SWOT is a structured planning tool that can be used to evaluate the Strengths,Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in running a business venture. Using a SWOT analysis can help a business determine the advantages or disadvantages of changes they want to make based on internal and external factors.
A SWOT analysis can be broken down into two distinct parts:
- Strengths and weaknesses which are based on internal environmental
- Opportunities and threats, based on external environmental factors.
Before we go on further I want you to grab a piece of paper and draw four boxes; use the diagram below as a guide. Under each section, you are going to identify some points that have affected your business or will affect your business in the future. In order to help you get started, I have listed a few questions for you, to make the process go faster. I encourage you to do this activity with your team.
- What do you do better than anyone else?
- What unique or lowest-cost resources can you draw upon that others can’t?
- What is your organisation’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP), either in terms of sales and marketing or production of your goods?
- What do people in your market see as your strengths?
- What could you improve?
- What should you avoid?
- What are people in your market likely to see as your weaknesses?
- What circumstances may lose you sales?
- What good opportunities can you spot?
- What interesting trends are you aware of?
- Changes in technology and markets on both a broad and narrow scale.
- Changes in government policy related to your field.
- Changes in social patterns and lifestyle changes.
- What obstacles do you face?
- What are your competitors doing?
- Are quality standards or specifications for your products or services changing?
- Is changing technology threatening your position?
- Do you have bad debt or cash-flow problems?
Developing a Strategic Plan
The next stage of the analysis is to rank your answers from most important to least. Then take the highest ranking strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and answer the following questions:
- How do you use your strengths to take advantage of opportunities?
- How do you overcome weaknesses preventing you from taking advantage of opportunities?
- How can your strengths reduce the probability of threats?
- What can you do about your weaknesses to make the threats less likely?
As you answer these questions you will begin to understand the external forces you are facing. Use your understanding of the implications to develop a plan of action.
The SWOT analysis is about capitalising your strengths, overcoming weaknesses, exploiting opportunities, and countering threats. Moreover, it is about identifying the most important issues, setting priorities and taking action.
This should all be done in the context of the organisation, project or situation and customer. So you see, the output of the SWOT analysis is not simply four boxes with text in them, but rather a concise report containing clear goals and activities that should be communicated to your employees and the rest of your stakeholders.
I advise you to perform SWOT analysis periodically due to the fact that over time your company will grow, or the factors that influence your overall performance might change.