SWOT Analysis and its Use in Business Planning

By Eckhard Ortwein | Business Model

Jul 18
SWOT analysis

A SWOT analysis is a powerful tool that can help you develop a strong business strategy. Doing a SWOT analysis doesn’t take much time, but it allows you to think about your business in a new way – discover new opportunities, manage and eliminate threats. It’s actually a plan of action for moving forward, in the context of the current situation of your business in the changing environment.

In this article, we will explain what a SWOT analysis is, and give you some tips on how to do a SWOT analysis.

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SWOT analysis template: getting started 

SWOT is an acronym that stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Strengths and weaknesses are internal to the company such as reputation, patents and intellectual property, location. You have some control over these things and can change them over time but that will require some work. Opportunities and threats are external, for example, suppliers, competitors, prices, customer shopping trends — they are out there in the market, happening whether you like it or not. You can take advantage of the opportunities and take measures to protect against threats, but you can’t change them.

A SWOT analysis template can be divided into 2 parts: internal and external factors. You should organize your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats and present them in a clear, organized manner. You can use a grid-style layout, make a simple list of bulleted points or create a report sheet with different headers. You should choose the method that makes it easiest for you to organize, understand, and interpret the results.
  • Strengths are positive attributes of your business, for example, successful business processes and operating procedures, competitive advantages that distinguish you from other companies, tangible assets (proprietary software, cash, special equipment, distribution channels, patents etc.), positive attributes of people (knowledge, education, skills, network, reputation).
  • Weaknesses are negative aspects of your company that place you at a competitive disadvantage, for example, elements that your business lacks and your competitors have, poorly optimized business processes, disadvantages of your location etc.
  • Opportunities are factors outside of your control that could have some kind of positive impact on your business. They may include some trends affecting your products or services, expansion into new markets, regulatory changes that you could take advantage of etc.
  • Threats are external factors that could place your business at risk for example, disruptive technology and changes in consumer behavior affecting your business model, instability of your suppliers in the future, economic or political instability in the current markets etc. Assessing potential threats can help you develop strategies to deal with them should they ever actually occur.

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How to do a SWOT analysis correctly 

SWOT analysis can be applied to an entire company, particular projects and strategies, for example, SWOT marketing analysis or individual projects within a single department. Conducting a comprehensive SWOT analysis gives you a unique opportunity to gain greater insight into how your business operates. You will be able to identify what your company does well, where you could improve, and what opportunities and threats are facing your business. It will give you a chance to develop and implement tangible roadmaps and timelines for potential solutions and be beneficial in mid- to long-term strategic planning.

To make the most of your SWOT analysis, you should gather a team of people from different parts of your company who have different perspectives. You can hold a brainstorming session to identify factors in each of 4 categories or you can ask your team members to complete a SWOT analysis template individually and then meet together to discuss and compile the results. You should build a prioritized list of ideas. After that, you should convert your ideas into real short-term and long-term strategies for your business because the true value of SWOT analysis is the opportunity to use its results to maximize the positive influences and minimize the negative ones.

The most beneficial part of SWOT is when you cross the quadrants to build strategies. Basically, you should try to mix and match all of them, but the ones that usually yield the most results are:
  • How to use Strengths to overcome Weaknesses
  • How to use Strengths to utilize Opportunities

SWOT analysis examples

Still not sure how to approach your own SWOT analysis? The best way to understand it is to review a SWOT analysis example for help and inspiration. You should read SWOT analyses of companies that are either in your industry or are based on comparable business models. A company analysis example will give you an idea of what SWOT analysis might look like and you will be able to spot ideas that are relevant to your own business needs.

 Doing SWOT analysis is a must-have exercise for all startups and existing business at least once a year. It’s a handy tool to record and present ideas. As you could notice, it helps to capture the ideas that come as a part of brainstorming. Though, to capture insights coming from financial data, you need to have additional toolset. You will benefit from using Lean Case, a platform that simplifies the creation of business models, helps with financial data analysis and eases the presentation to the investors.

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About the Author

CEO and Founder Lean-Case - Eckhard is a Serial Entrepreneur co-founding cyber-security startup accells acquired by Ping Identity and m-payment startup paybox acquired by Sybase/SAP. As a Business Angel, VC Partner and Investment Advisor, he has realized that turning business models into numbers is a major challenge and must professionalize.

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