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What Is The ADL Matrix? The ADL Matrix In A Nutshell
The ADL matrix was developed and named after the consulting firm Arthur D. Little, Inc. (ADL) in the late 1970s. It is one of several portfolio planning matrices representing the various businesses of a company in two-dimensional form. The ADL matrix is a portfolio management technique used to strengthen a product portfolio or strategic business unit.
The ADL matrix is most often associated with strategic planning at the business unit level. However, it is also effective when applied to product lines or at the individual product level.
Fundamentally, the matrix plots five competitive positions of a business against four maturity levels of the industry in which it operates. Insights from the matrix are then used by managers to guide general productstrategy to attain a dominant market position.
In the following section, we will discuss each parameter in the matrix in more depth.
Plotting the ADL matrix
The competitive position of a company is determined by assessing the following categories and criteria:
Dominant – a rare position where a company has a monopoly or protected leadership within its market. Profits are consistently strong and market share is maintained.
Strong – describing a company with a strong market position with a few competitors. The market is typically divided, allowing each player to make money.
Favorable – or a company operating in a fragmented market with no dominant player. However, one player may still enjoy a competitive advantage in one segment of the market.
Tenable – most commonly describing a company occupying a niche market or in a limited geographical area.
Weak – companies in a weak competitive position are small players in an aggressive market. Their small size makes it difficult to maintain profitability.
Industry life cycle
In the ADL matrix, there are four stages of the industry life cycle:
Embryonic – a new or emerging industry characterized by rapid growth, little competition, new technology, and high investment and prices.
Growth – a slightly stronger market with few competitors and strong sales. First movers enjoy significant benefits for bringing products to market.
Mature – or stable markets with a stable customer base and market share. High competitive pressure means businesses focus more effort on differentiation.
Aging – in aging industries, product demand decreases, and the cost of differentiation becomes prohibitively expensive. This causes some companies to abandon the market.
Interpreting the ADL matrix
With each combination of competitive position and industry life cycle stage, the matrix guides future strategy in twenty different scenarios.
Some of the more pertinent combination scenarios are provided below:
Dominant position/embryonic industry – maintain position by preventing the establishment of new businesses. Efforts should be focused on securing as much market share as possible.
Dominant position/aging industry – hold dominant position and milk the market.
Favorable position/growth industry – invest in the business to increase market share.
Favorable position/mature industry – find a niche within the market that facilitates growth while protecting the current position.
Weak position/embryonic industry – get out of the market if profitability cannot be assured.
Weak position/aging industry – abandon the market.
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