Breaking down SWOT with examples
The acronym SWOT is a planning technique for identifying factors that can be exploited, mitigated or avoided.
When conducting a SWOT analysis, it’s important to identify all the strengths and weaknesses of an organization as well as any potential opportunities coming their way. Potential threats should also be evaluated carefully so appropriate steps can either mitigate them before they happen or avoid them altogether if possible.
- Typically internal factors that are within the project’s control to manage.
- Strategies might include using the strength in order to leverage the strengths for better outcomes, lower risk or other benefits.
Example: Team experience or team knowledge (“we have experience with this software”).
Action Plan: Ensure project plan has the experienced resources on relevant tasks
- Again internal factors, which detract from your strengths and need to be considered or they could impact your project over time.
- Strategies could include avoidance or mitigating (through identified Opportunities as one example) action plans.
Example: Only one or a few team members have knowledge or experience, which could be a key person risk (“the software experience is with two team members who work part time).
Action Plan: Manage part time schedule to cover most hours and use experienced team members for peer reviews to support quality.
- Usually external to the project or even the organisation that can contribute to a project’s success.
- Strategies could include ‘exploit’ to take advantage of an identified opportunity.
Example: There is a planned marketing event scheduled for December, which the Project could use to launch the new product.
Action Plan: Engage Marketing to develop tasks to meet campaign timelines for launch.
- External (to the Project) factors which, if not managed are likely to impact the project.
- Strategies include ‘avoid’ and ‘mitigate but in some cases can include ‘accept’ if it is a lower risk approach to manage the impacts rather than roll the dice and try to stop them.
Example: The type of technology requires regulatory approval which, if not received in time could prevent the Product launch.
Action Plan: Include a compliance workstream in the Project Work Breakdown structure to include the required tasks and dependencies to ensure approval is given on time.
The visualisation of the analysis is usually seen in a 4-box grid (two by two squares) where a group can capture ideas and map them against a heading. The outcomes should inform your project plan where it may need to make adjustments for what has been analysed and recommended.
SWOT analysis workshops can be fun and are expected to be highly collaborative and inclusive of stakeholders from all levels of the organisation. It is a useful technique for strategic planning as much as it is for business planning, which can allow corporate strategies and project planning processes together. If the team can’t be physically online together, there are many online tools that will help develop your SWOT analysis in a virtual environment – you can even note down a Strength of the team is virtual collaboration across borders and time zones as a result!