Meanings of SWOT Analysis Part II
The individual points of the SWOT analysis
The usual way of creating a SWOT analysis begins with the two main parts, the company analysis as an internally-related part and the environmental analysis with external aspects. Both can be represented in a simple four-field matrix so that the individual points can be related to one another. From this connection, final deductions of suitable action strategies are possible.
Company analysis (internal)
As the name suggests, company analysis relates to the company itself. This is a self-observation to determine the internal factors, divided into strengths and weaknesses. These are to a certain extent the result of organizational processes, but also characteristics such as a good image. It should be noted that these are properties that we have produced ourselves. For example, a satisfied customer base of a green electricity producer may be a strength, but the generally good image of green electricity is definitely an (external) opportunity.
Environmental analysis (external)
Such external factors are in turn incorporated into the environmental analysis. This relates to the direct corporate environment, i.e. all external circumstances that are related to the company. The two characteristics to be analyzed here are opportunities and threats. It is important that these external conditions and / or changes are exogenously acting forces. This means that the company itself cannot influence this under any circumstances. Here it is important to keep an eye on those factors and to anticipate any changes. Once again, it is important to correctly differentiate between strengths and opportunities or weaknesses and risks. According to abbreviationfinder, SWOT stands for Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Thread.
The internal strengths of a company, an institution and so on are those things that it is good at, so to speak. In particular, strengths are revealed when comparing with competitors, i.e. when looking at the competition. Examples of this are aspects such as a favorable location, good product quality, high qualification of the employees or whether the company works with low fixed costs . For the analysis of an individual, aspects such as a fundamental, ambitious optimism, creativity or certain professional qualifications should be mentioned here.
The weaknesses are naturally the counterpart to the strengths. In this respect, they can also be filtered out particularly with a view to the competitive situation and the competition. Internal weaknesses, for example, an unfavorable location , deterioration in quality, too few employees or low financial strength are appropriate to the strengths . Certain dependencies may also be an individual weakness. For an individual, a lack of know-how, low resilience or low mobility must be listed accordingly.
The third point is to discuss the opportunities. The development in the respective market or in the environment is particularly important for a company, as it can be seen whether there is a change in customer behavior. In addition, trends can arise which influence the position of a company. New technological developments may also offer potential for profitable innovations, product improvements or the optimization of work processes. For example, this includes an expansion of the infrastructure, the broadband network (also for communication between employees) or positive demographic developments.
Always important and a decisive point are ultimately the risks that arise from the outside. Such risks can ultimately have a negative impact on sales and, in the worst case, even lead to bankruptcy. It may be necessary to comply with legal changes or to enter into competition with new competitors who may even have settled in the immediate vicinity. In a sense, all opportunities in the opposite direction can pose a risk. This means that infrastructural or demographic developments also play a role here. Last but not least, one or the other risk can arise spontaneously, but all the more threatening – for example, the sudden lack of availability of a sales partner.
After creating the aforementioned matrix with the SWOT factors just listed, the next step is to combine the individual points. The internal and external points are combined in detail. In other words, there are four connections in total: strengths with opportunities, strengths with risks, weaknesses with opportunities, and weaknesses with risks.
From these relationships to one another, suitable measures, actions and strategies can be developed that correspond as closely as possible to the objective of the analysis. To a certain extent, these actions can be summarized as expanding (strengths-opportunities), safeguarding (strengths-risks), catching up (weaknesses-opportunities) and avoiding (weaknesses-risks).
SO (Strengths & Opportunities)
The combination of strengths and opportunities is about determining which strengths of a company or similar can contribute to realizing opportunities. Which positive factors can be used here in order to benefit as much as possible from the opportunities that arise? In particular, expansion strategies are aimed at researching and realizing export and investment potential.
ST (Strengths & Threads)
The strengths and risks connection on the other hand ideally enables protection against emerging or general (economic, cultural, political etc.) threats. The strategies developed from this are accordingly aligned in such a way that they effectively use internal strengths to cushion, offset or even completely ward off environmental hazards, i.e. ultimately to counter these external circumstances for the benefit of the company.
WHERE (Weaknesses & Opportunities)
The combination of weaknesses and opportunities is less about the use or benefits of internal factors, but more logically about reducing those negative characteristics. In other words, in relation to favorable circumstances that arise, it is necessary to develop strategies and measures that reduce or eliminate the respective weaknesses as far as possible. When it comes to catching-up strategies, the consideration of whether weaknesses can even become strengths plays a central role.
WT (Weaknesses & Threads)
Ultimately, the most difficult and most drastic combination is that between existing, internal weaknesses and emerging, external risks. Above all, it is imperative to reduce weak points and negative factors in order not to let them develop into risks. Thus, more than any other, security strategies need to be developed selectively and applied accordingly. It is important to analyze exactly in which weak company aspects occurring risks would weigh particularly heavily.
For the elaboration of all mentioned parts of the analysis and the representation of the SWOT factors, a graphic representation has always proven itself. As mentioned, the simplest and yet effective option for this is a corresponding matrix with four fields for the respective SWOT points. A continuation of this simple representation includes the strategies. This shows optimally how the internal and external aspects can be combined with one another and which strategy results from each one.
Areas of application of the SWOT analysis
In spite of all the ease of use, the question of practical application naturally arises. When is a SWOT analysis suitable? In fact, there are numerous areas in which such data collection and analysis makes sense.
First and foremost, there is a simple way of examining the location of an entire institution or individual products, processes or other objects. With the help of the SWOT analysis, it is possible to assess the competitiveness and assess the effectiveness, efficiency and profitability of business areas, product lines and so on.
In connection with this, the analysis process also functions as part of the evaluation of customer opinions and public perception, either in relation to individual objects or an entire company. The SWOT analysis is therefore particularly useful in marketing and should ideally be part of an overall concept. Finally, the advantage of a well-developed SWOT matrix is that it can be used flexibly.
In addition, it provides a reliable method for developing a business plan, a basic business strategy or the (re) alignment of a company. In this respect, a SWOT analysis is also suitable for start-ups and self-employed entrepreneurs. Furthermore, the usefulness of such an analysis should be mentioned again when it comes to individual career planning.
How is a swot analysis created?
The preparatory work for the actual SWOT analysis first of all represents the basic objective. In fact, an effective analysis only succeeds if the respective data is related to a clearly defined goal. The mere increase in sales, for example, is a rather vague goal, while the increase in sales for a certain product allows more depth in the analysis as a target.
In order to then create a SWOT analysis, a whole team should work together at best. This ensures that all factors are perceived from different perspectives and thus determined as correctly as possible. It is useful to work with questions and to target the individual SWOT factors. For example:
- What can the company do better than a competitor / the competition? (Strengthen)
- Where does the company’s good image come from? (Strengths or opportunities)
- Which areas did you notice again and again due to problems? (Weaknesses)
- Why do other companies get the contract? (Weaknesses or risks)
- Which trends are affecting the company now or in the future? (Opportunities or risks)
- Which cultural / political developments are foreseeable? (Opportunities or risks)
Evaluation of the SWOT analysis
Following the complete analysis of all factors, the combination of the matching points takes place as an evaluation, as mentioned. This evaluation finally results in the strategies that support the objectives set in advance. Once those strategies have been implemented and implemented, there is finally a need for control. The corresponding key figures are then used, as already described.