SWOT Analysis 101
The SWOT analysis categorised as “Uncertainty” under how to anticipate if something happens is a versatile strategic planning tool used to assess an organisation's internal and external factors. The SWOT analysis is a method of anticipating uncertainty, as it evaluates the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
The four elements of SWOT analysis include strengths, which are internal factors that give a competitive advantage, weaknesses, which are internal factors that hinder performance, opportunities, which are external factors that can improve performance, and threats, which are external factors that could negatively impact a business.
Using the SWOT analysis can be useful in many ways, the method can be good for identifying areas needing improvement, making key strategic decisions, performance overhauls, development of products, market competition overview, and more. Using the SWOT analysis requires one to identify both the internal and external factors and to evaluate them based on the four elements: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. These four elements are then used to create a strategic plan. Furthermore, the method can be used alongside other strategic planning tools. This SWOT analysis gives a step guide of how to conduct such an analysis and what one gains from it.
Despite the SWOT analysis being a popular tool, it is not without limitations and criticisms. The downsides of the tool include its oversimplifying of key factors and its subjective nature. Nonetheless, SWOT analysis remains a useful tool for organisations to inform and plan their strategic decisions for improved performance.
Lastly, this Wiki page also covers the similar TOWS Matrix which is an extension of the SWOT analysis.
A SWOT analysis is a strategic planning tool that looks at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for an organisation. The tool is a versatile method to anticipate uncertainty and assess an organisation's internal and external factors. The SWOT analysis has its roots in the 1960s, when Albert Humphrey developed it as part of a project at the Stanford Research Institute. This project involved over 500 companies and aimed to identify the reasons behind the success and failure of corporate planning. Today, the SWOT analysis is a well-established and widely used tool for assessing internal and external environments, helping organisations achieve their objectives by analysing the four key factors: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
A SWOT analysis consists of four elements: strengths (internal factors providing competitive advantage), weaknesses (internal factors hindering performance), opportunities (external factors improving performance), and threats (external factors negatively impacting a business). By looking upon these four elements, an organisation can identify areas that are in need of improvement, make new and informed strategic plan decisions, and gain key insights into market competition and new product development.
While a SWOT analysis may offer many benefits, it is not without its advantages, disadvantages and limitations. An example could be that the method easily can oversimplify complex factors and become subjective in its interpretations/nature. Furthermore, the tool only creates a "snapshot" of how the company is in its current position and not for future positions. However, a SWOT analysis remains a valuable tool for organisations when looking to inform and plan their strategic decisions for improved performance and opportunities. By evaluating their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, organisations can make informed decisions, capitalise on their organisational strengths, exploit new opportunities, and minimise threats that could impact overall success.
The SWOT analysis is from the 1960s, the man who was recognised for the analysis was a business consultant named Albert S. Humphrey. Albert Humphrey developed the SWOT analysis framework during a project at Stanford Research Institute (SRI), where over 500 companies funded a project to identify and find reasons behind the success and failure of corporate planning. Over the decades the analysis tool has matured and evolved even more making it the tool widely used today for business strategy and management.
Definition and explanation of SWOT analysis as a tool for strategic planning
The SWOT analysis is a strategic planning tool used to assess internal and external environments, mainly in organisations. The tool is segmented up into four sections that revolve around identifying and evaluating strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats regarding an organisation and the environment it currently resides in both externally and internally. This way the tool is used to achieve objectives by analysing these four factors to gain key insight into the current competitive position and what strategy is currently needed to take to grow/improve the organisation's current standing. In summary, by evaluating the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, informed decisions can be made to capitalise on the company's strengths, exploit opportunities, and minimise threats that could impact the organisation.
The four elements of SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats
Strengths are positive internal attributes (as showcased in green on Figure 1) that give an organisation a competitive advantage. Some strengths could be skilled personnel, a strong brand reputation, unique products or services, or efficient processes. By identifying these strengths, it is possible to help an organisation capitalise on advantages and develop new or better strategies to maintain or increase its market position.
Weaknesses are negative internal attributes (as showcased in yellow on Figure 1) that hinder an organisation's performance or opportunity which puts it at a competitive disadvantage. Some weaknesses could include a lack of resources, outdated technology, high employee turnover, or a weak supply chain. Organisations can develop plans to address and overcome these challenges by recognising these weaknesses and considering them when planning.
