Tuesday, April 24, 2012

S.W.O.T. Analysis - Made Simple

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If you are preparing a business or project plan, it is likely that you will be requested to perform some type of S.W.O.T. analysis, which is a very simple, subjective and qualitative analysis of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats to which your business, strategy, project or team shall be subject.

You may also perform a periodic self-SWOT analysis on a personal level, wherein you evaluate yourself as a leader or performer. If you know your own SWOT, it can be a fabulous self-education tool.

While its use in presentations to outside parties is principally as an additional selling opportunity (i.e., you enhance your S and O, while you show how you will mitigate your W and T through intelligent, anticipatory risk mitigation and containment). You generally use it as a tool to show that your research has been thorough and that you have made contingency plans to offset or contain any problems. It is seen by evaluators as a measure of your thoroughness and possibility thinking.

Used internally, SWOT is a fabulous common-sense analysis tool to be deployed at the very outset of any business decision which you intend to make. Even more useful is a periodic re-evaluation of your SWOT factors.

What follows is excerpted from Wikipedia:

"SWOT analysis (alternately SLOT analysis) is a strategic planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses/Limitations, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or in a business venture. It involves specifying the objective of the business venture or project and identifying the internal and external factors that are favorable and unfavorable to achieve that objective. The technique is credited to Albert Humphrey, who led a convention at Stanford University in the 1960s and 1970s using data from Fortune 500 companies.

Setting the objective should be done after the SWOT analysis has been performed. This would allow achievable goals or objectives to be set for the organization.
  • Strengths: characteristics of the business, or project team that give it an advantage over others
  • Weaknesses (or Limitations): are characteristics that place the team at a disadvantage relative to others
  • Opportunities: external chances to improve performance (e.g. make greater profits) in the environment
  • Threats: external elements in the environment that could cause trouble for the business or project
Identification of SWOTs is essential because subsequent steps in the process of planning for achievement of the selected objective may be derived from the SWOTs.

First, the decision makers have to determine whether the objective is attainable, given the SWOTs. If the objective is NOT attainable a different objective must be selected and the process repeated.

Users of SWOT analysis need to ask and answer questions that generate meaningful information for each category (strengths, opportunities, weaknesses, and threats) in order to maximize the benefits of this evaluation and find their competitive advantage.[1]"

For our summary at The Business And Project Planning And Management Blog , suffice it to say that SWOT analysis is a wonderful tool for internal analysis at the outset of a project, and at periodic intervals thereafter; while for presentation purposes it is more of a selling opportunity which demonstrates that we've researched our plan of action, and that we have anticipated our potential problems and have solutions or countermeasures "waiting in the wings."

Douglas E. Castle

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