SWOT Analysis in Project Management

The SWOT Analysis – an analysis of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats – was developed in the 1960s at Harvard Business School and is one of the earliest strategy frameworks. As simple as it is, it is powerful and can open your eyes to the reality of your situation, both positively and negatively.

It can be applied to organizations of all sizes, ages, and industries. It can also be applied directly to your project, or to your organizations internal and external to your project to give you fresh insights and perspective –¬†SWOT analysis in project management.

SWOT Basics

SWOT analysis in project managementThe SWOT analysis framework provides a first cut perspective on the strategic situation, which provides basic direction for structuring further strategic analysis. The perspective gained allows for smart prioritization of areas for further research and action. To learn some basics, I recommend viewing this good 4-minute video of SWOT Analysis in Project Management.

The underlying theory behind SWOT analysis is that assessment of one’s own situation in terms of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats can be eye-opening and immediately gets you thinking strategically. It looks at the good and the bad…the pluses and the minuses…the positives and the negatives. Looking inward, the idea is to identify relevant strengths and weaknesses. Looking outward, the idea is to spot opportunities as well as threats.

The process itself can be helpful in identifying next steps as an organization, and even potential partners where there may be synergies – of complementary strengths and weaknesses, or synchronized capabilities to seize opportunities or cope with threats. Probably the most important benefit about the process of performing a SWOT analysis is the collaborative thinking among those involved; it gets everyone thinking about the same things but in different ways, leverages the diversity of thinking across the team, and is more likely to result in a plan that has buy-in across the team.

While we can conduct SWOT analyses for our own organization or project, the power of SWOT analysis expands when we extend our efforts and perform a SWOT analysis on our competitors.

SWOT Applied Internally to the Organization (Example)

Let’s say that you are part of an organization that designs and builds drones. Here is how your SWOT analysis might start:

Strengths

  • What types of drones do we know the most about?
  • What drone technologies do we know best?
  • What applications of drone technology do we know well?
  • What relationships do we have with particular drone users and groups of users?
  • What is our asset base?
  • What are our sales and profit trends?

Weaknesses

  • What types of drones do we know the least about?
  • What drone technologies do we not know well?
  • What applications of drone technology are we not familiar with?
  • What relationships do we lack in the drone user community?

Opportunities

  • What uses of drones are growing?
  • What uses of drones are under served?
  • Are there ways we can take advantage of some user group relationships we have?
  • Are there some technology improvements that we can make that would make a difference int the marketplace?

Threats

  • Are there some changes afoot in technologies that could nullify a strength of ours?
  • Are there some emerging organizations that could be infringing on our defined target space in the market?
  • Are there more attractive career opportunities our there than what we can provide for our people?

This SWOT analysis provides an organized approach to begin thinking about your organization in strategic terms. As you open your eyes to what is there, both internally and externally, you begin to think about the obvious things that can and should be done to help the organization move ahead.

SWOT Applied Externally to Competitive Organizations (Example)

As part of an organization that designs and builds drones, here is how your SWOT analysis of your competitors might start:

Strengths

  • What types of drones does the competitive organization know the most about?
  • What drone technologies do they know best?
  • What applications of drone technology do they know well?
  • What relationships do they have with particular drone users and groups of users?
  • What is their asset base?
  • What are their sales and profit trends?

Weaknesses

  • What types of drones do they know the least about?
  • What drone technologies do they not know well?
  • What applications of drone technology are they not familiar with?
  • What relationships do they lack in the drone user community?

Opportunities

  • What uses of drones are growing?
  • What uses of drones are under served?
  • Are there ways they are positioned to take advantage of some user group relationships we have?
  • Are there some technology improvements that they can make that would make a difference in the marketplace?

Threats

  • Are there some changes afoot in technologies that could challenge a strength of theirs?
  • Are there some emerging organizations that could be infringing on their defined target space in the market?
  • Are there more attractive career opportunities in the market than what they can provide for their people?

The effect of performing SWOT analysis on your competitors truly puts you in their shoes. When I analyze my own organization, I notice that I begin to touch on what competitors are doing. However, I find that I go much deeper and am jarred into a different frame of mind when I actually do the SWOT analysis on each competitor.

SWOT Analysis in Project Management (Example)

—————————————-

I recommend these PM templates (paid link):

Method123 PM templates

—————————————-

Now let’s say that, as part of an organization that designs and builds drones, you are in charge of a specific project to design and build a particular drone. Here is how your SWOT analysis might start:

Strengths

  • Are we working on a type of drone that our organization already knows a lot about, or building a new strength in a new type of drone?
  • Are we working on drone technologies that we know well, or exploring new?
  • Are we working on an application or use case of drone technology that we know well?
  • Do we have existing relationships with the target drone users and groups of users?

Weaknesses

  • Is the type of drone in our project one that we know the little about – and how might we bridge the gap?
  • Do we lack relationships in the drone user community about these types of drones, and how can we gain that?

Opportunities

  • Is the use of our project drone growing, and are there related uses?
  • Is this particular drone usage under served in the market?
  • Can we take advantage of some of the organization’s user group relationships?
  • Can our project develop some technology improvements that would make a difference in the marketplace?
  • Will it be possible to scale the production, marketing, development, or some other aspect of this drone project?

Threats

  • Are there some changes afoot in technologies that could derail this project?
  • Are there some emerging organizations that could be infringing on our defined target space in the market that is driving this project?
  • Are there more attractive career opportunities our there that might attract some of the key people on this project?

Note that I have deliberately made the SWOT questions in this section oriented toward assessing the purpose of your project relative to the strategic underpinnings of the larger organization. As project manager, you should understand the SWOT analysis for your organization, and understand how your project fits into the greater organizational strategy, which can be done based on the SWOT analysis.

Conclusion

The SWOT analysis is a basic, useful, and easy to use strategic tool. It can be applied directly to your organization. To bump it up a big notch, also apply it to your competitors, and step into their shoes for a while to open your eyes to their situation. Finally, the use of SWOT analysis in project management allows you to map your organizational SWOT analysis directly to your project. This ensures your project is aligned with strategy, and enables you to have greater perspective of your project’s strategic drivers.

—————————————-

I recommend these strategy resources (paid link):

—————————————-

Leave a Comment