SWOT Analysis is a simple tool or framework for identifying and analysing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing a business, project or programme. It is also very useful for assessing yourself and for planning your personal development. Carrying out a SWOT analysis can be useful preparation prior to a job interview, in order, to be clear in communicating your strengths. It is also useful to sketch one out on a regular basis for personal development and career planning.
The knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses can paint a broad picture of your current status.
SWOT can be applied across diverse management functions and activities which include:
Personal development planning
Two purposes of SWOT
1. As a tool for getting people together to kick-off a planning or strategy crafting process for a project, programme or business.
2. It can be used as a sophisticated management tool for decision making and for your own personal development / career planning.
Done properly, a SWOT analysis will give you a clear picture of the most important factors that can influence or inform the survival and sustainability of your project, programme or business. As well as a plan to act on. When carried out on yourself, it provides a clear picture of where you need to focus in your personal development and career planning.
SWOT Analysis is popular because of its ease of use and flexibility. With little effort in thinking it can help to highlight where an individual, project, programme or business idea is strong and vulnerable and where there are opportunities to explore and competencies to protect. The result of this process is the crafting of a ‘plan of action or strategy.
To an individual, project, programme or business, strengths are-
Competences and skills (sometimes unique)
Valuable resources – e.g. highly skilled and motivated workforce
Attributes – e.g. good brand image and reputation
Available and accessible to decision makers in exploiting opportunities in their external environment or to counter threats from the external environment.
Some questions that can help you to assess or identify the strengths:
What does the individual, project, programme or business do better than any other else?
What advantages does this person, project, programme or business have?
What resources can this person, project, programme or business draw upon that others can’t?
What do key stakeholders perceive as the strength of the project, programme or business
Assess and decide whether you / the business or project has the appropriate strengths(capacity and resources) on which to build and exploits its opportunities
How can it best exploit its strength in relation to the opportunities available to it?
Which strengths should the organisation seek to develop for the future?
Weaknesses are a lack of competences and skills required to perform better than the competition – e.g. in the design, development and implementation of project, programme or business ideas?
Lack of key resources compared with competitors – e.g. low skilled workforce, poor technological know-how, equipment and infrastructure
Lack of key attributes – e.g. no brand awareness or reputation, lack of skills.
Some questions that can help you to assess or identify weaknesses include:
What essential competencies or resources need updating and strengthening?
Where are the complaints coming from?
What obstacles are preventing progress that we must remove or avoid
What will key stakeholder see as weakness of the project, programme or business?
Decide whether remedying weaknesses is more urgent than building on strengths to exploit opportunities.
Does ignoring key weaknesses make the business or project vulnerable to threats which could lead to the demise of the project or business?
How can critical weaknesses be converted to strengths?
It is important to bear in mind how long opportunities are and how you or the project, programme or business can take the best advantages of these opportunities.
Identify new products, services or markets that might be suitable given the business or project strengths and competencies
Identify changes that are occurring to existing users, clients, customers or beneficiaries of the project or business
Identify changes that need to be made to services or products of the business or project
Threats are things that have the potential to damage or hinder performance. Threats mostly arise from competition and or from factors or forces out of the control of the decision makers of the project, programme or business.
Some questions to consider:
What are your competitors doing?
Is changing technology threatening your project, programme or business position?
Is there debt or cash-flow problems?
Could any of your weaknesses seriously threaten your business / career?
Do threats need managing more urgently than the opportunities pursued?
What threats need to be dealt with immediately and in the short term?
How can critical threats be turned into new opportunities?
Four Components of SWOT
It is important that the four components of the SWOT analysis are considered together and not in isolation. This is because a factor can be both a threat and opportunity depending on the situation. For example new or changing technology could be highlighted as both a threat and an opportunity.
How to initiate and carry out a SWOT analysis
The starting point for carrying out a good SWOT Analysis is to have a clear aims or objectives. On a personal basis, it could be to plan future development or to consider career development. Some of the reasons why businesses or projects carry out SWOT Analysis include:
Preparing the business or project for dealing with problems
Identifying and understanding its competitive advantages
Analysing the prospects for the business or project in the eternal environment
Allowing for the development of contingency plans
Tips for analysis
Do not overestimate the strengths or under estimate weaknesses of your business or project. Be very realistic in your analysis.
Your analysis should distinguish between where your business or project is presently and where it could be in the future.
Be specific. Avoid grey areas
Always analyse in relation to the competition i.e. better than or worse than the competition
Keep your SWOT analysis short and simple. Avoid unnecessary complexities.