SWOT is often used during the strategic planning process, as a leadership team begins the process of looking at which areas the organisation should focus on over the coming period.
SWOT serves as a useful tool for establishing top-line areas for a potential business improvement strategy to focus on, and for sourcing ideas for new strategic initiatives.
However you can use it at any time, and you can also use it at different levels, for instance to assess an individual product or division, or even a key competitor.
The process can be run by a group of people within a workshop - face-to-face or virtual - or it can be followed by an individual team member who runs the analysis before presenting it back to the wider group.
SWOT begins with the most satisfying element for most organisations: focusing on its Strengths. What does the organisation do particularly well? What are the unique factors that enable it to be successful? Where is it well-placed compared to its rivals?
Next, it’s time to get critical and honest about the organisation’s Weaknesses. Where does the organisation lack skills, resources or assets? Where does it come off worse than its competitors?
In thinking about what’s next for the organisation, what are its Opportunities? What conditions or situations exist that could enable the organisation to profit?
Looking outside the organisation we can assess relevant Threats. What, outside the organisation’s control, could prevent it from succeeding?