What is a SWOT analysis and Why is it Useful?26 Oct 2021
SWOT analysis is a tool that can be used to help a person or organisation with their strategic planning.
The tool can help you understand your or your organisation’s current situation. Understanding where you are now can help you plan how to get to where you want to go.
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
On the surface, it can seem like a tool that would be too simple to be very useful, but in actuality, it helps you focus on the most relevant factors for planning.
The SWOT analysis is sometimes called the ‘Internal/External Analysis’, because when you’re conducting a SWOT analysis you will find that the Strengths and Weaknesses are often internal factors you can control, whereas Opportunities and Threats are commonly external factors you can influence rather than directly control.
SWOT analyses can be used to assess how a business is aligned with its goals and strategy, but it can also be used for particular projects and even for individuals.
In this article, we are focussing on SWOT analyses for businesses and projects. Keep reading for examples of questions you can ask yourself to help generate ideas.
Whether you’re completing the SWOT analysis on your own or as part of a group, make sure that you are clear on what you’re trying to assess i.e. your company as a whole, your range of products, or your skills as an employee.
If you’re completing a SWOT analysis on your own then download our free editable PDF SWOT analysis template, or just grab a piece of paper and divide it into 4 sections, each with one of the SWOT headings.
If you’re completing a SWOT analysis as a group then it can be useful to make a big version, either on a flipchart or the wall.
A SWOT analysis shouldn't be rushed; really think about what would fit under each heading and what ideas you might have not thought about before.
Are internal (controllable), positive traits either about the company or yourself.
Here are some examples of SWOT analysis questions you might ask to find a company’s strengths:
Weaknesses are also internal, but they are negative factors that detract from either your company or your overall improvement (if conducting a personal SWOT analysis)
Weaknesses can be tricky because they are internally focused and negative, but it’s important to acknowledge them so that you can try to improve them.
Weaknesses are one of the reasons it can be really useful to have a facilitator or someone leading the meeting. They can help keep the ideas flowing and make sure it doesn't become too focused on one person.
Here are some examples of SWOT analysis questions you might ask to find a company’s weaknesses:
Opportunities are external, positive factors that you may be able to take advantage of to improve your organisation.
Here are some examples of SWOT analysis questions you might ask to find a company’s opportunities:
Threats are external, negative factors that might make your organisation vulnerable. They are not factors you can directly control, however, you can put solutions in place to decrease the risks involved.
Writing down threats can often help you put them in perspective.
Here are some examples of SWOT analysis questions you might ask to find a company’s threats:
Once you have finished your SWOT analysis it is important that you are able to then use it, otherwise, you have wasted time gathering all that important information.
You will have four lists that will give you a good overall idea of the question you were asking, whether it’s about your company as a whole, a project or a product.
You can use this picture to create a strategy to move forward.
A good way to do this is to prioritise your lists. It is also often good to keep your strategic objectives in mind whilst doing this.
Strengths: Think about which of these you need to continue to improve. Are there any strengths that we need to fortify?
Weaknesses: Are there any that can be weaknesses that can be fixed immediately or need to be fixed immediately? Which weaknesses are really important that you fix as soon as possible?
Opportunities: Which opportunities on your list are of higher value to you? Are there any quick wins? Are there any opportunities that your strengths lend well to?
Threats: As these are external factors they are likely to be a bit harder to prioritise, but it’s important to pay attention to them and have plans in place to help mitigate the effects.
You may wish to review these plans every 3-6 months to make sure they are up to date.
What will you use your SWOT analysis for?
If you would like more help planning, then our 1 day Project Management course can give you the basics to help you make the most of opportunities and minimise risks.
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