The origins of SWOT analysis are murky, but the strategic planning technique first became popularized in the early 1970s by Albert Humphrey at the Stanford Research Institute just as Silicon Valley was incubating into a global tech hotspot.
Fast forward 50 years and the tried-and-true framework has had enough staying power and become such a part of business culture that it was featured on an episode of HBO’s “Silicon Valley” series.
So, after a half-century is SWOT analysis outdated or still a useful business tool.
Project management pro Moira Alexander argues in the TechRepublic in her “SWOT analysis: Why you should perform one, especially during times of uncertainty” article that now is a good time to use the strategy to assess your company’s SWOT which is shorthand for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
“During times of crisis, SWOT analysis can become one of your company’s greatest tools for survival,” Alexander wrote.
SWOT analysis, utilizing internal and external data, can help your business evaluate its competitive position and develop strategic planning.
Why You Should Perform a SWOT Analysis
One of the reasons that SWOT analysis has been around for a half century is that there are many benefits to using the framework.
Brian Hill, in a Houston Chronicle small business column, cited five good reasons why a business should perform a SWOT analysis:
- Help Use Resources Efficiently: By examining strengths, can help a business allocate resources to maximize revenue and profit.
- Improve Business Operations: By examining weaknesses, can help businesses identify areas that need improvement.
- Discover New Opportunities: By examining emerging opportunities, your business can identify everything from new products and services to geographic expansion to new customer groups.
- Deal with Risks: Before threats turn into reality, your business can develop a game plan to counter them. This can only happen once external threats are identified.
- Competitive Positioning and Strategy: Performing a SWOT analysis on your competitors will allow your business to position itself in your marketplace.
“Basic SWOT analysis is beneficial since the scope of its use is practically unlimited,” according to pestleanalysis.com.
Steps to Take to Do a SWOT Analysis
The core of a SWOT analysis is dividing a square into four quadrants with Strengths and Weaknesses listed in the top two boxes, and Opportunities and Threats listed in the two below.
This visual tool provides a quick overview to your company’s overall position, now and in the future.
The first step, of course, is to identify the management team or internal or external task force that will perform the SWOT analysis.Taking Strengths as an example, the team should do the following for each quadrant:
- Start by brainstorming a large list of Strengths, keeping track of all suggestions on a white board or similar instrument. All ideas are accepted at this stage.
- Next, narrow the brainstorming list by grouping any Strengths that are similar together, and clarifying which Strengths should be kept on the list for the next phase or removed. Debate is encouraged.
- Now, take this more defined list and choose three top Strengths for your company, as agreed upon by the group, and put these Strengths in the quadrant.
- Finally, summarize each of the Strengths with a clear definition so there will be a uniform understanding of each Strength moving forward.
Repeat the same steps for Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats and you will have a completed SWOT analysis.
The final step is to use this SWOT analysis as a springboard to develop a strategy that you can implement.
As you can see, the SWOT analysis will not give you all the answers but can be used as a roadmap or guide moving forward.
Performing a SWOT Analysis for Individuals
SWOT analysis can also be conducted for individuals, with businesses finding them helpful for employee annual performance reviews or even for individuals to perform as self-assessments.
Just as you would do a business SWOT analysis, use the quadrant visual. An employee SWOT analysis might look like:
- Strengths: Completes assignments on time; Productive team member; Shows initiative
- Weaknesses: Needs work on safety protocols; Needs to update technical knowledge
- Opportunities: Put up for promotion; Assign to new task force or department
- Threats: Competitor could recruit; economic crisis may force staff cuts
Like a business SWOT analysis, you would use an employee SWOT to plan the next steps for their career in your company.
Employer Flexible is here to help your business with its Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Contact us today to find out how our stress-free HR services can benefit your Texas-based business.