Using a SWOT analysis is usually suggested as one of the first templates to use when you need to analyze a solution or organization. However, if you’re new to using visual collaboration templates you might not understand exactly what a SWOT analysis is or how to use it.
We created this guide to detail the definitions of a SWOT analysis and the exact process of how to effectively use them, all through Fresco. If you want to read more about visual collaboration or online whiteboards, you can check out our extensive guides to learn more.
What is a SWOT Analysis?
A SWOT analysis is a template that identifies the internal strengths and weaknesses of the organization you’re focusing on. Through these strengths and weaknesses, you can locate possible opportunities for growth and threats, both internal and external.
On a very basic level, SWOT analyses are created to do an audit of the good parts of your business and the parts that need improvement. This can be done either on the current business model you are working with or a proposed plan your team is looking to implement and evaluate.
It’s important when you complete a SWOT analysis that you consider both the internal and external elements that affect your strategy. You can easily miss key opportunities and weaknesses without external consideration, and can only get a full picture of your strategy when considering every internal and external element.
Sometimes using a visual planner can be very helpful in realizing the potential benefits that can be gained from implementing a new strategy or evaluating one being used by a competitor. These reasons make using a SWOT template incredibly helpful and more beneficial than a basic planning map.
Not only can SWOT templates be used to form understandings about business plans, but they can also be extremely helpful in organizing a future project or sprint. When evaluating your next course of action, it’s important to realize the inherent strengths and weaknesses that that strategy holds and what doors it may open in the future. By conducting SWOT analyses on future projects you can effectively predict some of the possible upsides and downsides of implementing your proposed idea and help mitigate the risks that come with it.
Now that we understand what a SWOT analysis is, let’s move on to breaking down each step and the effective ways to use them.
How to use a SWOT Analysis
SWOT templates are very simple frameworks to analyze business models and projects, and once you understand the types of contributions needed to make then they become powerful predictors and analytical tools. Here are the categories and some important questions to ask while using them.
Click here if you want to check out our SWOT template and use your own.
The first component to tackle in a SWOT analysis is the strengths portion. This is where you analyze the various internal and external strengths that your project or model possesses, and why they specifically benefit you. The questions we ask on our SWOT template are:
- What are the things you do well?
- What are the things that make you unique?
- What do other people perceive your strengths to be?
These questions will mostly revolve around yourself because that is where your strengths should shine the brightest to build an effective strategy. When considering your strengths it’s also important to poke into the outside elements that function to strengthen your proposal. Some good external questions to ask yourself could be:
- What skills and assets do we have that the competition does not?
- What things do our customers say we excel at?
- How is our business fundamentally different than the competition?
Here are some other questions if you want to implement more into your strengths section:
- What is our strongest asset?
- What is our central value proposition?
- How will this solution create new strengths/reinforce our current strategy?
While it can be tempting to focus solely on the strengths that your business emphasizes, the SWOT analysis would be incomplete without detailing as many weaknesses as you can think of. Without thinking about your weaknesses in-depth you can ignore vital information that is central to the positioning and understanding of the new solution you’re looking to develop. The prompts we use to discover weakness are:
- Where could there be room for improvement?
- Where are you lacking resources?
Think about what you already know needs improvement, and because you have already identified this area as somewhere that requires an overhaul, it probably is also somewhere that holds potential weaknesses. Weaknesses are defined not only as places lacking structure but parts of a sequence that enables inefficiency.
It’s important to think about your potential weaknesses as dynamic possibilities and places that customers and users have identified as pain points. These could be things that you already know about or things that you previously thought of as strengths that now pose a barrier to your future success. Some other questions to think about during a SWOT analysis are:
- What do customers regularly report as an issue?
- What experience are we lacking?
- Are there any possible avenues for someone to exploit our weaknesses?
Opportunities are tangential to strengths and should be thought of similarly. Where strengths are a consideration of what you currently succeed at, the opportunities section is an example of how these strengths can be applied to create new possibilities. This could also be a chance to work on your weaknesses and spin them into something brilliant. A couple of questions we ask about opportunities in our SWOT analysis are:
- Where do you see a gap in the market?
- What market trends can you take advantage of?
- How can you use your strengths to pivot into opportunities?
Focusing on opportunities mainly focuses on the external possibilities that your business can strive towards. It is aptly named, therefore, opportunities. Because it focuses so much on the external variables surrounding your business/solution, many of the questions to focus on revolving around the larger ecosystem and the target market you are focusing on. Some extra questions might sound like this:
- How is our target market evolving and how can we meet their needs?
- Is there a niche customer base we can succeed with?
- What are our competitor’s biggest strengths and how can we take from them to improve our product/service?
The Threats section of the SWOT analysis focuses on the applications of the weaknesses that were previously identified. If you take the weaknesses and think about what happens if you expose these or follow them to their fruition. Some of the questions we prioritize in our SWOT analysis for the threats section are:
- What are the potential threats and how could they harm you?
- What is your competition doing that you aren’t?
It’s important when considering threats to think about both the things that you already are aware of and the things that might pop up due to outside circumstances. Because threats can arise from external scenarios, some ulterior questions to consider for threats could be:
- Is our target market shrinking or moving away?
- How is the competitive ecosystem evolving?
- What weaknesses lead directly to threats that could expose you?
Conducting a SWOT analysis is one of the best ways to expose the future opportunities and threats your business might be prone to, and also highlight your current strengths and weaknesses. The visualization of these elements is critical in establishing a solid plan for your business, and using our SWOT template is the best way to do so. If you want to learn more about the possibilities during work from home, check out our new article on the Ideascale blog.