EVALUATING SWOT’S VALUE IN CREATING ACTIONABLE, STRATEGIC INTELLIGENCE

MICHAEL J. FINNEGAN

A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Mercyhurst College In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for The Degree of MASTER OF SCIENCE IN APPLIED INTELLIGENCE

DEPARTMENT OF INTELLIGENCE STUDIES MERCYHURST COLLEGE ERIE, PENNSYLVANIA MAY 2010

DEPARTMENT OF INTELLIGENCE STUDIES MERCYHURST COLLEGE ERIE, PENNSYLVANIA EVALUATING SWOT’S VALUE IN CREATING ACTIONABLE, STRATEGIC INTELLIGENCE A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Mercyhurst College In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for The Degree of MASTER OF SCIENCE IN APPLIED INTELLIGENCE Submitted By: MICHAEL J. FINNEGAN Certificate of Approval: ___________________________________ Shelly L. Freyn Assistant Professor Department of Intelligence Studies ___________________________________ James G. Breckenridge Chair/Assistant Professor Department of Intelligence Studies ___________________________________ Phillip J. Belfiore Vice President Office of Academic Affairs May 2010

Copyright © 2010 Michael J. Finnegan All rights reserved.

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DEDICATION This thesis is dedicated to my soon-to-be wife Nicole, Bucky the dog, and my parents; all of whose love and support over the past two years have allowed me to buckle down and complete my Master’s Degree and this thesis.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to thank Mrs. Shelly Freyn for her help and support as my main advisor throughout the thesis process.

I would also like to thank Mr. James Breckenridge for all of his help as my secondary advisor throughout the thesis process.

For their help throughout my studies at Mercyhurst College, I would also like to thank Mr. Kris Wheaton, Mrs. Anne Zaphiris, Mrs. Dawn Wozneak, and Mrs. Kris Pollard for their support and help over the past two years.

In addition, I would also like to thank Nicole Pillar for her editing skills in the final phases of completing this thesis, as well as Brian Gabriel’s help in preparing for the Defense presentation.

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ABSTRACT OF THE THESIS Evaluating SWOT’s Value In Creating Actionable, Strategic Intelligence By Michael J. Finnegan Master of Science in Applied Intelligence Mercyhurst College, 2010 Professor Shelly L. Freyn, Chair

SWOT analysis (which focuses on an organization’s internal Strengths and Weaknesses and external Opportunities and Threats) is one of the most popular analytic techniques amongst competitive intelligence professionals, as well as various other disciplines involved with strategic planning. Given the recent financial collapse of many major companies, as well as increased publicity focusing on the importance of strategic planning, now more than ever is a time for professionals to reconsider and reexamine the analytic techniques on which they rely. Aside from consulting previous research on SWOT analysis, this study surveyed business professionals from multiple countries and industries in order to determine whether SWOT is a technique that creates actionable intelligence while truly adding value to a strategic plan. The primary findings of this study suggest that: SWOT is rarely used correctly outside of the academic setting; it does not directly add value to creating an actionable strategic plan; it is not performed as often as it should be in order to remain relevant and
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timely; and it should be used in conjunction with other commonly known and understood analytic techniques, rather than relying on it as a standalone technique. These findings imply that the ways that SWOT is both utilized and taught should be further examined in order to enhance analysis used to create strategic plans.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS Page COPYRIGHT PAGE iii DEDICATION ABSTRACT vi TABLE OF CONTENTS LIST OF FIGURES ix LIST OF TABLES LIST OF CHARTS CHAPTERS: 1 INTRODUCTION 1 2 LITERATURE REVIEW 4 Key Terms 5 Evolution/History of SWOT 7 Previous Studies 13 Impact on Strategy 17 Hypotheses 20 3 METHODOLOGY 22 Sample Population and Distribution 22 Pre-Testing of Questions 24 Question Formulation and Justification Analytic Procedures 27 4 RESULTS 29 Survey Results Summary 42 5 CONCLUSION 45 29 x xi viii iv ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS v

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Hypotheses 46 Implications within Competitive Intelligence49 Suggested Areas for Further Research 51 REFERENCES APPENDICES 55 59

Appendix 1 - Survey 59
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Appendix 2 – Survey’s Qualitative Answers 64

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LIST OF FIGURES Page Figure 1 – Basic SWOT Matrix 7 8

Figure 2 – SWOT Matrix with Internal and External Division

Figure 3 – SWOT Matrix with Internal and External Division and Strategy Steps 9 Figure 4 – TOWS Matrix with Internal and External Division and Strategy Steps 10 Figure 5 – Strengths and Weaknesses of SWOT 11

Figure 6 – PEST Analysis and Porter’s Five Forces 19 Figure 7 – Example of Analytic Triangulation Figure 8 – LinkedIn Groups 23 Figure 9 – Sample of Distribution Posting 23 20

Figure 10 – Methods and Techniques Assessing in Survey 25 Figure 11 – Areas for Further Research to Examine SWOT’s Ability to Create Actionable Intelligence 54

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LIST OF TABLES Page Table 1 – Question 1 Results 29 Table 2 – Familiarity with Strategic Methods Table 3 – Familiarity with Analytic Techniques Table 4 – Question 6 Results 34 Table 5 – Question 7 Results 35 Table 6 – Question 8 Results 35 31 31

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LIST OF CHARTS Page Chart 1 – Question 1 Results 29 Chart 2 – Average Scores for Question 2; Familiarity with Strategic Methods Chart 3 – Average Scores for Question 3; Familiarity with Analytic Models Chart 4 – Question 4 Results 32 Chart 5 – Question 9 Results 36 Chart 6 – Question 10 Results 37 39 30 30

