A SWOT analysis (alternatively SWOT matrix) is a structured planning method used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats involved in a project or in a business venture. (Wikipedia)
A SWOT analysis can be carried out for a product, place, industry or person.
- Strengths: characteristics of the business or project that give it an advantage over others.
- Weaknesses: characteristics that place the business or project at a disadvantage relative to others.
- Opportunities: elements that the project could exploit to its advantage.
- Threats: elements in the environment that could cause trouble for the business or project.
As part of the development of strategies and plans to enable the organization to achieve its objectives, that organization will use a systematic/rigorous process known as corporate planning. SWOT alongside PEST/PESTLE can be used as a basis for the analysis of business and environmental factors.
- Set objectives – defining what the organization is going to do
- Environmental scanning – Internal appraisals of the organization's SWOT, this needs to include an assessment of the present situation as well as a portfolio of products/services and an analysis of the product/service life cycle
- Analysis of existing strategies, this should determine relevance from the results of an internal/external appraisal. This may include gap analysis which will look at environmental factors
- Strategic Issues defined – key factors in the development of a corporate plan which needs to be addressed by the organization
- Develop new/revised strategies – revised analysis of strategic issues may mean the objectives need to change
- Establish critical success factors – the achievement of objectives and strategy implementation
- Preparation of operational, resource, projects plans for strategy implementation
- Monitoring results – mapping against plans, taking corrective action which may mean amending objectives/strategies.
- What advantages does your organization have?
- What do you do better than anyone else?
- What unique or lowest-cost resources can you draw upon that others can't?
- What do people in your market see as your strengths?
- What factors mean that you "get the sale"?
- What is your organization's Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?
Consider your strengths from both an internal perspective, and from the point of view of your customers and people in your market.
Also, if you're having any difficulty identifying strengths, try writing down a list of your organization's characteristics. Some of these will hopefully be strengths!
When looking at your strengths, think about them in relation to your competitors. For example, if all of your competitors provide high quality products, then a high quality production process is not a strength in your organization's market, it's a necessity.
- What could you improve?
- What should you avoid?
- What are people in your market likely to see as weaknesses?
- What factors lose you sales?
Again, consider this from an internal and external basis: Do other people seem to perceive weaknesses that you don't see? Are your competitors doing any better than you?
It's best to be realistic now, and face any unpleasant truths as soon as possible.
- What good opportunities can you spot?
- What interesting trends are you aware of?
Useful opportunities can come from such things as:
- Changes in technology and markets on both a broad and narrow scale.
- Changes in government policy related to your field.
- Changes in social patterns, population profiles, lifestyle changes, and so on.
- Local events.
A useful approach when looking at opportunities is to look at your strengths and ask yourself whether these open up any opportunities. Alternatively, look at your weaknesses and ask yourself whether you could open up opportunities by eliminating them.
- What obstacles do you face?
- What are your competitors doing?
- Are quality standards or specifications for your job, products or services changing?
- Is changing technology threatening your position?
- Do you have bad debt or cash-flow problems?
- Could any of your weaknesses seriously threaten your business?
When looking at opportunities and threats, PEST Analysis can help to ensure that you don't overlook external factors, such as new government regulations, or technological changes in your industry.