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Conduct a SWOT analysis

Discover your strengths and seize your opportunities by examining your weaknesses and identifying your threats

By Mark Bajalia

At some point in your career, most of you have probably done this on some level without really thinking about it. But a thoughtful approach to SWOT analysis can help you and your company discover new opportunities, as well as manage and eliminate threats that could potentially impede your progress and success.

A SWOT analysis is a strategic planning methodology used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing a company either generally or which may be applicable to a specific project or business venture.

Applied to a business generally, a SWOT analysis enables a company to develop a niche and match its resources and capabilities in the context of the competitive environment in which it operates. Applied to a specific project, a SWOT analysis allows a project manager or team to specify the objective of the project and identify the internal and external factors that are favorable and unfavorable to achieving that objective.

Begin with the end

A SWOT analysis begins with the end, so to speak. In other words, you must first determine what the desired end state or goal is for the company or the specific project. Once that is done, you must objectively analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats relevant to the end state or goal.

•Strengths. These are the internal characteristics of the business, project manager, or team that give it an advantage over others in the industry or those competing for the same project. When evaluating your strengths, you need to consider the resources and capabilities your company or team brings to the table and how that gives you a competitive advantage.

Ask questions such as: “What do we do better than anyone else?” “What resources do we have that others competing against us do not?” and “What makes us unique in our industry?” You need to consider your strengths from an internal perspective, but also from the perspective of your customers and competitors. You also need to be realistic and objective.

•Weaknesses. These are the internal characteristics of the business, project manager, or team that place you at a competitive disadvantage. In evaluating your weaknesses, you need to ask questions such as, “What do our competitors do better than us?” “Why would a customer utilize a competitor instead of us?” and “Do we lack technology or resources that our competitors possess?”

In examining your weaknesses, you need to do so from an internal perspective. Identify weak point or limitations in one or more resources or competencies that impedes effective performance. List as many identifiable weaknesses as possible and in doing so, you will be able to turn the weaknesses into strengths.

•Opportunities. These are the external environmental factors that create in roads to achieving success either for the company generally or with respect to the specific project undertaken. In order to determine what opportunities exist, you must analyze trends in your marketplace and anticipate needs.

Opportunities may come from an unfulfilled need, arrival of new technology, implementation of new regulations, or changes in competitive circumstances. You need to contemplate realistic concepts that may stimulate new areas of growth or point you in a new direction which may be a path of less resistance and allow for the completion of the project or achievement of the end result in a more efficient manner.

•Threats. These are the external elements that can cause trouble for the company or which serve as barriers to the end goal. Threats can be dictated by shifts in customer tastes, elimination of a specific need in the marketplace, new regulations that limit or eliminate opportunities, and changes in competitive circumstances. Identify as many realistic threats as possible and be prepared to deal with them.

What matters most

A SWOT analysis is a simple and useful framework for analyzing your organizations strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities and threats it faces. It helps you focus on the things that matter most and take the greatest possible advantage of the opportunities available.

The most important thing to remember when conducting a SWOT analysis is to be realistic, objective, and specific. In doing so, you will discover your strengths and seize your opportunities by examining your weaknesses and identifying your threats.

Mark Bajalia is a partner and a managing member in Brennan, Manna & Diamond’s Jacksonville office. He is an experienced commercial, business, and insurance litigator, having prosecuted and defended numerous cases in state and federal courts and in arbitration. He is rated AV Preeminent by Martindale Hubble, has been recognized as one of Florida’s Legal Elite by Florida Trend Magazine, and has been selected as a Florida Super Lawyer in the field of business and insurance litigation. He can be contacted at 904-366-1500 or mbajalia@bmdpl.com.


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