Opportunities are positive external attributes (as showcased in blue on Figure 1) that an organisation can exploit to its own advantage. Some opportunities could include new or unexpected changes in the market, new technological advancements, new consumer preferences and needs, or new regulations from legislation. These opportunities allow organisations to identify opportunities and for them to adapt their strategies and to seise on new opportunities arriving.
Threats are negative external attributes (as showcased in red on Figure 1), and these external challenges can create risks to an organisation and its success. Some threats could include economic downturns, increased competition, regulatory changes, or changing markets. By recognising these threats an organisations can develop contingency plans and mitigate risks for the future.
How to SWOT 101
How to conduct the SWOT analysis
Start by setting a goal for an organisation that has a specific objective in mind, this will create a clear direction for what they aim to accomplish by the end of the process.
Create a SWOT matrix by drawing a square divided into four quadrants labelled Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
When assessing strengths, common questions to ask include:
- What areas are we excelling in?
- What is our greatest asset?
When evaluating weaknesses, typical questions to ask might include:
- What factors are holding us back?
- Which product lines are underperforming?
here some examples:
Strengths: List the internal strengths and positive factors. Do consider resources, capabilities, competitive advantages, and successful operations. Resources within that provide a positive effect on the organisation could also be:
- What does the company provide that others do not?
- Does the organisation have a strong brand?
- Other benefits that the organisation internally have that create its market share?
Weaknesses: List the internal weakness factors for improvement. Do consider resource constraints, skill gaps, inefficiencies, and areas where competitors have an advantage. Internal limitations or challenges that create a negative effect on the organisation could also be:
- Outdated technology
- Poor management
- Insufficient financial resources
Next, identify external factors meaning Opportunities and Threats, here some examples:
Opportunities: List the external factors that can be capitalized on to achieve its goals. Do consider market trends, emerging technologies, changes in customer needs, and potential partnerships. External factors that can be taken advantage of for the benefit of the organisation could also be:
- New market trends
- New technological advancements
- New consumers/stakeholder needs
Threats: List the external factors that could negatively impact success. Do consider economic conditions, competition, regulatory changes, and potential risks. External challenges or risks that could negatively affect the organisation could also be:
- Economic downturns such as recessions,
- Increased competition (Increased red ocean environment)
- Changes in regulations for the legislation
Lastly, evaluate all the elements and assess the significance of the identified areas within the four SWOT categories, a great way to help yourself is by visualising the different areas in a table (A table template can be seen in Figure 1). Weight the importance/impact of the different areas with main focus on how it impacts the organisation and develop a strategic plan with the findings that capitalises on the organisation's strengths and opportunities while addressing its weaknesses and mitigating its threats.
Discussion of Advantages and Disadvantages
To begin with, the purpose of a SWOT analysis is to provide a comprehensive overview of a company's or organisation's current position by evaluating its internal/external positive/negative factors. The analysis may have its limitations but, overall By evaluating their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, it is possible to develop clear overviews of competitive advantages and disadvantages. Moreover, SWOT analysis assists in narrowing down areas for growth and improvement, enabling better decisions. This process helps to align an organisation's resources and capabilities with market opportunities, in the end driving success for the organisation.
Some advantages of conducting a SWOT analysis include:
Simple and easy to understand:
- The SWOT framework is straightforward and relatively easy to grasp, because of this it is quite accessible to individuals at all levels of an organisation.
- It is a versatile tool and can be applied to almost any industry, or organisation.
- A SWOT analysis is easy to use in groups, and because of this it promotes teamwork and open discussion among team members increasing effectivity.
Identifies areas of improvement need:
- A SWOT analysis helps organisations identify areas where improvement is needed for growth.
Disadvantages and Limitations
Despite its benefits, a SWOT analysis also has some disadvantages and limitations:
- The SWOT analysis is often based on subjective opinions and perceptions, which can lead to biased results.
- A SWOT analysis only provides a "snapshot" of the organisation (Meaning the current situation selected), because of this the method may not account for future changes in the environment or within the organisation.