Chart 7 – Geographical Location of Respondents Chart 8 – Industries of Respondents 39 Chart 9 – Best Environment to Perform SWOT

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Chart 10 – Supplemental Question 4; Frequency of Strategic Methods Use Chart 11 – Supplemental Question 5; Frequency of Analytic Models Use 41

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INTRODUCTION SWOT analysis is one of the most popular analytic techniques amongst competitive intelligence professionals (Fehringer, 2007, p. 54), as well as many other disciplines involved with strategic planning (Choi, Lovallo, & Tarasova, 2007). Given the recent financial collapse of many major companies, as well as increased publicity focusing on the importance of strategic planning, now more than ever is a time for professionals to reconsider and reexamine the analytic techniques that they rely on. The three primary purposes of this research is to determine whether or not SWOT analysis adds actionable value to competitive intelligence; to determine if the real world use of SWOT is similar to the way it is taught and explained in academic settings; as well as to determine whether or not it is an analytic technique that adds value to strategic planning when used on its own (without applying an additional analytic technique). SWOT analysis outlines the strategic strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to determine an organization’s competencies as well as identify future opportunities (Hunger & Wheelen, 2010). Despite its popularity, few scholars have called its purpose or effectiveness into question. Various articles that address any

criticisms of the analytic practice of SWOT consistently cite one primary article from 1997, Terry Hill and Roy Westbrook’s “SWOT Analysis: It’s Time for a Product Recall”. Few additions and/or changes to SWOT analysis have been proposed that drastically change the purpose and effectiveness of SWOT analysis as it was first explained and coined by Stanford University’s Albert Humphrey in the 1960’s (GRIN Verlag, 2007, p. 2). There are over 200 analytic methods from varying domains within and outside of traditional intelligence jobs (Johnson, 2003, p. 65). Of these models, SWOT is one that is

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often times used in brainstorming sessions and then used to subjectively create strategic plans. Often times, the necessary research and preparation required before a SWOT analysis is not performed, as indicated either directly or indirectly by scholars such as Hill & Westbrook (1997), Weihrich (1982), and Fahy and Smithee (1999). Analytic methods refer to any structured method that individually evaluates pieces of information for the sake of comparing and synthesizing it with all other pieces of the information at large (Bensoussan & Fleisher, 2007, p.xxxi). It is the hope that this study will highlight reasons why SWOT should be used with other analytic models to validate findings, as well as highlight reasons why the teaching of SWOT analysis should be reexamined due to its use, as well as its acceptance as a primary analytic tool, in real-world business scenarios (Fehringer, 2007, p. 54). For the purpose of this study, competitive intelligence and strategic planning refer to areas within business operations that look at all internal and external events and resources to determine what future decisions will likely yield the most success to the organization. There are a few limitations to this study; these include: limited survey audience and time to distribute the survey, and a lack of previous research on the effectiveness of SWOT analysis. The survey audience was restricted to executives, upper level

management, and/or those involved in strategic planning. The sampling plan, despite this restriction, adds value to this study as only business-focused perspectives were gathered rather than any and all perspectives from non-business types or various levels of business organizations. The survey was open for one month due to constraints set by the academic calendar. Previous research on SWOT analysis lacks depth and varies based on

definitions and use of the technique. Despite these limitations, the results gathered by the survey associated with this study are likely to be accurate and encompass the overall

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understanding and uses of SWOT. There were only a few previous studies on the use and effectiveness of SWOT; this limitation primarily affected initial research. This lack of studies on SWOT was also a reason to pursue this avenue of research. The nature and order of this study will be as such: First, the researcher will review the existing body of literature pertinent to the topic, including past research on analytic techniques, both scholarly and business journal articles, and strategic text books to identify the ways in which the technique is taught and ideally meant to be utilized. Next, the researcher will explain the methodology for the research and the subsequent results. Finally, the researcher will offer his final interpretation of the survey’s results and postulate their implications for the future use of SWOT analysis in the business community and beyond.

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LITERATURE REVIEW SWOT analysis, at its core, is easy to understand, and easy to implement. This is a primary reason for its popularity. However, due to its simplicity on the surface, often times it is either misused or misunderstood and therefore used in a way that does not yield highly analyzed information. Since it is a rather subjective analytic practice, some individuals may argue that this is a fault of the user and not the practice. This study will focus on how people actually utilize and understand SWOT analysis in real-world business practice. The issue of SWOT utilizing subjective thoughts as analytical points is an area of contention that spans larger than the focus of this study. However, the issue of how to account for subjective thought and brainstorming into strategic planning by way of SWOT is within the scope of this study. SWOT is a practice that is, for the most part, less time consuming than other analytic techniques, and it is generally simple enough that many different individuals can engage in the thought process of SWOT from many different perspectives. First, this chapter will define and discuss key terms such as strategy, analytic techniques, brainstorming, and actionable intelligence. Next, this chapter will attempt to summarize the history and evolution of SWOT analysis, as well as provide a detailed explanation of what SWOT analysis is. This includes its rise in scholarly circles, as well as real-world use. SWOT’s value and impact on strategy and the creation of actionable intelligence will be discussed; this issue will also assess the ways in which it is best utilized and whether or not it is recommended for use with other analytic practices. This study’s hypotheses will emerge from the intersection of all these elements.

