Find out more about SWOT,
with James Manktelow & Amy Carlson.
SWOT Analysis is a useful technique for understanding your Strengths and Weaknesses, and for identifying both the Opportunities open to you and the Threats you face.
Used in a business context, it helps you carve a sustainable niche in your market. Used in a personal context , it helps you develop your career in a way that takes best advantage of your talents, abilities and opportunities.
What makes SWOT particularly powerful is that, with a little thought, it can help you uncover opportunities that you are well-placed to exploit. And by understanding the weaknesses of your business, you can manage and eliminate threats that would otherwise catch you unawares.
More than this, by looking at yourself and your competitors using the SWOT framework, you can start to craft a strategy that helps you distinguish yourself from your competitors, so that you can compete successfully in your market.
Originated by Albert S Humphrey in the 1960s, the tool is as useful now as it was then. You can use it in two ways – as a simple icebreaker helping people get together to "kick off" strategy formulation, or in a more sophisticated way as a serious strategy tool.
Strengths and weaknesses are often internal to your organization, while opportunities and threats generally relate to external factors. For this reason, SWOT is sometimes called Internal-External Analysis and the SWOT Matrix is sometimes called an IE Matrix.
To help you to carry out your analysis, download and print off our free worksheet, and write down answers to the following questions.
Consider your strengths from both an internal perspective, and from the point of view of your customers and people in your market.
Also, if you're having any difficulty identifying strengths, try writing down a list of your organization's characteristics. Some of these will hopefully be strengths!
When looking at your strengths, think about them in relation to your competitors. For example, if all of your competitors provide high quality products, then a high quality production process is not a strength in your organization's market, it's a necessity.
Again, consider this from an internal and external basis: Do other people seem to perceive weaknesses that you don't see? Are your competitors doing any better than you?
It's best to be realistic now, and face any unpleasant truths as soon as possible.
Useful opportunities can come from such things as:
A useful approach when looking at opportunities is to look at your strengths and ask yourself whether these open up any opportunities. Alternatively, look at your weaknesses and ask yourself whether you could open up opportunities by eliminating them.
When looking at opportunities and threats, PEST Analysis can help to ensure that you don't overlook external factors, such as new government regulations, or technological changes in your industry.
If you're using SWOT as a serious tool (rather than as a casual "warm up" for strategy formulation), make sure you're rigorous in the way you apply it:
You could also consider using the TOWS Matrix . This is quite similar to SWOT in that it also focuses on the same four elements of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. But TOWS can be a helpful alternative because it emphasizes the external environment, while SWOT focuses on the internal environment.
A start-up small consultancy business might draw up the following SWOT Analysis:
As a result of their analysis, the consultancy may decide to specialize in rapid response, good value services to local businesses and local government.
Marketing would be in selected local publications to get the greatest possible market presence for a set advertising budget, and the consultancy should keep up-to-date with changes in technology where possible.
SWOT Analysis is a simple but useful framework for analyzing your organization's strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunities and threats that you face. It helps you focus on your strengths, minimize threats, and take the greatest possible advantage of opportunities available to you.
It can be used to "kick off" strategy formulation, or in a more sophisticated way as a serious strategy tool. You can also use it to get an understanding of your competitors, which can give you the insights you need to craft a coherent and successful competitive position.
When carrying out your analysis, be realistic and rigorous. Apply it at the right level, and supplement it with other option-generation tools where appropriate.
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