A firm's cost position results from the cost behavior of its value activities. The cost behavior is based on a number of structural factors which influence cost, which I term cost drivers. Numerous cost drivers can combine to determine the cost of a given activity. The significant cost driver or drivers can vary among firms in the similar industry if they employ different value chains. A firm's relative cost place in a value activity depends on its standing vis-à-vis important cost drivers.
Ten major cost drivers determine the cost behavior of value activities: economies of scale, learning, and the pattern of capacity utilization, interrelationships, linkages, integration, timing, optional policies, position, and institutional factors. Cost drivers are the structural causes of the cost of an activity and can be more or less under a firm's control. Drivers frequently interact to establish the cost behavior of a specific activity, and the associative impact of cost drivers will vary widely among value activities. Thus no one cost driver, such as scale or the learning curve is ever the sole determinant of a firm's cost position. Diagnosing the cost drivers of each value activity permits a firm to gain a complicated understanding of the sources of its relative cost position and how it may be changed.