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Key Terms It is understood that the following key terms are all concepts that are complex and can vary given different scenarios. Due to this, the definitions for each key term are based on research from multiple sources. The definitions proposed are for the specific scope of this study; namely, business strategy formulation and the use of SWOT analysis within a business setting. The original term strategy derives from the Greek word, strategos, and was originally used in the military arena. However, “businesspeople have always liked

military analogies, so it is not surprising that they have embraced the notion of strategy” (Harvard Business Essentials, 2005, p.xii). Strategy is a “plan that aims to give the enterprise a competitive advantage over rivals through differentiation” (Harvard Business Essentials, 2005, p. xiv), as well as, as Michael Porter suggests, a plan focused on “positioning… [and] operational effectiveness” (1998, p. 73). In more simple terms, strategy links an organization’s current purpose and activity to achieving that organization’s goals for the future. The importance of strategic management emerged in the 1950s when Selznick (1957) introduced the need to bring an organization’s ‘internal state’ and ‘external expectations’ together for creating goals and plans. A key part of strategy is the implementation of it. While some scholars argue that implementation of strategy is a separate notion all together, for the purpose of this study, implementation of a strategy is considered part of strategic planning as a whole. SWOT analysis is one of many analytic techniques used in strategy formulation and business analysis. Throughout this study, its purpose, effectiveness, and use with other analytic techniques will be discussed. Analytic techniques are structured methods of analysis that can range from highly quantitative data to strictly qualitative. Analysis,

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as Merriam Webster Dictionary defines it, is the “separation of a whole into its component parts” (2010). Analytic techniques define the process of separating a given issue into all of its internal and external components. SWOT analysis is a technique that attempts to separate an organization’s components into its internal strengths and weaknesses, and its external opportunities and threats. At times, primarily when using qualitative analytic techniques, brainstorming is utilized in order to consider more outcomes or plans for strategy. For the purpose of this study, brainstorming is understood as “a sudden impulse, idea, etc.”, as defined by Dictionary.com, with or without proper research fueling the logical progression of thoughts (Random House, 2010). Brainstorming is a key component to the process of SWOT analysis, and it should be noted here that brainstorming can be practiced informally (conversationally), as well as very formally (previous research, taking notes, counting and tallying independent ideas, etc). Understanding this term and practice will be important in understanding different practices of SWOT analysis that will be discussed later. The last key term discussed in this section is the concept of actionable intelligence. While both terms (‘action’ and ‘intelligence’) vary in meaning and in use, the definition explained in this section will suffice for the purpose of this study. “Action” is the process of moving a strategy from thought into a real-world decision, movement, or change (Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2010). “Intelligence” is, as defined by Mercyhurst College Institute for Intelligence Studies (MCIIS), a product or “a process focused externally, designed to reduce the level of uncertainty for a decision maker using information derived from all sources” (Chido & Seward, 2006, p. 48). For the purpose of this study, intelligence also focuses internally. Due to the business scope of this study,

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intelligence can also be a series of analytic points gathered by looking within an organization that aims to make a forecast to reduce the uncertainty for decision makers. Therefore, within the context of this study, actionable intelligence is the process of creating a product, strategy, or plan that is based on internal and external information that can be used to create a specific strategy or plan. Evolution/History of SWOT SWOT analysis was first introduced by Stanford University’s Albert Humphrey in the 1960’s (GRIN Verlag, 2007, p. 2). SWOT analysis is used by an organization to define the situation they are currently in, or likely to be in within the near future. As a type of situational analysis, SWOT is the acronym for the analytic technique that assesses the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of a situation. The “basic

assumption of a SWOT analysis is that a company must align internal activities (Strengths and Weaknesses) with external realities (Opportunities and Threats)” to successfully produce results that can help create strategy (GRIN Verlag, 2007, p. 4). The matrix utilized in SWOT analysis is quite simple, and, as will be discussed, still evolving.

Figure 1: Basic SWOT Matrix (Young, 2006) While the matrix utilized in SWOT analysis is still a very simple design, scholars and business analysts have added further levels to this general four square matrix in order to accurately represent further levels of analysis and use. The extra levels also help to

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remind business analysts of the real purpose and way to conduct a SWOT. Strengths and weaknesses are based on internal information from the organization; primarily acquired through employee surveys and feedback (Olsen, 2008). Opportunities and threats are gathered from external information, primarily acquired through secondary sources (Olsen, 2008). Secondary sources include looking at industry data, consumer surveys, competitors, environmental (of the market) data, and evaluating what resources, capabilities, assets, or processes the organization has or does not have. Including Internal and External levels of analysis and information is critical to move SWOT’s findings into strategy; this is also reflected in a supplemental model depicted in Harvard Business Essentials (Figure 3).

Figure SWOT Matrix With Internal and External Division (Young, 2006 edited by author)

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The inclusion of Internal and External sections allows analysts to remember that the information going into each quadrant cannot simply be contrived from “a management exercise around a table” (Olsen, 2008). Another version of SWOT analysis is one that is utilized much less than the traditional four square model. As depicted in the Harvard Business Essentials, 2005 (p. 3), the formulation of specific goals and strategy are also incorporated as a central element of the analysis. This idea is supported by other business professionals and

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Figure 3: SWOT Matrix With Internal and External Division and Strategy Steps (Harvard Business Essentials, 2005, p. 3) analysts that believe that strategy needs to directly or indirectly include a plan for implementation, execution, or action. This model can be understood as a ‘next-step’ for analysis after the four square model is utilized. Ideas that spawn out of a SWOT analysis need to translate into overarching goal statements (Olsen, 2008). The last interpretation of SWOT analysis evaluated in this study is Heinz Weihrich’s proposal of the TOWS Matrix. While teaching a course on business policy, Weihrich “noted the limitation of SWOT analysis because students did not automatically take the ‘next step’ in developing alternative strategies based on the internal strengths and weaknesses and the external opportunities and threats,” so he developed the TOWS Matrix to account more for the strategic environment surrounding the organization (Weihrich, 2001). At face value, this appears to sound exactly the same as SWOT. However, as seen in Figure 4 while the internal components (the basic four squares) of

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TOWS are the same as SWOT, it is the fact that “the process of strategy formulation… surrounds the TOWS Matrix” (Weihrich, 1982, p. 62).

