SWOT Analysis

Tools | By Duncan Haughey | Read time minutes

Colourful SWOT Analysis word circle

Albert Humphrey, an American business and management consultant, developed the SWOT Analysis technique while working at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in the 1960s.

SWOT is a strategic planning tool that project managers can use to evaluate a projects strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

It involves specifying the project's objective and identifying the internal and external factors that are favourable and unfavourable to achieving that objective. The strengths and weaknesses usually arise within an organisation and the opportunities and threats from external sources.

The SWOT analysis is an integral part of the project planning process:

  • Strengths: attributes of the organisation that help achieve the project objective.
  • Weaknesses: characteristics of the organisation that stop achievement of the project objective.
  • Opportunities: external conditions that help achieve the project objective.
  • Threats: external conditions that could damage the project.

Use the following grid to record each factor:

State Project Objective:
Strengths (internal factors)Weaknesses (internal factors)
Track record (similar successes)Gaps in knowledge and expertise
Resource availabilityTimescale and deadlines
Skill levelsBudget and funding
Processes and systemsCompeting projects
ReputationProcesses and systems
Opportunities (external factors)Threats (external factors)
Technology and infrastructure developmentPolitical influences
Changing consumer behaviourEnvironmental factors
Emerging and developing marketsCompetitor activity
Innovations (R&D)Economy
Market demandSeasonal effects

With a SWOT analysis, it is helpful to ask these four questions:

  • How can we use our strengths?
  • How can we address each weakness?
  • How can we exploit each opportunity?
  • How can we guard against each threat?

Advantages of SWOT

  • Short and only costs time to do.
  • Produces new ideas to help take advantage of an organisation's strengths and defend against threats.
  • Awareness of political and environmental threats allows an organisation to have response plans prepared.

Disadvantages of SWOT

  • May persuade organisations to compile lists rather than think about what is essential to achieving objectives.
  • It presents lists uncritically and without clear prioritisation. For example, weak opportunities may appear to balance serious threats.
  • Usually, a simple list and not critically presented.

Practitioners often use SWOT analysis in conjunction with PEST analysis, which stands for political, economic, social, and technological.

Recommended read: SWOT Analysis in Project Management by Michelle Symonds.


What's Next?

You may also be interested in