Lack of prioritisation:
- The SWOT analysis does not always give clear guidance on which factors are the most critical for the organisation, assigning priority and importance in a SWOT analysis depends on the perspectives of the individuals involved. However, this can quickly become challenging due to varying opinions and viewpoints. Creating overlooked factors and other issues.
Overemphasis on internal factors:
- A SWOT analysis may focus more on internal factors (strengths and weaknesses) rather than considering external factors (opportunities and threats) that could have a significant impact on the organisation.
Here is an example of a SWOT analysis used on Apple, please note that this is just an example and it could be even more detailed!
- Benefit from a loyal customer base
- Effective supply chain management
- Excellent brand reputation
- High profit margins contribute to financial success
- Known for innovative products
- Apple products are often expensive
- Compatibility issues with non-Apple devices
- Limited product range compared to competitors
- Mainly focuses on the premium market segment
- Capitalise on emerging markets
- Collaborate with other companies to create new opportunities
- Expand their services, such as Apple TV+ and Apple Music
- Explore new product categories such as smart homes or augmented reality
- Consumer preferences are constantly evolving
- Legal challenges such as antitrust issues and patent disputes must be navigated.
- Rapid technological advancements impact the industry
- Strong competition from companies such as Samsung, Google, and other brands
What did we learn from this?
From this quick SWOT analysis of Apple, we have learned that the company has several strengths, such as an excellent brand reputation, innovative products, and effective supply chain management, which have contributed to its financial success. However, even Apple has weaknesses, such as its expensive lineup of products and limited product range, which in the end could limit its market reach and potential market share. But from the analysis, there were also highlighted some opportunities for Apple to capitalise on, such as emerging markets or the employment of new product categories to expand its range of services.
To address the issue of expensive products, Apple should introduce more affordable options like they have done before with their iPhone SE (lower-cost devices), this way they can appeal to a broader market. Apple also has a lot of compatibility issues with its products and Apple should invest in research and development to enhance better compatibility with non-Apple devices. Apple should also expand upon its current portfolio by exploring new categories, such as smart homes or augmented reality creating new innovations. Lastly, Apple should rely less on its flagship products.
By creating partnerships and collaborations with other organisations such as healthcare, automotive, or telecommunications. Apple can create new revenue streams, unlock new markets, and develop more integrated and innovative solutions. Expanding services, such as Apple TV+ and Apple Music, by exploring new categories to boost user engagement and generate new forms of revenue. Apple must therefore adapt its strategies, including staying ahead of consumer needs, embracing new technologies, and mitigating threats like legal challenges and competition.
Highly inspired by how this SWOT analysis was conducted: "https://bstrategyhub.com/swot-analysis-of-apple-apple-swot/" 
Comparison to other tools alike
A method that can be compared to the SWOT analysis is the PESTLE/PEST analysis.
PESTLE or Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, and Environmental factors. Is a method used to analyse the external macro-environmental factors  that may impact an organisation or industry.
The big difference here is that the SWOT analysis focuses on both internal and external factors, while the PESTLE analysis specifically only looks upon the broader external factors that may influence an organisation or industry. Meaning the PESTLE analysis concentrates on the "macro-environmental" factors affecting an organisation, while the SWOT analysis specifically looks at the opportunities and threats arising from the external environment. PESTLE analysis provides a broader understanding of the external context, whereas SWOT analysis offers a more focused approach, linking external factors to the organisation's internal strengths and weaknesses.
Nonetheless, these tools might differ in use, but they do complement each other, as both cover topics that the other doesn't. Because of this, it would be recommended to actually use both of these tools together since they complement each other so well.
In general, a SWOT analysis is a valuable strategic planning tool and should be used with other tools for a more comprehensive understanding of an organisation's situation. Here are some reasons why it:
- Enhances understanding of the organisation
- Overcomes limitations of individual tools
- Supports better decision-making
- Fosters collaboration and improvement
The extension of SWOT, The TOWS Matrix
The TOWS Matrix is a strategic planning tool that helps organizations identify and analyze the relationships between internal strengths and weaknesses. The method also identifies and analyzes external opportunities and threats. The method is in short an extension of the SWOT analysis or basically just a rearrangement of the SWOT acronym, emphasizing the importance of examining the relationships between these factors. As the SWOT analysis, it provides a framework for developing and selecting strategies that are tailored to an organization's specific circumstances. In short, to not be confused, the SWOT and TOWS are the same model just weighted differently. TOWS emphasizes the external opportunities and threats first and then matches them with the organization's strengths and weaknesses, while SWOT examines the internal strengths and weaknesses first and then the external opportunities and threats. 