Figure 4: TOWS Matrix With Internal and External Division and Strategy Steps (Weihrich, 1982, p. 10) This figure also includes “maxi” and “mini” labels. These labels stand for factors to be maximized (maxi) and those to be minimized (mini). In both Weihrich’s model above, as well as the traditional SWOT model, “it is essential to note that the internal factors are within the control of the organization…on the contrary, the external factors are out of the organization’s control” (Lee, Leung, Lo & Ko, 2000, p. 410). Combining these factors produces four separate sets of information. These combinations have

become known as: “maxi-maxi (strengths/opportunities), maxi-mini (strengths/threats),

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mini-maxi (weaknesses/opportunities), and mini-mini (weaknesses/threats)” (Lee, Leung, Lo & Ko, 2000, p. 410). The evolution of SWOT has focused on increasing the effectiveness of its use and understanding; however, its original purpose may be getting over-complicated. The original version of the analytic technique does call for the analyst to observe external factors when forming goal oriented strategies out of the model; however, certain models (namely the TOWS matrix) may be visually over-complicating the simple four-square version. Strengths and Weaknesses of SWOT Analysis SWOT analysis is not always the best technique to utilize in strategic planning; however, it is a versatile technique that can easily be utilized in conjunction with other analytic techniques (Donaldson, 2008). In order to know when it is the best time to utilize SWOT, it is important to understand the general strengths and weaknesses of the technique. Per Mercyhurst College’s research in its 2009 graduate level Advanced

Analytic Techniques course, the class “evaluated [SWOT] based on its overall validity, simplicity, flexibility and its ability to effectively use unstructured data.” The strengths and weaknesses highlighted can be seen in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Strengths and Weaknesses of SWOT (Mercyhurst, 2009)

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The primary strength of SWOT analysis (as well as the reason for its popularity) is its simplicity. SWOT “is a useful construct to help show where your company stands versus a competitor. It is [widely] well-known and accepted, relatively straightforward, and understandable;” all of these qualities make it useful to people throughout many levels of an organization (Fehringer, 2007, p. 56). The simplicity of constructing a SWOT

analysis allows many people to become involved in the discussion, as well as allows many people to interpret it. Simplicity is also a reason to question SWOT’s analytic-worth. The simplicity of a SWOT analysis is a primary reason why users of the technique tend to skip over important planning or implementation steps, thus (and sometimes unknowingly), reducing the usefulness of the technique. “Unfortunately, some analysts conduct SWOTs alone, in a hurry, to meet a deadline;” this is something that seems adequate since it is possible, but it is absolutely the wrong way to perform a SWOT analysis (Fehringer, 2007, p. 54). The fact that SWOT’s guidelines are relatively vague and simple can be seen as a weakness as well as a strength; this is likely to vary depending on the situation being analyzed. For the most part, however, the simplicity of SWOT is a weakness unless the technique is being applied by someone who actually understands how to truly apply it to a situational analysis. Its simplicity is also a reason why many business professionals think they truly understand the technique. SWOT’s ability to be used in conjunction with other techniques, as well as its use in creating forecast-oriented strategies, are both areas that this study aims to further explore later in this chapter. Previous Studies

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There are limited studies conducted on the effectiveness or use of SWOT that focus specifically on evaluating the technique. Many sources that discuss the use of SWOT are sources that are descriptive, academic, or instructive in nature. The scholarly articles reviewed for the purpose of this study are ones that discussed the technique from either both of, or one of, two perspectives: first, describing the technique and explaining its usefulness (this is done in almost all articles where there is a mention of SWOT); secondly, and more importantly for this study, evaluating the technique and its usefulness. For the most part, these studies either resulted in proposing a new form of SWOT analysis, or simply highlighted a few problems to be aware of when utilizing the technique. Hill and Westbrook’s 1997 SWOT: It’s Time for a Product Recall study examined consultant companies’ methods of analysis. The study examined 50 projects, and studied the methods each group used to perform the SWOT, as well as evaluated the usefulness of what each group produced. The study concluded that SWOT analysis has

“fundamental concerns [within] its intrinsic nature”; namely: No requirement to prioritize or weight factors; No right or wrong length of lists; Vague; “No logical link with an implementation phase”; Single level of analysis (Hill & Westbrook, 1997, p. 51). Of studies focusing on SWOT’s use and effectiveness, Hill and Westbrook’s study is one of the few that utilized static numbers and quantitative data to evaluate SWOT’s use. According to Ghemawate, previous to any substantial evaluative studies of SWOT, early discussions of SWOT’s use and implementation represented a major step forward in explicitly bringing competitive thinking to bear on questions of strategy. Kenneth R. Andrews combined these elements in a way that emphasized that competencies or resources had to match environmental

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needs to have values [which is the essence of situational analysis]. In 1963, a business policy conference was held at Harvard that helped diffuse the [new idea of] SWOT in both academia and management practice. The conference was well attended, but the ensuing popularity of SWOT—which is still used by many firms in the twenty-first century—did not bring closure to the problem of actually defining a firm’s distinctive competence (2010, p. 5). Documentation of these discussions at Harvard could not be tracked down for the purpose of this study. While there was not a formal study associated with these meetings, it is important to note the popular acceptance of SWOT despite the lack of any true evaluative study focusing on its creation or effectiveness. If ever any communications from these meetings were discovered, it is likely that these discussions would prove to be highly evaluative in their nature; acting as an informal study or examination of SWOT analysis. A 2006 study by the Competitive Intelligence Foundation reported that “82.6 percent of respondents use SWOT analysis ‘frequently’ or ‘sometimes;’” this study only included competitive intelligence professionals (Fehringer, 2007, p. 54). Also cited in Dale Fehringer’s Six-Steps to a Better SWOT, was a “1998 survey of SCIP members [that found that] SWOT analysis was the third-most widely used intelligence analytic technique behind competitor analysis and financial analysis” (Fehringer, 2007, p. 54); these number directly show the current popularity of the technique. Within Fehringer’s article, he highlights six simple rules to increase the usefulness of SWOT. The study examines both perspectives of using SWOT, acknowledging that “opinions vary regarding the usefulness of SWOT analysis…Naysayers [of the technique] divide

