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The BCG matrix

The BCG matrix method is based on the product life cycle theory that can be used to
determine what priorities should be given in the product portfolio of a business unit. To
ensure long-term value creation, a company should have a portfolio of products that
contains both high-growth products in need of cash inputs and low-growth products that
generate a lot of cash. It has 2 dimensions: market share and market growth. The basic
idea behind it is that the bigger the market share a product has or the faster the product's
market grows the better it is for the company.

Placing products in the BCG matrix results in 4 categories in a portfolio of a company:

1. Stars (=high growth, high market share)

- use large amounts of cash and are leaders in the business so they should also generate
large amounts of cash.
- frequently roughly in balance on net cash flow. However if needed any attempt should
be made to hold share, because the rewards will be a cash cow if market share is kept.
2. Cash Cows (=low growth, high market share)
- profits and cash generation should be high , and because of the low growth, investments
needed should be low. Keep profits high
- Foundation of a company
3. Dogs (=low growth, low market share)
- avoid and minimize the number of dogs in a company.
- beware of expensive ‘turn around plans’.
- deliver cash, otherwise liquidate
4. Question Marks (= high growth, low market share)
- have the worst cash characteristics of all, because high demands and low returns due to
low market share
- if nothing is done to change the market share, question marks will simply absorb great
amounts of cash and later, as the growth stops, a dog.
- either invest heavily or sell off or invest nothing and generate whatever cash it can.
Increase market share or deliver cash

The BCG Matrix method can help understand a frequently made strategy mistake: having
a one-size-fits-all-approach to strategy, such as a generic growth target (9 percent per
year) or a generic return on capital of say 9,5% for an entire corporation.

In such a scenario:

A. Cash Cows Business Units will beat their profit target easily; their management have
an easy job and are often praised anyhow. Even worse, they are often allowed to reinvest
substantial cash amounts in their businesses which are mature and not growing anymore.

B. Dogs Business Units fight an impossible battle and, even worse, investments are made
now and then in hopeless attempts to 'turn the business around'.

C. As a result (all) Question Marks and Stars Business Units get mediocre size
investment funds. In this way they are unable to ever become cash cows. These
inadequate invested sums of money are a waste of money. Either these SBUs should
receive enough investment funds to enable them to achieve a real market dominance and
become a cash cow (or star), or otherwise companies are advised to disinvest and try to
get whatever possible cash out of the question marks that were not selected.

Some limitations of the Boston Consulting Group Matrix include:

High market share is not the only success factor

Market growth is not the only indicator for attractiveness of a market

Sometimes Dogs can earn even more cash as Cash Cows

GE / McKinsey Matrix

In consulting engagements with General Electric in the 1970's, McKinsey & Company
developed a nine-cell portfolio matrix as a tool for screening GE's large portfolio of
strategic business units (SBU). This business screen became known as the GE/McKinsey
Matrix and is shown below:

The GE / McKinsey matrix is similar to the BCG growth-share matrix in that it maps
strategic business units on a grid of the industry and the SBU's position in the industry.
The GE matrix however, attempts to improve upon the BCG matrix in the following two

The GE matrix generalizes the axes as "Industry Attractiveness" and "Business Unit
Strength" whereas the BCG matrix uses the market growth rate as a proxy for industry
attractiveness and relative market share as a proxy for the strength of the business unit.

The GE matrix has nine cells vs. four cells in the BCG matrix.

Industry attractiveness and business unit strength are calculated by first identifying
criteria for each, determining the value of each parameter in the criteria, and multiplying
that value by a weighting factor. The result is a quantitative measure of industry
attractiveness and the business unit's relative performance in that industry.

Industry Attractiveness

The vertical axis of the GE / McKinsey matrix is industry attractiveness, which is

determined by factors such as the following:
Market growth rate
Market size
Demand variability
Industry profitability
Industry rivalry
Global opportunities
Macroenvironmental factors (PEST)

Each factor is assigned a weighting that is appropriate for the industry. The industry
attractiveness then is calculated as follows:
Industry attractiveness = factor value1 x factor weighting1
+ factor value2 x factor weighting2

+ factor valueN x factor weightingN

Business Unit Strength

The horizontal axis of the GE / McKinsey matrix is the strength of the business unit.
Some factors that can be used to determine business unit strength include:
Market share
Growth in market share
Brand equity
Distribution channel access
Production capacity
Profit margins relative to competitors

The business unit strength index can be calculated by multiplying the estimated value of
each factor by the factor's weighting, as done for industry attractiveness.

Plotting the Information

Each business unit can be portrayed as a circle plotted on the matrix, with the information
conveyed as follows:
Market size is represented by the size of the circle.
Market share is shown by using the circle as a pie chart.
The expected future position of the circle is portrayed by means of an arrow.

The following is an example of such a representation:

The shading of the above circle indicates a 38% market share for the strategic business
unit. The arrow in the upward left direction indicates that the business unit is projected to
gain strength relative to competitors, and that the business unit is in an industry that is
projected to become more attractive. The tip of the arrow indicates the future position of
the center point of the circle.

Strategic Implications

Resource allocation recommendations can be made to grow, hold, or harvest a strategic

business unit based on its position on the matrix as follows:

Grow strong business units in attractive industries, average business units in attractive
industries, and strong business units in average industries.

Hold average businesses in average industries, strong businesses in weak industries, and
weak business in attractive industies.

Harvest weak business units in unattractive industries, average business units in

unattractive industries, and weak business units in average industries.

There are strategy variations within these three groups. For example, within the harvest
group the firm would be inclined to quickly divest itself of a weak business in an
unattractive industry, whereas it might perform a phased harvest of an average business
unit in the same industry.

While the GE business screen represents an improvement over the more simple BCG
growth-share matrix, it still presents a somewhat limited view by not considering
interactions among the business units and by neglecting to address the core competencies
leading to value creation. Rather than serving as the primary tool for resource allocation,
portfolio matrices are better suited to displaying a quick synopsis of the strategic business