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SWOT Analysis – A Review of its Uses and Usefulness

SWOTWhat is SWOT Analysis?

SWOT Analysis is a commonly used method of evaluating a person, company, project or product. It can be used in any situation where a decision is needed to clarify the influences that may affect the outcomes.

SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. When using SWOT Analysis in a business context, strengths and weaknesses are most often considered to be internal factors. Opportunities and threats are generally considered as external influences.

The exact origin of the SWOT Analysis methodology is unclear. However, many people believe the model was developed by Albert Humphrey in the 1960s. Humphrey was involved in seminars during this time at the Stanford Research Institute, where he presented using information gathered from Fortune 500 companies.

SWOT Analysis is one of the simplest and quickest tools to use for evaluation purposes. It’s effective, when used correctly, and facilitates decision-making, planning and strategy development. SWOT Analysis encourages people to ask the right questions in a structured way about themselves, their organisation, project or product.

The method can be used by an individual, group or team, and particularly lends itself to brain-storming activities. By using SWOT Analysis in the planning stages of a task, the results can be used to develop an action plan and to avoid wasting time or resources. SWOT Analysis is often used to ‘kick-off’ a project or new phase, but it can also be used as an ongoing strategy development tool.

Whether you use SWOT Analysis as a personal development tool or in a business context, the results can be enlightening. You can then use this information to focus on improving performance and productivity.

Using SWOT Analysis

Using SWOT Analysis consists of examining an objective, situation or entity, and identifying the associated strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that are likely to influence any success.

For example, when used to analyse an organisation, the following points may be considered:

Strengths

  • What is the organisation good at?
  • What are the organisation’s unique selling propositions?
  • What skills do the team have?
  • How good is the organisation’s reputation?

Weaknesses

  • Where does the organisation fail?
  • What problems have occurred in the past?
  • What loses the organisation sales or business?
  • What are the team’s weaknesses?
  • What has previously affected the organisation’s reputation in a negative way?

Opportunities

  • What training would the team benefit from?
  • What current trends may the organisation be able to exploit?
  • What PR activities could be undertaken to improve the organisation’s reputation?
  • How is the economy changing?
  • How are the demographics of the market changing?
  • What funding may be available?

Threats

  • What are the organisation’s competitors doing?
  • How may the changing market adversely affect the organisation’s sales or business?
  • What happens if members of the team are ill or not at work?
  • What legislation or regulations may adversely affect the organisation?

By listing and considering the information that the analysis identifies, you’re creating the base of a framework for future strategy development. It enables you to uncover potential opportunities you may be in a position to take advantage of. You can maximise on your strengths whilst eliminating, or managing, any threats before they can cause damage.

Once you have the raw data, you can then prioritise long lists so that the most significant factors can be dealt with first.

The Most Effective Use of SWOT Analysis

SWOT Analysis can be an effective tool when used as a stand-alone method. However, it’s also extremely useful to use alongside other development and strategy tools.

Beware of simply making lists without prioritising and taking action based on your findings. SWOT Analysis is only useful if you make use of the information you’ve uncovered to make changes and eliminate potential problems.

Be realistic and rigorous when using SWOT Analysis. You’ll find it’s a quick way to get a snapshot of where your business is and what steps need to be taken in order to make progress. Using SWOT Analysis as a regular component of your decision-making process enables you to keep track of any improvements you make and the results you achieve.

Information is power. SWOT Analysis gives you the power to move forward and can help you achieve any objectives you set.

SWOT analysis features on different tailored illumine courses, depending on client requirements. Take a look at our range of creative and critical thinking courses courses here.

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