Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Summary Findings: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) Analysis -- 2 Stars Out Of 5


Note: This post represents the synthesis of the thoughts, procedures and experiences of others as represented in the 12 articles read in advance of (see previous posts) and the discussion among the students and instructor during the Advanced Analytic Techniques class at Mercyhurst College on 18 MAR 2009 regarding the SWOT technique. This technique was evaluated based on its overall validity, simplicity, flexibility and its ability to effectively use unstructured data.


Definition:


SWOT is the result of structured brainstorming on the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of an organization or, as an intelligence analysis technique, of a competitor, enemy or rival. While not designed to generate an estimative conclusion by itself, SWOT serves as a possible convergent-thinking technique in the early stages of strategy formulation.

Strengths:
  • Easy
  • Inclusive
  • Familiar tool
  • Informative
  • Flexible
  • An effective prelude to forecasting analysis
  • No software necessary
Weaknesses
  • The general concept is agreed upon, but sub-steps need to be more clearly defined
  • Not a forecasting method
  • Some validity concerns regarding the level of analysis
  • Can consume resources (time consuming, lengthy lists, etc)
  • Lacks strict guidelines on how to prioritize lengthy lists
  • Threats and opportunities can oftentimes lead to guesswork
  • Open to bias
  • Too basic
How-To:
  • Designate a team to conduct the technique
    • Designate sub-teams for each matrix field
  • Collect empirical and anecdotal data on the target
  • Conduct a structured brainstorming session
  • Sort data and place into relevant field in the matrix
    • Prioritize and weight data for importance
  • Cross-fertilize data and identify relationships across matrix fields
  • Synthesize conclusions
  • Disseminate
      Experience:

      Our experience with applying the method to the situation regarding the Mercyhurst College Institute of Intelligence Studies tracks very closely with the comments and observations in both the class and in the articles read. From thiis discussion and experience, the list of strengths and weaknesses emerged.

      We did the exercise in class over a period of about 20 minutes. While we did not have adequate time to fully explore the nuances of the method, this exercise did give us a sense of the challenges inherent in applying this method. The final product, generated using the Mindmeister mind mapping program is below:



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