Written by Mohammad Abou Hassan
This article is going to have focus on the SWOT Analysis. There will be an introduction to the SWOT and how to implement the tool. Furthermore, there will be a focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the SWOT analysis which is something that is very beneficial and relevant when working with this tool. In relation to project management, the SWOT analysis can be applied in several different fields like research, strategy or marketing in both public and private organizations and companies.
Many companies apply SWOT to get an overview of the potential risks and the obstacles and difficulties there can be. The aforementioned can be for both internal and external problems and purposes. The abbreviation, SWOT, derives from Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. So the main purpose of the SWOT is to be an analytical device for defining the four aforementioned factors in a specific organization or establishment.
Both the Weaknesses and strenghs can be viewed as internal factors which could be something like ressources or skills that the company possesses. Oppurtunities and threats are viewed as external factors where the company or organization's influence is mainly indirect, which is a correlation to it being called "external" factors or conditions.
Overall, SWOT is designed to give a fact-based and realistic look into an organization, project or any other initiative that is being set in motion. The result may not be a definite action plan but is a very good benchmark and indicator which can give a good point of orientation.
If the SWOT is used well and with a relatively broad base of both external and also internal input, it will lead to a strong analysis that qualifies and enhances the potential for all or parts of a an organization's projects or other initiatives.
Introduction of the SWOT
The origin of the SWOT analysis goes back to the 1960's where it was invented by a man named Albert Humphrey from the SRI (Stanford Research institute) in California. Humphrey advocated implementing the tool on sections like administration, finance, products, customers and processess etc. Since then it has only grown to be a very popular and well-used strategic planning technique all over the world. As mentioned shortly before, the SWOT model consists of four elements which comes from the name SWOT, each letter having its own meaning and purpose. Together, all four letters gives the groundwork for a powerful and beneficial analysis in project management.
The four elements of the SWOT is presented here:
S -> Strength -> Describes internal skills, resources and capacity
W -> Weakness -> Describes internal factors which stands in the way for gaining the desired objectives and goals
O -> Opportunity -> Describes an external factor which can be pursued and utilized for enhancing the quality or performance
T -> Threat -> Describes an external factor which can cause risks or dangers for the organization to achieve its objectives
Apart from being presented above, the four elements can be viewed on the SWOT model figure in the article. There will be an in-depth explanation of each of the four elements in the SWOT analysis and also a guide to how you can go around them and get a successfull strategic planning analysis of your organization or project. The tool is explained below along with its implementation.
Implementation of the SWOT
Strenghs of the company refers typically to the internal skills and resources.It can also be defined as the key factors which plays a role in the company doing well. Examples of strengths could be: trusted brand, high quality, great communication and a good location.
Key questions for the organization to go through it, is by asking questions like:
- What is the things we are very good at, which is better than others?
- what is the specific competencies that leads to our success?
- What cooperations and relationships do we have with others?
You can say weakness is when an element in the strength tends to fail. In other words, the weakness can be seen as a barrier for the organization to achieve its business goals and objectives. Examples of weaknesses in an organization could be: Bad reputation, poor communication, inexperienced in the field or poor quality.
Key questions for the organization to go through its weaknesses, is by asking questions like:
- what is something we are not good at in the company?
- what kinds of cooperations and alliances should we have (but dont have)?
- does our workforce lack anything when it comes to training or competencies?
Opportunity is an external factor which is something the company can control. The opportunity factor is something which has an effect on future developments and possibilities. So overall, this factor enables the company to enhance its growth and business. Examples of opportunities in an organization could be: Launch a new product, Outsourcing, extending to new markets or outlets.
Key questions for the organization to go through its opportunities, is by asking questions like:
- What kinds of outlets or markets might open its doors to us?
- What new technology could be useful and something to invest in?
- What kinds of weak points and elements does our competitors have, which we can take advantage of and exploit?
- what could be some adaptments that we need to make to catch up with the external enviroment?
Threats are also external factors like opportunities. Threats are factors which can be harmful and be the cause and risk for the organization not achieving its main goals and objectives. As it is an external factor, it is not something which can be controlled by the organization itself even though it can have a massive effect and crucial impact on the organization. Examples of threats in an organization can be: habits of customers is changing, emergence of a new and different product or the competitors getting more popular in the relevant market.
Key questions for the organization to go through its threats, is by asking questions like:
- How can changes in society or customer needs, hurt us?
- How can new taxation policies or legislations effect us?
- Are we dependent on something external which could damage us if it collapses?
How to use the tool
Even though the SWOT seems to be a very straightforward and simple tool, it is a very useful and efficient method when looking at the business side of it. When implementing the SWOT tool, the company needs to put some effort, time and resources. The implementation of the SWOT analysis is not a one-man job, rather it is something which needs focus from a whole team which dedicates its time to it. One of its benefits is that it is not complicated and uncomprehensive, rather it is something which is manageable and straighforward which makes the whole procedure very feasible and practicable.
