SWOT – So What?


By Jibility co-founder Chuen Seet


 
 

SWOT is a popular analysis technique in strategic planning, often characterised by the use of a 2×2 matrix to visualize the outcomes. SWOT, which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, dates back to the 1960s.

The below is an example of such a 2×2 matrix, starring wooden toy company RedYabber as they prepare to embark upon a digital transformation journey.*

 
 

SWOT Analysis Example


SWOT table example

*While this analysis is based upon some of our real-life clients, RedYabber is a fictitious company.

With SWOT, it’s good practice to describe strengths and weaknesses from an internal perspective and opportunities and threats from an external perspective. In the above example, the internal strength and weaknesses are about the RedYabber culture, values, workforce and product. The external opportunities and threats are about the market and competitors.

 
 

The Pros and Cons of SWOT Analysis


 
 

Good analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats is useful input to the strategic planning process, but it should not represent the only perspective. It’s just one of many techniques that can provide input to the development of a strategic vision, strategic goals or plans.

SWOT is versatile and applicable to any situation – not just in strategic planning. It can be used to analyse a business, function, project, problem, or almost anything. However, there are limitations:

  • It is a point-in-time view and cannot show how things change over time.

  • The lists may not be complete, as they are typically derived from “brainstorming” sessions and there is no way to test for coverage.

  • There is no indication of options and priorities.

    The 2×2 matrix is useful for developing a quick view of the business or situational context, and the RedYabber example above does just this. It’s a good technique to help everyone gain a common understanding of the state of being.

     
     

    How to Use a SWOT Analysis


     
     

    SWOT helps with your understanding – but so what?

    When formulating a way forward, whether that is a strategic plan, project plan, change plan, product plan or problem resolution plan, you need more than just a point-in-time view of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. You need to be able to translate it all into a way forward: a roadmap. This is a concept described clearly by Simon Wardley, the creator of Wardley Maps, in his book On Being Lost.

    It’s not uncommon to see organisations analysing their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for a situation and then, based on the output of this, start formulating and executing a set of initiatives they believe will address the situation. But what’s the best way to approach this?


     
     

    Here’s What to do Next with Your SWOT Analysis

     
     

    So, how do you take your analysis to the next level and turn it into something actionable?

    We mentioned above that you ultimately need a roadmap for your strategy, and SWOT is just one possible input to the development of such a roadmap. Over years of consulting work, the Jibility team has developed the most simple and effective methodology to translate your goals into a substantiated roadmap.

    This methodology involves only six steps: Challenges, Objectives, Capabilities, Courses of Action, Initiatives and Roadmap. The Challenges and Objectives steps help you understand the why; the Capabilities and Courses of Action steps help you analyse the what; and the Initiatives and Roadmap steps enable you to visualise the how.


    The 6 Jibility steps
     
     

    We have a separate article that describes these six steps in more detail. For understanding where SWOT fits in, we’re only going to talk about the Challenges step here.

    We define “challenges” as the set of problems or opportunities that must be addressed in order to achieve your strategic vision or goals. When it comes to building a roadmap, it’s essential that you have a clear understanding of the core challenges that you need to solve right at the beginning. This is so that you can be sure that your content and priorities in all of the following steps are aligned.

    An analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats is a good technique for understanding the situational context, and the output from it is valuable to help with the formulation of your list of challenges.

    Doing this is very straight forward. Weaknesses and threats are usually expressed as problems, and these should be added to your challenge list as-is. If a weakness or threat is not articulated as a problem, then consider describing it with words like “lack of”, “inadequate”, “poor” and so on.

    Strengths and opportunities are not usually articulated as problems, but they could result in a problem if not addressed. Generally, the challenges are that you must “maintain” your strengths and “seize” or “target” your opportunities.

    Looking at the RedYabber example, the strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats can be translated into the following challenges:

     
     

    Challenges

    1. Maintain a great company culture founded on solid values.

    2. Maintain a committed workforce.

    3. Maintain a very high-quality product.

    4. Business is not adaptive to change.

    5. Aging workforce: difficult to retain specialist knowledge and skills.

    6. Production is labour intensive, slow and costly.

    7. Children have lower attention spans and are easily bored with simple toys.

    8. Children have lots of options.

    9. Competitors can erode market share if product IP not protected and cannot innovate fast enough.

    10. Target parents looking for ways to engage their children away from mobile phones.

    11. Target sophisticated wooden toys with a blend of technology and tradition for a strong market differentiator.

    12. Target shift from local to a global market through digital marketing and online sales.

     
     

    You may find that simply translating your SWOT items into a list of challenges will result in a long list, and it’s unrealistic that you can address everything. It’s good practice to prioritize your challenges – highest priority at the top – and draw the line at around seven. Taking our RedYabber challenges, this is what our top seven could look like:


    Challenges

    • Production is labour intensive, slow and costly.

    • Competitors can erode market share if product IP not protected and cannot innovate fast enough.

    • Target shift from local to global market through digital marketing and online sales.

    • Target sophisticated wooden toys with a blend of technology and tradition is a strong market differentiator.

    • Maintain a committed workforce.

    • Maintain a very high quality product.

    • Business is not adaptive to change.


    From here, you would follow the remaining five steps to translate your challenges into a substantiated set of initiatives and a roadmap delivering them. In this way, you’ve turned your SWOT analysis into something that will truly help you reach your strategic goals.

     


    The Jibility method for building strategy roadmaps

    The Easy Way to Get from a Set of Challenges to an Executable Roadmap


    Jibility is a highly-visual tool that enables you to apply the methodology described in this article. It guides you through the six steps and helps you ensure that your resulting strategy roadmap has been developed logically and is fully aligned to your linked challenges and objectives.

    Sign up for Jibility


    The Jibility App is a dedicated visual tool with pre-defined building blocks to assist you in building strategy roadmaps fast. Sign up for a free trial and see for yourself.

    Jibility App

    Sign up for Jibility


    The Jibility App is a dedicated visual tool with pre-defined building blocks to assist you in building strategy roadmaps fast. Sign up for a free trial and see for yourself.


    Download our free book


    Jibility: Strategy Roadmaps Made Simple is your essential guide to the concepts, methods and techniques behind strategy roadmaps. Complete with lively case studies and examples, the book is an easy, engaging read – and best of all, it’s free.

    Jibility Book

    Download our free book


    Jibility: Strategy Roadmaps Made Simple is your essential guide to the concepts, methods and techniques behind strategy roadmaps. Complete with lively case studies and examples, the book is an easy, engaging read – and best of all, it’s free.


    Download our free strategy roadmap canvas


    The Jibility Canvas is a template designed for creating simple strategy roadmaps by following six steps. The Jibility Canvas is free and available to download now.

    Jibility Canvas

    Download our free strategy roadmap canvas


    The Jibility Canvas is a template designed for creating simple strategy roadmaps by following six steps. The Jibility Canvas is free and available to download now.