Three circles analysis helps you look at your products and services and those of other players through the eyes of your customer. Out of the analysis will emerge: a picture of the extent to which your products and services and those of key other players meet customer needs areas of duplication – where you are competing… areas of unmet need areas for potential collaboration. The three steps First carry out some research into your beneficiary’s needs; you may already have a detailed handle on this or you could ask others including your beneficiaries: it depends how much time/other resources you have. Then research the main features of the products and services of the other player you are most interested in; ask around your organisation to get a good range of input. Now list out the main features of the products and services of your organisation. You might end up with a table like this: Beneficiary needs Our key service features Key other player service features Immediate access to services as needed 24-hour helpline; county-wide free service Outreach workers in all towns (not villages) in the county; weekly visits Face-to-face support No face-to-face support Face-to-face available weekly All services available in one place Key worker assigned for telephone counselling Signposting provided to other organisations for other services Outreach worker offers counselling and advice Counselling Counselling service by phone Counselling service face-to-face Advice Advice Advice Advocacy Referrals Referrals Social activities with peers, including support groups Social and peer on regular basis No social or peer activity Involvement via volunteering to run support groups SU involvement programme run by dedicated officer No SU involvement Three circles diagram The features can be transferred onto a three circles diagram like the one below. Sometimes visual representation can open up new thinking. Download a larger version of the three circles diagram (JPG) Description of the diagram The three circles (key service features, beneficiary needs and other key features) are shown as a Venn diagram. The overlapping areas are labelled A-D. The ‘sweet spot’ (A) is the overlapping area between key features and beneficiary needs. The analysis Once you’ve laid out features in a table or on the diagram you can start to do some analysis. Make the most of of your distinctiveness – the sweet spot Look at your distinctiveness: the sweet spot! (A). How sustainable is our distinctiveness and how can you keep adding value? How can you ensure you retain this distinctiveness? New opportunities for growth Look for beneficiary needs that are unmet (the red area), or only partly met: these present opportunities for growth, either on your own or through collaboration Look at services that the other player is providing that are not part of your portfolio, their distinctiveness (B); should you be providing them? How effective are they? Do you need to compete to add value for beneficiaries? Opportunities to collaborate or compete Look at where you and the other player are providing the same service to meet need (D). Question if and why this duplication is the most effective use of resources. How effective are you? Should you consider leaving this work to others? If not, should you collaborate and add value to the totality of what is being offered? Or should you all continue to offer this type of service to provide competition and comparison for beneficiaries? Look at services you are providing that are not matched with beneficiary needs (the non-overlapping green area plus C). Question why you are providing them (sometimes this is because your portfolio of services has not kept up with changing needs), and if/why this should continue What opportunities are there for you to provide complementary services to other players? Further reading Three circles analysis based on reflections from Joel E. Urbany James H. Davis (2007) ‘Strategic Insight in 3 Circles’ in the Harvard Business Review November 2007, p 30.
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