SWOT Summary: Kick Projects Off Right the First Time

Give me an S! “S!”

Give me a W! “W!”

Give me an O! “O!”

Give me a T! “T!”

What do you have? A simple yet effective way to uncover opportunities for your client or your business. This article will outline the best practices to develop a SWOT analysis to allow you to identify what’s working and where you can improve to kickstart your organization’s strategic planning process.

A Little Bit of Planning Goes a Long Way

It can be easy to fall into the trap of starting a project at lightning speed but without first taking time to solidify your goals and develop a plan. Without a goal, you’ll end up going on a reckless, winding road trip with no GPS and no final destination. To ensure program success, we recommend beginning with Discovery. This includes outlining goals, objectives, and taking the time to identify and synthesize all available data to drive to results.

Often overlooked in the fast-paced environments we work in now, SWOTs are one of the simplest, most effective ways to start a project because they outline your positioning.

Need to create a social strategy? Start with a SWOT.

Need to create a content strategy Start with a SWOT.

Need to sell more products? Start with a SWOT.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. SWOTs can work with any project.

SWOT Analysis Components

Simply put, a SWOT is a high-level summary of previous analysis that details your businesses’ Strengths, Weaknesses,Opportunities, and Threats.

Let’s walk through an example.My business PENCILS ARE US has been in business for 10 months now. We sell only the best and most trendy pencils in the market, so I need a strategy to increase my sales in the next year.

There are dozens of questions you can think about when completing your SWOT. Here are some sample questions to ask yourself when moving through your analysis. 

Strengths:

  • Why do our customers like us?
  • What is the one thing we do best?
  • What do we do better than our top competitor?
  • What makes our company a place someone would want to work?
  • What makes us unique?

Weaknesses:

  • What do customers complain about?
  • What does our top competitor do better than us?
  • Why wouldn’t someone want to work with us?
  • Are we wasting money on something that does not help drive sales?
  • Why do we lose sales? 

Opportunities:

  • What’s the latest and greatest trend in our business?
  • What else can we offer customers?
  • What are new platforms we can utilize to market ourselves?
  • Are there companies outside of our business line that we can partner with?
  • What are new technologies we can use to be better and faster?

Threats:

  • Who is doing business better than us?
  • What trends are going against what our business offers?
  • What is occurring in the economy that could affect our costs?
  • What are competitors doing now that we are not?
  • What obstacles are we facing?

A SWOT summary, like the one above, is not the only planning framework, of course, but it is a powerful high-level analysis that assists at a project’s infancy. There are also SOARs (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results) that work similarly but with a slightly more positive spin. Other frameworks, like Gap Planning, compare where an organization is now, where it wants to be, and how the “gap” should be filled to reach goals. There’s no right or wrong choice on the framework you choose to use—research and experiment with the framework that works best for your organization.

SWOT Tips:

  • Start with a clear purpose.What is the key project/goal/KPI you are working toward? Don’t lose focus of this when filling in your SWOT summary.
  • Get team members involved.Ask applicable members to complete a SWOT, then come together to see what similarities and differences stand out. Identify as a team the common themes in each category.
  • Create a SWOT at least annually. By doing so, you will see if any weaknesses have moved off the list or even turned into a strength. Plus, take into account if there are new competitors in your business line that you need to add to your threats.
  • A SWOT is just the beginning!It’s not a “set it and forget it” idea. After you’ve identified the key items in each category, follow through with a plan that has clearly defined deliverables, KPIs, and due dates.

Starting a project is often the hardest phase of a project altogether, but having a plan from the start is not just helpful—it’s CRITICAL. A former boss once told me, “If you don’t have time to do it right, you won’t have time to do it over.” A tried-and-true SWOT summary will simplify your planning process to get the hard part “right” from the beginning. So, go forth and SWOT!

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