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SWOT analysis and PEST analysis
(Notes to accompany templates)
The SWOT analysis is an extremely useful tool for understanding and reviewing the company’s
position prior to making decisions about future company direction or the implementation of a new
business idea. A SWOT analysis can be completed by an individual within the organization (provided
they can take an overview of the current situation) but is often best completed in a team or group. The
discussion itself is informative, and the quality of the output is better if perceptions are gathered from a
number of people.
The PEST analysis is a tool to evaluate external factors. It is often helpful to complete a PEST analysis
prior to a SWOT analysis, although it may be more useful to complete a PEST analysis as part of, or
after, a SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis measures a business unit; a PEST analysis measures trends
and changes in the market.
A SWOT analysis is a subjective assessment of information about the business that is organized using
the SWOT format into a logical order that helps understanding, presentation, discussion and decisionmaking. The four dimensions are a useful extension of a basic two heading list of pro's and con's. The
SWOT analysis template is normally presented as a grid, comprising four sections, one for each of the
SWOT headings: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. The SWOT template below
includes sample questions, whose answers are inserted into the relevant section of the SWOT grid. The
questions are examples, or discussion points, and obviously can be altered depending on the subject of
the SWOT analysis. Note that many of the SWOT questions are also talking points for other headings use them as you find most helpful, and make up your own to suit the issue being analyzed.
A SWOT analysis can also be used to examine different aspects of the business, in our case examining
the businesses solutions, customers, capabilities and organizational capabilities. Each represents a
different element of the business, and requires a separate assessment. In the template provided we
suggest specific questions that need to be answered relevant to each aspect of the business. As you
work with this framework you may add questions that are relevant to the specific context of your
business. Importantly, the SWOT analysis can include many different ideas that make it difficult to
process decisions. It is therefore useful to define the relevant level of significance you will consider
when including a factor before completing the analysis. That said, it is important that you identify at
least one factor to go in each box, even if you cannot determine the relative importance of a factor. At
the evaluation stage you will be better able to determine this, and will have to do this when you use the
summary sheet to incorporate the most important elements and prioritize the outcomes. The first time
you perform a SWOT analysis it can be challenging, but like most things, the more you do it, the easier
it gets.
A SWOT (2x2) matrix using internal/external categories
Here is a typical extension of the basic SWOT analysis grid into a useful 'action-based' 2x2 SWOT
matrix. The SWOT analysis in this format acts as a quick decision-making tool, quite aside from the
more detailed data that would typically be fed into business planning process for each of the SWOT
factors. Here the 2x2 matrix model automatically suggests actions for issues arising from the SWOT
analysis, according to four different categories:
Opportunities
(external)
Threats
(external)
Strengths (internal)
Weaknesses (internal)
obvious natural priorities
potentially attractive options
Likely to produce greatest ROI
(Return On Investment)
Likely to produce good returns if
capability and implementation are viable.
Likely to be quickest and easiest to Potentially more exciting and stimulating
and rewarding than S/O due to change,
implement.
challenge, surprise tactics, and benefits
from addressing and achieving
Probably justifying immediate
improvements.
action-planning or feasibility
study.
Executive questions: "What's actually
Executive question: "If we are not stopping us doing these things, provided
they truly fit strategically and are realistic
already looking at these areas and
and substantial?"
prioritizing them, then why not?"
easy to defend and counter
potentially high risk
Only basic awareness, planning,
and implementation required to
meet these challenges.
Assessment of risk crucial.
Investment in these issues is
generally safe and necessary.
Executive question: "Are we
properly informed and organized
to deal with these issues, and are
we certain there are no hidden
surprises?" - and - "Since we are
strong here, can any of these
threats be turned into
opportunities?"
Where risk is low then we must ignore
these issues and not be distracted by them.
Where risk is high we must assess
capability gaps and plan to defend/avert in
very specific controlled ways.
Executive question: "Have we accurately
assessed the risks of these issues, and
where the risks are high do we have
specific controlled reliable plans to
avoid/avert/defend?"
SWOT analysis template
Here is a larger illustration of a SWOT analysis that can be used to enhance questions in your template.
Subject of SWOT analysis: (define the subject of the analysis here)
strengths
weaknesses