2.2.4 How to implement SWOT analysis

Now it's time for you to see how to implement SWOT analysis for your own needs. The following graphs outline the implementation procedure for SWOT analysis.

Figure 1: "Implementation procedure for SWOT"


(Source: InnoSupport: Supporting Innovations in SME. 2.2 SWOT Analysis, 2005)

Figure 2: "Action checklist"


(Source: InnoSupport: Supporting Innovations in SME. 2.2 SWOT Analysis, 2005)

Establish the objectives

The first key step in any project is to be clear about what you are doing and why. The purpose of conducting SWOT analysis may be wide or narrow, general or specific1, but it must be well clarified and defined to all employees or managers participating in the SWOT analysis.

Allocate research and information-gathering tasks

Preparing the data to be used in SWOT analysis is a vital stage for the analysis to be effective and productive in terms of results. This task should be divided among participants. This preparation can be carried out in two stages:

A. Exploratory, followed by data collection. At this stage you should derive data relevant to your analysis' objective by recorded files, staff experience and knowledge, primary or secondary research data, briefing with managers, business plans, marketing or financial documents, etc.

B. Detailed, followed by a focused analysis on the data collected. During this stage you should analyse the data drawing some conclusions, ideas, statements, etc. that could form a strength, a weakness, an opportunity or a threat.

Success factor: Gathering information on Strengths and Weaknesses should focus on the internal factors of skills, resources and assets, or lack of them. Gathering information on Opportunities and Threats should focus on the external factors.2

Create a workshop environment

During this stage participants should exchange their ideas and views. It is recommended to make the SWOT during meetings so that you could exploit the benefits of workshop sessions. Encourage an atmosphere conducive to the free flow of opinions, information and let participants express what they feel as being appropriate, without criticizing them. The facilitator of the meeting has a key role and should allow time for free flow of thought, but not too much. Half an hour is often enough to spend on Strengths, for example, before moving on. It is important to be specific, evaluative and analytical at the stage of compiling and recording the SWOT lists.3

List Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats in the SWOT Matrix

At this stage you could use a SWOT matrix shown in the annex or you can draw this matrix by yourself in order to complete it. While trying to complete consider the following questions and recommendations:

Strengths:

What advantages does your company have?
What do you do better than anyone else?
What unique or lowest-cost resources do you have access to?
What do people in your market recognise your strengths? What factors mean that you "get the sale"?
Do customers believe you are innovative?
Consider this from an internal perspective, and from the point of view of your customers and people in your market. Be realistic but avoid modesty!4

Weaknesses:

What could you improve? What should you avoid?
Have you ever shared you ideas with your customers to get feedback?
What are people in your market likely to see as weaknesses?
What factors lose you sales?
Are you considered as an organisation imitating others' strategies or as an innovative and leading one?
Again, consider this from an internal basis: Do other people seem to perceive weaknesses that you do not see? Are your competitors doing any better than you? It is best to be realistic now, and face any unpleasant truths as soon as possible.5

Opportunities:

Where are the good opportunities facing you?
Do you have creative staff providing valuable and useful ideas for new products, procedures or services? Do you have enough resources to support them?
Do you need to make changes to your organisation's culture or way of working?
What are the interesting trends you are aware of?
Useful opportunities can come from such things as:
Changes in technology and markets on both a broad and narrow scale, Changes in government policy related to your field, Changes in social patterns, population profiles, lifestyle changes, etc.

Local events

A useful approach for looking at opportunities is to look at your strengths and ask yourself whether these open up any opportunities. Remember that opportunities and threats are external! Opportunities are potential future strengths.
Alternatively, look at your weaknesses and ask yourself whether you could create opportunities by eliminating them.6

Threats:

  • What obstacles do you face? Which of your resources (human, financial or other kind) might inhibit the development of a creative and innovative culture?
  • What is your competition doing that you should be worried about? Are they more innovative? Do they usually make changes to attract customers?
  • Are the required specifications for your job, products or services changing?
  • Is changing technology threatening your position?
  • Do you have bad debt or cash-flow problems?
  • Could any of your weaknesses seriously threaten your business?

Threats are potential future weaknesses. Carrying out this analysis will often be illuminating - both in terms of pointing out what needs to be done, and in putting problems into perspective.7

Evaluate listed ideas against objectives

At this stage you should sort and group facts and ideas in relation to the objectives. It may be necessary for the SWOT participants to select some of the most important items from the list in order to gain a wider view. Having the objectives clearly in mind is key to success as evaluation and elimination will be necessary to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Once the SWOT analysis is complete, it will then be time to put it all together and look closely to form a strategy or plan of action. Review your SWOT matrix with a view to creating an action plan to address each of the four areas.

In summary:

  • Strengths need to be maintained, built upon or leveraged.
  • Weaknesses need to be remedied or stopped.
  • Opportunities need to be prioritised and optimised.
  • Threats need to be countered or minimised.8

Once the SWOT analysis is complete, it will then be time to put it all together and look closely to form a strategy. This will involve how you can exploit the Opportunities and how to eliminate or deal with the Threats. This may well depend on your company's original objectives and goals but the whole process will certainly give an overall look at the current position of your business.9

Now it's your turn! Try to use SWOT analysis to analyse your organisation's situation focusing on making a decision, on solving a problem or achieving a goal. You could use the template included in the annex.

Simple rules for a successful SWOT analysis

  • Be realistic about the strengths and weaknesses of your organisation.
  • The analysis should distinguish between where your organisation is today, and where it could be in the future.
  • Be specific. Avoid gray areas. Avoid unnecessary complexity and over analysis
  • Always analyze in relation to your competition i.e. better than or worse than your competition.
  • Keep your SWOT short and simple - but only as short and simple as the application or situation demands - it is about 'fitness for purpose'.10

Due to the collaborative nature of this tool, your working group will need certain qualities to succeed:

  • Trust - The questions that SWOT will bring up, particularly in the Weaknesses and Threats categories may be uncomfortable. Your group needs to have open communication and a close or good working relationship where weaknesses and potential threats can be faced openly and objectively. (See component 10.2 Company culture)
  • Ability and willingness to implement change.
  • Diversity - The team participating in the SWOT analysis would be more productive if you tried to have employees by all units of your organisation or with diversity of background, experience, etc.
  • Establish that your coalition has the necessary components to successfully conduct a SWOT analysis (above).
  • Set up meeting times (if the SWOT is not going to be completed in one 'sitting')
  • Discuss how to use the information gathered from the SWOT to organise your next steps or to support innovative iniatives.11


1 InnoSupport: Supporting Innovations in SME. 2.2 SWOT Analysis, 2005
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4 www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMC_05.htm  
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8 www.mftrou.com/how-to-do-a-SWOT-analysis.html  
9 www.bizhelp24.com/marketing/swot-analysis---understanding-your-business-3.html  
10 www.rapidbi.com/created/SWOTanalysis.html  
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