It is categorized and offers four types of strategies: SO, ST, WO, and WT:
- SO: strategy uses internal strengths to maximize external opportunities.
- ST: strategy maximizes strengths and minimizes threats.
- WO: strategy minimizes weaknesses by using external opportunities.
- WT: strategy minimizes both weaknesses and threats and is a defensive strategy used in
What is SWOT analysis?
Source: "What is SWOT analysis?", British Library Business & IP Centre,  (Accessed: May 8, 2023)
Summary: This article explains the SWOT analysis framework, developed by Albert Humphrey at the Stanford Research Institute in the 1960s and 1970s. It provides examples of internal and external factors businesses should consider and outlines the four SWOT analysis strategies.
SWOT Analysis: How To With Table and Example
Source: Kenton, W. (2023). SWOT Analysis: How To With Table and Example. Investopedia.  (Accessed: May 8, 2023)
Summary: This article details the SWOT analysis framework and its four components (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats). It provides a step-by-step guide to conducting a SWOT analysis and highlights the importance of diverse perspectives and data sources. The article also includes examples of SWOT analysis applications in business scenarios.
SWOT analysis: a key organisational development tool
Source: CIPD. (2021). SWOT Analysis Factsheet.  (Accessed: May 8, 2023)
Summary: A SWOT analysis is a planning tool used to identify the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or organisation. This factsheet explores the four elements of SWOT and the process of conducting an analysis. It provides tips for conducting the analysis and a ready-to-use SWOT analysis template. The factsheet concludes by discussing when a SWOT analysis is most appropriate, as well as its advantages and disadvantages.
How to Do a SWOT Analysis (And Why It Matters) (Title may have been changed)
Source: Chaffey, M. (2017). WordStream.  (Accessed: May 8, 2023)
Summary: This article explains SWOT analysis, and its application in business strategy, and offers a step-by-step guide for conducting it. The benefits of SWOT analysis in decision-making and problem-solving are also highlighted.
5 Surprising Disadvantages of SWOT Analysis
Source: PESTLE Analysis. (SEP 24, 2018).  (Accessed: May 8, 2023)
Summary: This article outlines five key disadvantages of SWOT analysis, including lack of prioritization, potential bias, overemphasis on internal factors, static nature, and oversimplification.
TOWS Matrix: Meaning And Example
Source: "TOWS Matrix.". (NOV 21, 2021) Harappa Education, Harappa Diaries, https://harappa.education/harappa-diaries/tows-matrix/. Accessed 8 May 2023.
Summary: This article explains the TOWS Matrix, which is an extension of SWOT analysis. The article covers that TOWS Matrix consists of four strategies: SO, ST, WO, and WT.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 British Library, "What is SWOT analysis?", https://www.bl.uk/business-and-ip-centre/articles/what-is-swot-analysis (April 07, 2023)
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 Investopedia, "SWOT Analysis: How To With Table and Example", https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/swot.asp (February 12, 2023)
- ↑ WordStream, "How to Do a SWOT Analysis (And Why It Matters)", https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2017/12/20/swot-analysis (Accessed on April 7, 2023)
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 CIPD, "SWOT analysis: a key organisational development tool", https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/strategy/organisational-development/swot-analysis-factsheet (Accessed on April 7, 2023)
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Pestle Analysis, "5 Surprising Disadvantages of SWOT Analysis", https://pestleanalysis.com/5-surprising-disadvantages-of-swot-analysis/ (Accessed on April 7, 2023)
- ↑ Bstrategyhub, "SWOT Analysis of Apple: Apple SWOT", https://bstrategyhub.com/swot-analysis-of-apple-apple-swot/
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Monash University, "Macro Environment" https://www.monash.edu/business/marketing/marketing-dictionary/m/macro-environment (Accessed on April 7, 2023)
- ↑ Harappa Education, "TOWS Matrix: The Modern Alternative To SWOT Analysis", https://harappa.education/harappa-diaries/tows-matrix/ (Accessed on May 8, 2023)