A SWOT analysis is a strategic planning technique that project managers can use to help them analyze their projects' strengths and weaknesses, as well as any opportunities and threats they may face. Think of it as a way of creating a project management contingency plan, that accounts for the potential pitfalls and opportunities that may arise throughout your project. Incorporating SWOT analysis in project management can help you improve your project planning, reduce project risk, and increase the likelihood of overall project success.
Below, we’ll discuss the purpose of SWOT analysis in project management as well as eight implementation tips. But first, let’s briefly cover what SWOT stands for.
What does SWOT stand for?
A SWOT analysis is a technique that businesses often use to assess four key aspects of their organization. This analysis can help companies better understand how likely they are to succeed and what areas they should focus on to improve.
So, what is a SWOT analysis in project management? Just as business owners and managers can use a SWOT to assess their company, project managers can use the same technique to assess their projects.
Here's an overview of the four focus areas that make up the acronym SWOT and how they apply to project management:
- Strengths: These are internal factors (factors you can control) that set your project or business up for success. Project strengths include any aspects of the project that make it likely to succeed. Some examples are detailed project requirements, an engaged customer, robust project management software, and experienced team members.
- Weaknesses: Weaknesses are internal factors that may make it difficult for you to succeed. For instance, if your team has never worked together before and several members are new and inexperienced. Other internal weaknesses could be overallocated resources, a lack of visibility into progress, disengaged stakeholders, or a lack of project funding.
- Opportunities: Opportunities are factors that are outside of your control (external factors) that could help your project succeed. They could be current opportunities that exist now but have not yet been taken advantage of or future opportunities that you think may happen. If your primary material vendor suddenly offered a discount, it would be an opportunity to save your project money. If another project at your company finished early, it could free up resources you can then use to help your project succeed.
- Threats: These are external factors that could harm your project if they were to take place. As with opportunities, they can be current or future threats. The possibility of one of your vendors going out of business would be a threat. Other threats could be bad weather (such as a snowstorm causing employees to miss work), increased costs of supplies, materials, or contractors.
What is the purpose of a SWOT analysis?
SWOT analysis in project management helps you plan out your project and consider factors that may help or hinder its success. The purpose of SWOT is to identify risk areas as well as controllable factors that you need to pay attention to and monitor throughout the project.
A SWOT is a straightforward and cost-effective way to brainstorm and plan for your project. When you fully understand your project's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, you're able to plan a strategy for success that addresses these four factors.
Conducting a SWOT analysis can help you produce new ideas to help you take advantage of what you and your team do best and potential opportunities that might arise. A SWOT also helps increase your awareness of weaknesses and potential threats to your project so that you can defend against them.
SWOT analysis template
A SWOT analysis doesn't have to be an overly complicated process. You can start with a simple table and build upon it for any project. Let's take a look at an example template.
As you can see, our SWOT analysis has been split into four sections:
- Strengths: What your team is already doing well
- Weaknesses: Where could you improve?
- Opportunities: What are the goals you'd like to reach with this project?
- Threats: Which factors might prevent you from reaching those goals?
SWOT analysis example
Let's say your team is looking to launch a new social media campaign, and you need to conduct a SWOT analysis to see where you stand heading into that project. Let's take a look:
As you can see, our SWOT analysis tells us a lot about our current state and what we need to work on in order for our social media campaign to be a success. Bringing in stakeholders and various team members to inform your analysis will help you to gain an in-depth overview, so you can get to work on improving your processes.
Tips for conducting a SWOT analysis in project management
SWOT analysis in project management is only effective if you gather the right information and use it to take appropriate action. Here are eight tips that will help you conduct and execute a SWOT analysis in project management:
- Include all your key stakeholders in the process. Team members, your client, sponsor, and others close to the project should all help identify and analyze critical factors so that nothing is overlooked.
- Gather everyone together (virtually or in person) and brainstorm a list for each of the four categories (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.)
- Prioritize the factors in each section from most important to least important once the brainstorming is complete.
- Create and distribute the SWOT analysis. List the factors in each category with the most important at the top and the least important at the bottom.
- Create action plans to address any factors within your control (strengths and weaknesses) as well as any current opportunities or threats.
- Create future plans for how to handle opportunities and threats that may arise later. These plans should include a means of identifying that the opportunity or threat has happened, as well as the action plan for taking advantage of them.
- Maintain the list in a central location where all stakeholders can easily reference it, and refer to it regularly, so that priorities stay top of mind.
- Review and reassess the list periodically throughout the project to see if anything has changed and if any new factors need to be added.
Did you know that project management software is a great place to maintain, share, and update your SWOT analysis? You can quickly share changes and updates to your priority list with all stakeholders within one centralized software. Plus, by using a tool like Wrike, you can create analytics dashboards for tracking and reporting on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats you identified. Discover how Wrike can help you improve your project management by signing up for a free trial today.