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[Business Analysis Techniques] SWOT 

What Is a SWOT Analysis?

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, and so a SWOT analysis is a technique for assessing these four aspects of your business.

SWOT Analysis is a tool that can help you to analyze what your company does best now, and to devise a successful strategy for the future. SWOT can also uncover areas of the business that are holding you back, or that your competitors could exploit if you don’t protect yourself.

A SWOT analysis examines both internal and external factors – that is, what’s going on inside and outside your organization. So some of these factors will be within your control and some will not. In either case, the wisest action you can take in response will become clearer once you’ve discovered, recorded and analyzed as many factors as you can.

In this article, video and infographic, we explore how to carry out a SWOT analysis, and how to put your findings into action. We also include a worked example and a template to help you get started on a SWOT analysis in your own workplace.

Why Is SWOT Analysis Important?

SWOT Analysis can help you to challenge risky assumptions and to uncover dangerous blindspots about your organization’s performance. If you use it carefully and collaboratively, it can deliver new insights on where your business currently is, and help you to develop exactly the right strategy for any situation.

For example, you may be well aware of some of your organization’s strengths, but until you record them alongside weaknesses and threats you might not realize how unreliable those strengths actually are.

Equally, you likely have reasonable concerns about some of your business weaknesses but, by going through the analysis systematically, you could find an opportunity, previously overlooked, that could more than compensate.

How to Write a SWOT Analysis

SWOT analysis involves making lists – but so much more, too! When you begin to write one list (say, Strengths), the thought process and research that you’ll go through will prompt ideas for the other lists (Weaknesses, Opportunities or Threats). And if you compare these lists side by side, you will likely notice connections and contradictions, which you’ll want to highlight and explore.

You’ll find yourself moving back and forth between your lists frequently. So, make the task easier and more effective by arranging your four lists together in one view.

A SWOT matrix is a 2×2 grid, with one square for each of the four aspects of SWOT. (Figure 1 shows what it should look like.) Each section is headed by some questions to get your thinking started.

How to Do a SWOT Analysis

Avoid relying on your own, partial understanding of your organization. Your assumptions could be wrong. Instead, gather a team of people from a range of functions and levels to build a broad and insightful list of observations.

Then, every time you identify a Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, or Threat, write it down in the relevant part of the SWOT analysis grid for all to see.

Let’s look at each area in more detail and consider what fits where, and what questions you could ask as part of your data gathering.

Strengths

Strengths are things that your organization does particularly well, or in a way that distinguishes you from your competitors. Think about the advantages your organization has over other organizations. These might be the motivation of your staff, access to certain materials, or a strong set of manufacturing processes.

Your strengths are an integral part of your organization, so think about what makes it “tick.” What do you do better than anyone else? What values drive your business? What unique or lowest-cost resources can you draw upon that others can’t? Identify and analyze your organization’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP), and add this to the Strengths section.

Then turn your perspective around and ask yourself what your competitors might see as your strengths. What factors mean that you get the sale ahead of them?

Remember, any aspect of your organization is only a strength if it brings you a clear advantage. For example, if all of your competitors provide high-quality products, then a high-quality production process is not a strength in your market: it’s a necessity.

Weaknesses

Weaknesses, like strengths, are inherent features of your organization, so focus on your people, resources, systems, and procedures. Think about what you could improve, and the sorts of practices you should avoid.

Once again, imagine (or find out) how other people in your market see you. Do they notice weaknesses that you tend to be blind to? Take time to examine how and why your competitors are doing better than you. What are you lacking?

Be honest! A SWOT analysis will only be valuable if you gather all the information you need. So, it’s best to be realistic now, and face any unpleasant truths as soon as possible.

Opportunities

Opportunities are openings or chances for something positive to happen, but you’ll need to claim them for yourself!

They usually arise from situations outside your organization, and require an eye to what might happen in the future. They might arise as developments in the market you serve, or in the technology you use. Being able to spot and exploit opportunities can make a huge difference to your organization’s ability to compete and take the lead in your market.

Think about good opportunities that you can exploit immediately. These don’t need to be game-changers: even small advantages can increase your organization’s competitiveness. What interesting market trends are you aware of, large or small, which could have an impact?

You should also watch out for changes in government policy related to your field. And changes in social patterns, population profiles, and lifestyles can all throw up interesting opportunities.

Threats

Threats include anything that can negatively affect your business from the outside, such as supply-chain problems, shifts in market requirements, or a shortage of recruits. It’s vital to anticipate threats and to take action against them before you become a victim of them and your growth stalls.

Think about the obstacles you face in getting your product to market and selling. You may notice that quality standards or specifications for your products are changing, and that you’ll need to change those products if you’re to stay in the lead. Evolving technology is an ever-present threat, as well as an opportunity!

Always consider what your competitors are doing, and whether you should be changing your organization’s emphasis to meet the challenge. But remember that what they’re doing might not be the right thing for you to do. So, avoid copying them without knowing how it will improve your position.

Be sure to explore whether your organization is especially exposed to external challenges. Do you have bad debt or cash-flow problems, for example, that could make you vulnerable to even small changes in your market? This is the kind of threat that can seriously damage your business, so be alert.

Ref: https://www.mindtools.com/amtbj63/swot-analysis

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