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themselves into two camps: those who say it is difficult to be objective about one’s own company, and those who say its results are often misused” (Fehringer, 2007, p. 54). In order to add more value to a SWOT analysis, Fehringer suggests that the following six steps be heeded: Brainstorm first; Never brainstorm alone; Rank order all quadrants; Match strengths with threats, opportunities with weaknesses; Use as a starting point (not the end all be all) for further analysis; Do not share with senior management (2007). One lacking area of Fehringer’s study is that he does not provide any specific techniques that he believes SWOT should be paired with for further analysis, he simply states that it should “be used in conjunction with other analytic techniques” (2007, p. 54). However, it is a valuable study because it highlights simple short-comings of SWOT analysis and provides simple solutions for them. Motivated by short-comings of SWOT analysis, Heinz Weihrich proposed the TOWS Matrix (1982) after carefully examining SWOT analysis. Weihrich proposed that traditional SWOT analysis does not incorporate overarching strategy into its analysis, nor does it accurately pin “external factors [with] those internal to the enterprise” (1982, p. 57). The study argues that strategy is the end goal, and thus, should be incorporated with any analysis toward that end. He sets a general framework for strategy that he argues should surround the findings of a TOWS matrix. In doing so, he argues that internal and external threats, opportunities, weaknesses, and strengths can all be paired accordingly, and in not one structured way; offering a more comprehensive and flexible analysis and outlook than the traditional SWOT analysis. A 1976 study (Stevenson) questioned the effectiveness of SWOT by polling business managers (to what guidelines and if it is similar to this study is unknown). The findings of this study were that top managers were likely to emphasize financial strengths

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while middle and lower managers were more concerned about technical issues and that top managers perceived more strengths than lower managers, suggesting that inconsistencies in the analysis is dependent on the role of the individuals performing the analysis. In practice, a SWOT analysis tends to produce a fairly indiscriminate list of variables; given development of other techniques, some scholars cite its variability as a reason not to utilize SWOT (Hill & Westbrook, 1997). As explained by Fahy and Smithee, “Rather than [using] indiscriminate lists provided by SWOT analysis, resources should be categorized [more specifically, and] according to ease of duplication by competitors” (1999). This study focuses on analyzing situations from a resource-based perspective for marketing strategy specifically. It argues that strategic analysis of a situation dependent on an organization’s resources should not include SWOT analysis because it is too vague to be valuable in creating strategies that need more exact and precise outcomes. The general outcome of studies on the effectiveness of SWOT analysis have either concluded by suggesting an entirely new format of the technique, suggesting additional steps to the process, or arguing against its use at all. Since the majority of the studies cite the objectiveness and simplicity of SWOT as a downfall, re-categorizing SWOT as a stepping stone to further analysis should be considered rather than as a technique all on its own. Impact on Strategy SWOT analysis’s impact on strategic planning is a disputed area that is constantly questioned due to the technique’s subjective and qualitative roots. The technique is one that is cited by many professionals and academics as one to incorporate at some level of strategy formulation, but, as noted by numerous scholars, there is no set standard format

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for moving from SWOT’s findings to the implementation of strategy (Clark, 2004). Regardless of approach, it is almost certain that any strategy produced out of a SWOT analysis “must have an external factor as a trigger in order for it to be feasible” or relevant (Lee, Leung, Lo & Ko, 2000, p. 410). Some proposed ways to help SWOT’s findings directly influence the implementation of strategy are: to rank order each quadrant, as well as the information/criteria within them to know where to take action first (Clark, 2004); utilize the USED system, which requires the analyst to ask the questions of “How can we…Use each strength? Stop each weakness? Exploit each opportunity? Defend against each threat?” (Morrison, 2009); and to use the technique only as a starting point for further analysis that will then lead to an actionable plan (Fehringer, 2007). All of these proposed uses of SWOT’s analytic findings are all valid and likely to vary in use and impact on the end strategy. It is all but certain that the way in which SWOT is used, to what level of detail and seriousness, will directly affect the impact its findings will have on the end strategy and the implementation of it. Implementing a strategy is different from executing a strategy. Weihrich offered the TOWS matrix (with steps to strategy surrounding it) in order to better provide a framework for implementing the proposed or planned strategy (1982). Implementation can legitimately be considered a “step” of an analytic technique given certain strategic uses and settings; however, the execution of a strategy is most always removed from the analytic processes that were utilized to formulate the given strategy. Because of this, this study will only focus on the impact SWOT analysis has on an organization’s attempt to plan for the implementation of a strategy, not on the actual execution of it. Another area of strategy that SWOT analysis impacts is the development of strategy over time. In business, strategies “morph and evolve” in order to remain relevant