The process itself can be done in an easy way and a comprehensible order. Doing it by a step-by-step method makes it more convenient and clear. A guide for conducting it is seen underneath:
1. Get the right people:
An appropiate approach to getting the right people is to have some sort of variation in the team thats going to work with the SWOT. Getting workers from the different departments/teams will give some different and new insights, thoughts and opinions. Getting all these different point of views and perspectives will give the whole SWOT-team more nuances and help making the SWOT-process more efficient and give more success to the result.
2. Put the ideas on the table:
This step is to get from the main motive to active thinking. This is done like a brainstorming session where you go from a private brainstorming to a collection of the ideas. First thing is to give every person in the team a bunch of sticky-notes and let each person write all their thoughts and ideas on the paper. This process gives every person a chance to have their ideas and perspectives heard and included and gives each individual a sense of responsibility. After approximately 10-15 minutes, each person will have to bring fourth their ideas and stick them up on a board or a wall. Next thing is then to try match all the similar thoughts and ideas together to make it more manageable. There will then be a general look at all the ideas that has been put up and try get an overview of them. There will be room for updates or additions if new ideas were thought through in this process.
3. Prioritizing ideas
After all the sticky-notes has been divided and put on the board, it is suitable to rank all the sticky notes and their respected ideas. This will be done by giving each person in the room around 10 sticky notes and put the same sticky-note color to the same sticky-note color with the idea, so it will be visible. From the aforementioned practice, you will then have an overview of the most popular ideas. This list of prioritized ideas is now going to be the foundation of further discussion and there has to be a prioritization of the ideas and this can be the Chief executive officer or a leading figure in the company, who has the final say in terms of the ideas and what to prioritize. This process can be done for each of the 4 quadrants of the SWOT-model: Strength, weakness, opportunities and threats. The questions for each quadrant which can help with the brainstorming has been mentioned before in the article and can help create a wider range of ideas and thoughts.
After doing the whole SWOT analysis process, it is now time to look more into the SWOT-matrix and try look for possible connections between the four different elements in the matrix. It should now be evaluated if you could take advantage of your strenghts to open more doors to additional opportunities. Furthermore, it should be evaluated that if some internal weaknesses are worked on and removed, will this then pave the way for more external opportunities to be attained?. So at this stage, the focus is to enhance the strengths, build on the weaknesses, steer off any threats, and also try to capitalize on the opportunities and take advantage of it. With this information and list of things that is gathered, you can now take action and have a look at the calendar of the organization and start putting milestones in there and see when the company want to achieve each goal set on the calender.
Advantages and disadvantages
This tool is no doubt very straightforward and well-known for it giving quick insights and analyses the strenghts, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for all kinds of organizations and projects. Like with most applied models and processes, everything has its benefits and limitations and no singular model or analysis is perfect. The same apllies with the SWOT-tool that has its advantages and disadvantages which are listed below.
One of the pros of the SWOT analysis is that it does not need any special training for the ones working with it, nor any other specific competencies. The tool however, is a method that can be done by anyone who has some basic knowledge about the company or organization and its market. The Whole process is something which it pretty straight-forward where the four quadrants are discussed, where it goes from individual brainstorming, opinions and ideas to a more mutual resolution and conclusion. This is very simple where each involved person has his or her knowledge and opinion heard and included in the matter. Furthermore, because a worker or member can work with the SWOT, it is not necessary to include any external professional resources for this tool which saves the company from any possible expenses.
Identyfying threats and opportunities
Being one step ahead and always well prepared and organized is something which is very beneficial and this becomes even more crucial when there is many competitors on the scene. The advantage with this tool is that it certifies and gives a better picture of the opportunities and threats there might be, not only on a regional and national level, but even also on an international level, all based on how much of a scale you want to enclose. This information is very important and plays a big role when setting up new strategies, being a guideline and making it much more simple.
From vision to action
As seen with the SWOT-strategy figure above, one of the advantages of this tool is that on a organizational level, it allows the organizers to go from ideas and visions to tactical actions which delivers competent and practical results. This leads to durable and favorable change, boosting the whole company to collect significant information to utilize and take advantage of its full potential.
When you deal these kinds of analysis, the people and parties involved will be biased and have inclinations which will have an effect on the analysis. furthermore, each person can have their own set of preferences and interests - making it a very subjective process, with not much objectivity.
Another disadvantage of this tool and process is that it does not weigh the factors according to how critical they are. There is therefore a need to make a further investigation before making any major decision. So it is in the lack of prioritization where the challenge is. Important questions like "Which factors or sections should be prioritized first?" and "Which factors or sections should be prioritized last?" are not answered through the SWOT-analysis, rather it is something that the people involved has to consider. If the right decision is not made, it can be big hit for the company if it chose to focus on a specific things and not taking into account other elements which may have grown bigger in size and impact (a weakness for example).
https://www.liveplan.com/blog/what-is-a-swot-analysis-and-how-to-do-it-right-with-examples/ how to work with the swot
https://www.ukessays.com/essays/biology/how-to-implement-swot-analysis.php implementation of the SWOT
https://businesscasestudies.co.uk/the-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-a-swot-analysis/ pros and cons of SWOT
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SWOT_analysis (the SWOT-model)