A SWOT Analysis is a structured brainstorming and evaluation tool used to identify personal and business internal Strengths, Weaknesses and external Opportunities, Threats.
The analysis helps illustrate the current state of a business, product or plan, the results of which allow the user to then make informed goal setting and strategic decisive plans for future success.
You can also use it on a personal level to analyse your career or finances, in fact whenever a decision has to be made this tool is helpful to create an informed action plan.
The analysis sheet is defined by creating four-quadrant on a sheet of paper.
The top left side headed Strengths, the quadrant to the right headed Weaknesses.
The bottom left quadrant headed Opportunities, the bottom right quadrant headed Threats.
The internal analysis apply to the business strengths and weaknesses, honesty and reality must be exercised when creating the lists of the companies strengths and weaknesses.
Strengths are the skills and key abilities the company is proficient with, which give an advantage over the competition. Continue to develop, build upon and enlarge these strengths, they will give the ability to maintain a competitive leading edge.
Weaknesses are the skills and key abilities the company is lacking, and maybe common with the competition, this commonality may hinder your success and growth.
Identifying the weaknesses will allow achievable goal setting to ultimately minimise / mitigate them, turn them into future strengths, and offer clarity to determine if they expose the company to external threats.
The external analysis starts forming the picture of the market by the opportunities for entering the market and staying in it.
When analysing Weaknesses it is recomended to look at the competion and record the weaknesses in their business, these become the opportunities in the business being formed.
Opportunities are changes occurring external to the business that the company could take advantage of, such as changes in regulations, social changes, or new products that don’t currently exist.
Opportunities help identify areas where the company can grow – where to focus time and resources.
Threats are any external factors that could have a negative impact, such as trends in the market and society or government regulations. These factors are likely out of the company’s control, but the busiiness team should keep an eye on them and plan ways to mitigate their effects.
Important Keep in mind that Strengths and Weaknesses are internal, while Opportunities and Threats are external – confusing internal and external factors is a common confusion in a SWOT analysis. For example, an action the company takes to eliminate or improve a weakness is not an opportunity. It is simply an action that is taken related to listed weakness.
How to Prepare Effectively for the Analysis
Create an overview
To get the entire team involved with the analysis on equal footing, creating the overview will assist in all involved to be on a balanced awareness of the goals which the expected result of the analysis.
Hint: Unless the desire is to do everything on a white board first, you can edit the SWOT Analysis Template in real time during your discussions, on a computer using a projector to project the analysis worksheet on to a wall or screen. Try to have an experienced Excel user, to edit the document, to reduce distraction during discussions with technical problems.
We recommend that each of the four sections that make up the analysis sheet be copied on separate pages.
In this way the answers can be indexed and objectively examine each section which may be printed and used as working copies.
What to do with SWOT Analysis Results
The initial step is completing the SWOT Analysis, the next step is to examine the gathered results and from them, derive actions to be taken.
At the bottom of the spreadsheet, please note a section for action and goals set.
From each of the four sections the answers should be given to the following questions:
Which opportunities should be pursued?
How to use the skills and abilities to help achieve objectives?
Which weaknesses can be developed into strengths to help maximize success?
What threats should be studied and or more closely monitored?
What strategies can be put into place to be prepared for reducing more manageable threats?
Hint: The outcome of the analysis should be displayed in a high visibility area, in this way all involved have a constant reminder of the course the business should be on.