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and competitive to the environment its organization operates within (Kotha & Rindova, 2001, p. 1263). There are few scholars or practitioners that have examined SWOT’s effectiveness from a temporal perspective, but one generally accepted rule is that SWOT analysis should be conducted “at least once a year and even more frequently if market conditions warrant” (Clark, 2004). Pairing with Other Analytic Techniques or Left Standing Alone? An important area to examine concerning SWOT analysis is the use of the technique with other types of analysis. As will be discussed, some scholars and

practitioners argue that SWOT should be utilized in conjunction with other analytic techniques, and some argue that it should be used by itself. Either way, there has not been an accepted standard in this area. SWOT does have the potential to provide strategic insight on its own when utilized correctly. When “matching the internal factors with external factors, SWOT analysis yields a list of action items as the basis for strategies (Koo & Koo, 2007). However, this is highly dependent on the type of preliminary research conducted before the SWOT analysis begins, the perspectives of those conducting the analysis, and the specificity put into the analysis. Often times, scholars and practitioners note that SWOT should be paired with other techniques, but due to such variance of SWOT’s use, rarely are there specific techniques suggested to work best with SWOT. Without specific detail, nor further explanation, Janice Donaldson explains that “by paying attention to external Political, Economic, Socio-cultural, and Technological (PEST analysis) factors, entrepreneurs can development a game plan using their company’s SWOT (2008). A similar suggestion,

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made by E. K. Valentin, is that Porter’s Five Forces Analytical model sufficiently complements SWOT analysis (2001, p. 55).

Figure 6: PEST Analysis (left) and Porter’s Five Forces (right) (National Maritime Museum, 2008) and (Maxi-pedia, 2010) PEST, Porter’s Five Forces, and SWOT all utilize basic frameworks for reviewing a situation (Chapman, 2005). Another use for SWOT is in the preliminary stages of a balanced scorecard. “It is believed that by first implementing a SWOT analysis, to develop a set of strategies that make sense, will serve as a stepping stone toward the actual implementation of a balance scorecard” (Lee, Leung, Lo & Ko, 2000, p. 411). Whether it is

suggested that one of these analytic techniques is performed previous to another is something that has not been accurately studied in terms of effectiveness. It does seem logical that by simply utilizing multiple techniques, regardless of order, more specific, actionable information should result. This idea is referred to as triangulation.

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Triangulation is a metaphor from navigation and military strategy that uses multiple reference points to locate an object’s exact position (Jick, 1979, p. 602). In terms of analytic use, triangulation uses multiple methodologies (from differing perspectives, and often times varying in qualitative or quantitative focus) to study the same issue (Jick, 1979, p. 602). Utilizing a Figure 7: Example of Analytic Triangulation

situational analysis, like SWOT, with two other

forms of analysis is likely to create a much more accurate, well-balanced final analytic product, often times in the form of strategic insight. Hypotheses No one has connected the original purpose and execution of SWOT with Weihrich’s proposal of TOWS. This study aims to show that SWOT is a simplistic model that is just as useful as the TOWS model when used correctly. My first hypothesis is that SWOT is rarely used correctly outside of the academic setting; from conducting proper research, to moving its findings toward actionable strategy formulation. Aside from utilizing the technique, my second hypothesis is that SWOT does not directly add value to an actionable strategic plan. My third hypothesis is that it is likely that SWOT is not performed as often as it should be within an organization. The recommendation by Clark is to perform a SWOT “at least once a year and even more frequently if market conditions warrant” (2004). Given unstable and fluctuating market conditions in recent years (plummeting stock market, high unemployment, shifting markets, etc), SWOT should be performed more than once a year. My last hypothesis is that SWOT should be used in conjunction with other commonly known and understood analytic techniques. This also means that it should no

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longer be taught as a technique by itself, and rather, as a preliminary step to more specific situational analytic techniques. Through all of my research and my survey’s qualitative responses, I also believe I will find more information confirming the logical assumption that SWOT’s popularity lies in its simplicity; its simplicity, in turn, is likely why the technique has lost any effectiveness or structure it was originally intended to carry with it.

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METHODOLOGY This study used a survey in order to gather the information necessary to qualitatively and quantitatively analyze the ways in which business professionals involved in strategy formulation and implementation utilize SWOT analysis. The survey was created and distributed online using SurveyMonkey.com. The questions were

crafted by the author with the help of various experienced professionals. After a period of pre-testing the survey, it was distributed online through emails and social networking sites in order to obtain a sufficient audience size. The following sub-sections will discuss the ways in which the survey’s results help to gain information pertaining to the original hypotheses of this study. Sample Population and Distribution The sampling plan for this study was restricted to executives, those in upper level management, or anyone involved in strategic planning. This sampling plan allowed the survey’s sample population to be comprised of only those with real-world business and/or strategic experience and understanding. This type of survey population allowed the study to incorporate not only competitive intelligence professionals, but other professionals under the umbrella of strategic planning. All survey respondents were told directly that their identity would remain anonymous. The survey was distributed online through a variety of methods. First, emails were passed along to: Mercyhurst College’s Advisory Board, comprised of various business professionals; professors within Mercyhurst’s Intelligence Studies Department so they could forward it to any personal business-related colleagues; and to personally known corporate executives and consultants by the author of this study. The emails

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included a link to the survey that was hosted on SurveyMonkey.com, as well as a short description detailing the characteristics of survey respondents the study was interested in polling. Second, the survey was also distributed using a Competitive Intelligence Ning discussion board and various LinkedIn Group discussion pages. The LinkedIn Groups that were posted to included: Figure 8: LinkedIn Groups Competitive Intelligence; Corporate Intelligence and Investigation; Strategic Business and Competitive Intelligence Professionals; Business Strategy & Competitive Strategy; Strategy, Marketing & Innovation; Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals; Business Intelligence & Analytics; Corporate Planning & Global Industry Segmentation; Harvard Business Review; Future Trends. The posts included a short description about the scope of the study, as well as a description detailing the type of respondents being requested.

