #BlueOcean thinking and you will find extensive articles on the web.

One of the biggest challenges for companies is to ensure that they remain competitive over a long period of time. Time and again we find that once blue eyed boys of the market struggle while some one else outshines them; think Microsoft and Apple.

A powerful tool to visualize whether you are going to struggle in a red ocean or swim in a blue ocean is the tool PMS map, developed by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne and elaborated in the book Blue Ocean Strategy. The tool maps the Value Innovation potential of various offerings of the organization. Recently, I prepared an article for the Professional Speakers Association as a primer on the tool and by mapping of the various speaker topics identified. Here is a modified version of this article.

PMS Framework

Traditionally, marketeer’s have chosen to represent various products by their profitability, size, market share etc. Unfortunately, this way of representation is like driving looking in the rear view mirror! These are lag metrics and tells you nothing about where the organization is headed. Kim and Mauborgne developed the PMS framework as a lead indicator for visualizing an organization’s future growth. The tool replaces innovation value as a key measure for visualization of future potential.

Every product / offering can be classified as one of three; Pioneer, Migrator or Settler. A Settler is a “Me Too” business that is commoditized and can be easily replaced by the customer with a competing product. Migrators are offerings that are superior to most others in the market and represent some uniqueness. Pioneers are offerings that provide unprecedented value to the customer and have successfully broken the value-cost ratio of the industry.

Note that this has nothing to do with brand value; a premium brand is not necessarily a migrator or pioneer. It may merely be a product that is priced higher (due to it’s perceived quality or reliability and also has a higher cost). An example would be Evian the packaged water where there is no perceptible customer value than say a bottle of Kinley, but coverts a higher price due to the brand.

Copy right of W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

The size of the bubbles indicates the revenue of the product. As a whole, when you visualize the company’s offerings over different periods, you will get a good understanding of where the company is headed. If you have plenty of settlers, you are looking for trouble as your margins are likely to be under pressure. If you have lots of small blue bubbles, act fast and start making money (remember Tesla). A sample below shows Apple’s map (once again sourced from Kim & Mauborgne’s work)

We all know where how Apple has outperformed it’s peers.

Let’s now see where PSAI members stand with respect to their offering (basically speaker topics that we deliver to our clients). I have not indicated size here; no bubbles at all as I have no way of estimating revenue for each topic.

Examples of speaker topics

My logic for the mapping as such is as below and you may very well disagree with me.

Settlers: I have classified topics under settlers as those which are very generic and where the methods and tools are freely available. The customers can easily find plenty of people who offer to speak on these topics, all are similar but some are significantly superior. It is entirely possible that some of the speakers are outstanding in these domains as compared to others and represent a better value – cost ratio (they are the Evian of their offering). Suffice to add that speakers in this space have tough competition and are required to work hard to differentiate themselves purely by their superior quality as speakers and due to their unique styles.

Migrators: The topics that represent a significant value improvement as measured in terms of business results and specifically those that represent incremental value have been classified by me as migrators. This category is also reflective of uniqueness of the subject and specialization of the speakers. Having said that, you could also classify some of these topics as high settlers as they may not be really value improvements any longer and are industry standard.

Pioneers: These are emerging topics which have potential to help organizations dramatically improve their value of offering. They are also characterized by the limited pool of experts and their cutting-edge knowledge.

In each category, you are likely to find original authors/researchers and copiers. The original authors may indeed be in a position to have significantly better position; i.e. charge higher fees and have larger market share. However, over a period of time a lot of quality speakers will emerge and make the space more competitive.

I have observed three distinct capabilities that result in the map.

The first type of capability is Market Reader. These are people who have a superior capability to read market trends and have their ear close to customers and competition. They are quickly able to come up with market demands. However, these typically tend to be Settler offerings or at the best a high settler

The second type of capability is Need Seeker. These are people who are good at exploring the potential needs of end users, mostly as a result of superior understanding of how things are used/applied. They are typically able to come up with rapid go to market strategies and be the early creator value.

The third type is Technology/Thought leaders. These are people who are at the forefront of technology / research and are coming up with true value innovation. They drive breakthrough thinking and are able to come up with pioneering offering.

Do consider exploring where your organization fits in the competitive landscape

PS: This article’s intention is not to belittle anyone’s knowledge or domain expertise. I wish to bring to the table a different way of looking at our own offering and to enable all of us to see how we could move to a pioneer space. Each of you could use this map to figure out your own future strategy as a speaker.

Krishnan Naganathan

The author is a management consultant, who abandoned the settler space of operations excellence consulting to focus on innovation management and blue ocean strategies. He can be reached by email: or by phone: +919791033967

#innovation, #Blueoceanstrategy

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