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A Guide to SWOT Analysis

Since its invention in 1965 at Stanford University, SWOT analysis has become one of the most popular strategic planning tools. It is used to identify areas for improvement and maximize opportunities while identifying negative factors that may limit growth. 

In this article, we’ll take a close look at SWOT Analysis and its importance in business intelligence, explain how to use the framework within your organization, and share a few SWOT Analysis templates that can be easily customized for any business.

What is a SWOT Analysis?

SWOT Analysis is a situational assessment framework that identifies the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) of your organization.

Performing SWOT analysis helps you see a clear and realistic picture of your business. It makes it easier to plan your go-to-market strategy, brand positioning, project selection, technology adoption, and more. The framework considers both internal and external factors that influence your business. This SWOT Analysis template from can get you started quickly:

SWOT Analysis Template from
SWOT Analysis Template

Using this information, leadership teams can formulate a solid plan of action to stay ahead of the competition.

Internal SWOT analysis takes into account internal elements like the strengths (S) and weaknesses (W) of your business. For example:

  • Which products are exceeding sales targets? (Strength)
  • What is causing customer churn? (Weaknesses)
  • What advantages do we have over the competition? (Strength)
  • How can we improve customer support?  (Weaknesses)

External SWOT Analysis takes into account external elements like opportunities (O) and threats (T) that can impact your business operations. For example:

  • Can we automate business processes? (Opportunities)
  • Are we prepared for another pandemic? (Threats)
  • Does Web3 pose any potential prospects? (Opportunities)
  • How are our competitors changing the market? (Threats)

Why is SWOT analysis important?

Knowing how to use SWOT analysis helps you overcome decision-making biases at critical junctures of running your business. Using a SWOT framework helps to:

  • Amplify strengths: Identify business functions that are performing well; optimize them to improve revenue and scale your business.
  • Overcome weaknesses: Highlight organizational weaknesses that need attention. Align resources to fix issues like employee dissatisfaction, poor cash flow, and manual workflows.
  • Identify the right opportunities: Investigate market trends that require your attention and resource investment, like launching new products, or integrating new technology.
  • Plan for potential threats: Prepare your business for internal and external risks. Ensure that your risk management strategy is proactive and not reactive.

Most importantly, SWOT analysis can keep everyone in the company on the same page with its straightforward format. This helps with organizational goal alignment and can help steer your business towards growth.

SWOT Analysis examples

To better understand SWOT analysis in different scenarios, take a look at these two examples.

An NGO planning to scale its services to a new geographical location performs a SWOT analysis and finds:

Strengths Weaknesses
  • Prior experience of running operations
  • Existing donors can support scale-up expenses

  • Lack of brand awareness could mean fewer donation opportunities
  • Lack of volunteers to start operations

  • Opportunities Threats
  • Discover local solutions and opportunity to scale them
  • Opportunity to test a hypothesis for technology application
  • Objections from the local population who may not agree with NGO’s philosophy
  • Unforeseen problems due to previously unexplored territories
  • An e-commerce store planning to launch its first brick-and-mortar retail location performs a SWOT analysis and finds:

    Strengths Weaknesses
  • Being technology-first company helps with automation of a physical store location
  • Ability to market our physical store experience to existing customers

  • No prior experience of managing a physical store location
  • Brick and mortar stores are capital-intensive to set up and operate

  • Opportunities Threats
  • Opportunity to generate more revenues from new and existing customers
  • Improved brand awareness
  • Competitors may copy the concept if it is successful
  • Miscalculation in market demand for a brick and mortar location
  • Because of its versatility, any organization or team, regardless of its size, can benefit from SWOT analysis. 

    Pros and cons of SWOT Analysis

    SWOT Analysis is a fairly old technique and comes with some limitations. 

    Cons of SWOT Analysis:

    The framework has received a fair share of criticism, especially from an academic perspective. Some criticism includes:

    • Ambiguous: SWOT Analysis does not rely on a data-driven approach for decision making. It does not take into account how a weakness could potentially become a threat in the future.

    • Does not account for business dynamics: As per this Harvard Business Review article, an organization might get blinded by its strengths. It can also fail to see how apparent strengths could turn into weaknesses.

    • No room for prioritization: SWOT Analysis gives a one-dimensional value to factors identified. Hence, one cannot truly gauge the impact of any factor accurately. For example, if the identified threat has a greater negative impact than the identified opportunity.
    Pros of SWOT Analysis:
    • Easy to adopt: SWOT Analysis is a fairly simple technique that anyone can adopt. There are no technical skills involved.

    • Flexible: From individuals to enterprise organizations, scientists to entrepreneurs, anyone can use SWOT Analysis for both personal and professional use.

    • Multiple factors for study: SWOT Analysis considers both internal and external elements that provide four degrees of factoring for effective decision making.

    SWOT analysis templates’s SWOT Analysis template is built to help you get up and running with the analysis in a few clicks. It’s a print-ready worksheet that you can use for any business use cases like team meetings, product launches, marketing campaigns. Just as easily, this SWOT analysis template can be applied for personal use like choosing a career, moving to a new home, or remodeling a kitchen.

    SWOT Analysis template by
    SWOT analysis template
    SWOT Analysis Template
    Excel SWOT Analysis template:
    Excel SWOT Analysis template

    Vertex42 has designed Excel SWOT Analysis templates with multiple formats and layouts. These Excel templates include an “Action” section so that you can translate your SWOT Analysis summaries into actionable and goal-oriented decisions.

    You can customize these SWOT Analysis templates with your branding and easily adapt them to your business’ needs.

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