Figure Sample of Distribution Posting

9:

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Pre-testing of Questions Due to the complexity and online nature of the survey questions, the author worked with three primary advisors that all have had extensive experience with survey construction. The College Dean of Mercyhurst’s Business School, the Department Chair of Mercyhurst’s Communications Department, and a Mercyhurst Competitive Intelligence Professor (with a professional background in Market Research) were all consulted through the creation of the survey’s design, questions, and answer choices. After the survey’s construction, a pre-test was conducted so that outside opinions and perspectives about the survey could be gathered. The two primary pre-testers

included a Senior Marketing Manager of a US technology company, and an Analyst at a major US consulting firm. The pre-test revealed any gaps in the general use of the survey, any areas of confusion that needed to be re-phrased, as well as an outside perspective about the general layout and design of the survey. In terms of layout, the pretest revealed that ten questions was an adequate length and that any supplemental questions to the study could be included in an optional section at the end of the survey. The pre-test of the survey reduced any chance for confusion once it was distributed and increased the attractiveness and ease of use for the respondents. Question Formulation and Justification Questions consisted of dichotomous questions, open ended responses, and interval scale rating questions based on what was determined to yield the most amount of information while still remaining to be user-friendly (Malhotra, 2007, p. 256 & p.309). The remainder of this section will address each question that was utilized in the survey,

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and describe the reasons why it was important enough to include in the survey. A full version of the survey is located in Appendix 1. In order to make sure all responses were from people with a business background, the survey’s first question asked the respondent to indicate their job position. Other than some fixed answers, an open-ended other box was provided as well. This question served primarily as a filter question to ensure that the responses were coming from people with a business position. Respondents were asked to indicate their familiarity with different strategic methods and analytic techniques in a fixed structure rating scale. The methods and techniques they were asked to assess were gathered from business strategy textbooks (Bensoussan & Fleisher, 2007) and scholarly journal articles (Porter, 1998) (Fehringer, 2007) (Chapman, 2005) that list and/or suggest additional methods and models to be used with SWOT.

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Figure 10: Methods (above) and Techniques (below) Assessed in Survey

In order to determine to what levels the respondents used SWOT, dichotomous questions, with the inclusion of open-ended explanation boxes, asked respondents: If they think there is a difference between the “real-world” use of SWOT and what they learned in college? and, Does their company use SWOT analysis? The second question acted as a filter question in order to determine if a survey respondent should continue on with the survey or not (Malhotra, 2007, p. 304). In order to address the temporal use of SWOT analysis, three primary questions were asked, all with categorical options of Monthly, Quarterly, Half-Year, Yearly, BiYearly, N/A. Respondents were asked: How often is SWOT actually conducted? How often do you think it should ideally be conducted? and, What is the average shelf-life of SWOT? The first two questions were asked in order to define differences in the actual

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use of SWOT versus the theoretic understanding and expectations of SWOT. The third question (shelf-life) was asked in order to gauge the consistency of responses in regards to theoretically expectations. The last two questions of this survey were both dichotomous questions with the option to add an open-ended explanation for their choice of Yes or No. One of these questions both directly and indirectly addressed whether or not respondents are using SWOT alone or with other techniques. The last question asked respondents whether or not they believe SWOT analysis actually adds value to strategic forecasts. Although the answer choice was dichotomous, the open-ended explanation was provided since most respondents would feel a need to further explain themselves. The addition of an

explanation box also serves as a “check”. If a respondent answers “Yes” (it does add value to strategic forecasts), but then cannot give a valid reason for this belief, it only further explains the veil of acceptance that SWOT’s popularity has created. The supplemental questions for this survey were included to make sure that responses were gathered from multiple geographic locations, a variety of industry perspectives, and to determine the frequency in which respondents use other strategic methods and analytic techniques that were tested earlier in the survey. The last

supplemental question asked respondents to list any favorite uses of SWOT in an openended explanation box. This question allowed the respondents to submit an example of a situation they feel is best suited by utilizing SWOT analysis; this information helps to determine the level of understanding about SWOT analysis the respondents actually have, as well as an insight into their specific real-world uses for the technique. Analytic Procedures

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The survey’s responses were primarily analyzed quantitatively by looking at the leading percentage or frequency of what answer options were chosen. Qualitative

analysis of the open-ended answers helped to gain a better understanding of the reasons certain answers were chosen. Qualitative information that was “emphasized and

minimized” was analyzed and filtered through Excel spreadsheets in order to find patterns and trends (Malhotra, 2007, p. 170). Although the qualitative analysis of the open-ended questions reveal much information about the answers chosen, this study primarily focused on understanding the quantitative responses in order to gain an overall perspective about the use and understanding of SWOT analysis. With this said, the qualitative information that was gathered in the explanation boxes help provide more depth, understanding, and perspective for interval rating and dichotomous questions; the qualitative information simply offers more insight into why respondents responded how they did to certain questions. By way of SurveyMonkey.com, answers were automatically extracted into Microsoft Excel spreadsheet format in order to create charts and filter through all of the information. This proved to be an efficient way to visually analyze the survey’s findings. Logical interpretations of analysis will be further explained in the Results section of this study.

