A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis is often performed when looking at a new business venture, competitors or overall business thrust. Evaluating an existing one for accuracy and usefulness can be challenging, but there are key things to check to make the task easier.
Review the strengths section and verify the facts. Check their accuracy. Determine if the strengths listed are truly strengths or just "nice-to-haves." An example of a strength is an easily recognizable brand, such as the one established by the Kelloggs food company.
Review the weaknesses section and check the facts in a similar manner. For example, a weakness can be the lack of a large hard drive in a new laptop model.
Review the opportunities section and analyze subjectively what each opportunity means. Try to assess the importance of each. An opportunity for any company that helps to save energy resources is the renewed focus on environmentalism brought forth by the "green" movement.
Brainstorm any opportunities that may not have been included in the analysis, and play devil's advocate with each to see if they are worth including. For example, the approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement provided business opportunities by lowering trade restrictions.
Analyze the threat section by reviewing the resources used to see if you agree that each threat is really a threat. An example of a perceived threat is the enforcement of the child labor laws facing major electronics manufacturers in Asia today.
Perform additional research to see if any threats were missed. Add them to the analysis if they make sense.
Make all changes needed from Steps 1 through 6 and see if the analysis conclusion or outcome has changed. Use the overall picture gained from the analysis to see if any changes are needed in your project, product or new business strategy. Create plans to address any weaknesses and prepare for any threats that have been identified as real.
It helps to hold a meeting to review a SWOT analysis, as multiple inputs result in a better final analysis.
Brenda Keener is a high tech sales and marketing executive with more than 25 years' experience in various Silicon Valley companies. She has been writing all her life and actively freelancing for the last 10 years. She holds a B.S. in materials science from Northwestern University, an M.S.E.E. from Santa Clara University, and an M.B.A. from Edinburgh Business School.