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RESULTS 101 people started the survey and 78 people completed it; yielding a 77.2% completion rate. As discussed in the Methodology section, each question had a specific purpose that was driven by the original hypotheses of this study. Each question will be discussed individually with a review of the question, its purpose, and the results gathered. Question 1 Question 1 asked respondents to indicate what professional position they currently held in order to be sure that a variety of business perspectives were gathered as well as to filter out respondents that did not represent the sampling plan for this study. Of the 101 people that answered this question, only 10 answered “Other” while the rest chose one of the four fixed answers. The totals are listed in Table 1. The “Other” positions

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Table 1: Question 1 Results

Chart 1: Question 1 included: 5 “Educators”, 2 “Analysts”, and 2 “Management Consultants”. The results to this question indicate that a variety of individuals with different business backgrounds provided the perspective for the results gathered from this survey. The majority of respondents were “Strategic or Competitive Intelligence Team Members” and “Executive/Corporate Officers,” both groups being ones that are directly involved with strategic formulation. Even in the “Other” category, the perspective of “Educator” is one

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that continues to add value to the results of this study since exploring the way in which the analytic technique is taught is within the scope of one of the original hypotheses. Question 2 & 3 Both Questions 2 and 3 asked respondents to identify their level of familiarity with common strategic methods (Question 2) and common analytic models (Question 3) used during different steps of strategy formulation. Of the common strategic methods listed, respondents were, for the majority, familiar and very familiar with all of them.

Chart 2: Average Scores for Question 2 Familiarity with strategic methods

Chart 3: Average Scores for Question 3 Familiarity with analytic models Regardless of these high levels of recognition and familiarity, the rating averages show that SWOT (with an average of 3.49 out of 4) and Competitor Profiling (with an average of 3.32 out of 4) are the two methods listed that respondents were the most familiar with, on average. These results validate SWOTs popularity as cited in other

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studies; is also indicates another analytic method that the majority of respondents are familiar with: Competitor Profiling. This high familiarity with Competitive Profiling indicates that it is at least a potential method to consider as a complement to SWOT analysis.

Of the com mon

Table 2: Familiarity with Strategic Methods

Table 3: Familiarity with Analytic Techniques analytic techniques listed in Question 3, the only technique that had a clear majority answer of very familiar was SWOT analysis. As shown in these charts, SWOT’s 59 “Very Familiar’s” in Question 3 is consistent with the responses gathered in Question 2 when it was listed as a method for strategy, with 58 “Very Familiar’s”. When examining the rating averages collected, SWOT averaged the highest with 3.57 (out of 4). The only other analytic technique that averaged higher than a 3 was Scenario Planning with 3.07

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(out of 4). Similar to what can be learned from results of respondent’s familiarity with Competitor Profiling, the high familiarity with Scenario Planning indicates that it is at least a potential method to consider as a complement to SWOT analysis due to its higher level of acceptance and understanding. Question 4 Question 4 asked respondents to indicate whether or not they believe there is a difference in the “real-world” use of SWOT from what they learned in college. Only 6 respondents answered that they did not know what SWOT analysis was (again, its popularity proven). Of the other 77 responders to answer this question, 45 (54.2%) answered “Yes, there is a difference”, and 32 (39%) answered “No, there is not a difference”. Open-ended comments that were collected showed that there were a few respondents who never even learned about SWOT analysis in college and instead learned about it “on the job”. The majority of open-ended comments expressed the belief that “real-world” problems are too complex and complicated to use SWOT analysis. For example, some comments were:
• •

Chart 4: Is there a difference with the “real-world” use of

Lots more uncertainty in the real world. Real world is much more complex and dynamic. In college, everything is described in precise definitions and is black & white. In the real world, analysis is met with compromises and different people have different ideas about how to do things.

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Main difference is that college SWOT lessons tend to look at issues in a silo/vacuum, without recognizing the significant interconnectedness of issues in the real world.

It is unclear whether or not an answer of “Yes, it is different in the ‘real-world’” is referring to a poor teaching of the technique in college, or whether it is referring to the poor application of it towards real-world issues. This question shows that more than half of the respondents believe that SWOT’s real-world use is in fact different from what they were originally taught when originally being introduced to the technique. Further

exploration into the ways in which the technique is taught would add value to this question’s findings. Question 5 Question 5 simply asked respondents whether or not they, or their company, use SWOT analysis. 70 out of the 83 respondents to this question said “Yes”. Again, this type of result supports the notion that SWOT is a very popular and accepted technique. Of the 13 respondents that do not use SWOT analysis, the majority of the openended explanations indicated that they do not use it “formerly…however, [they] do think about each quadrant” in their practice of analysis. Other explanations indicated that they used “more analytic” techniques instead of SWOT analysis. Along these same lines of the notion that SWOT is not analytic enough, some explanations indicated that their limited use of the technique is simply as a visual tool implemented in the completion steps of a final product.

Question 6, 7 & 8

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Questions 6, 7, and 8 all focus on determining the frequency of conducting a SWOT analysis, as well as the time period in which respondents believe it holds value; this was asked in terms of real-world use, as well as theoretical use. When asked how often a SWOT is actually conducted, the majority of respondents chose “Yearly”. It is unknown, but likely, that those that chose “N/A” are consultants that do not work with organizations for long periods of time.

Table 4: Question 6 Results Question 7 posed a similar question as Question 6, but instead asked respondents how often SWOT should be conducted “under ideal circumstances”. This theoretical result yielded a majority answer of “Quarterly”. This result, in correlation with the results from Question 6, indicates that those who use SWOT analysis believe that they are not utilizing it as frequently as they should. The reason(s) for which SWOT is not conducted Quarterly in the respondent’s “real-world” use of it is unknown.

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Table 5: Question 7 Results
Under ideal circumstances, how often do you think a company should conduct SWOT analysis?

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Table 6: Question 8 Results
What is the average shelf-life of SWOT analysis (time period before it needs to be replaced or

Related to Question 7, Question 8 asked respondents what they believe the average shelf life (how long SWOT is applicable to the organization’s needs before it needs to be replaced) of SWOT analysis is. This question yielded a majority answer of “Quarterly” as well. The consistency of responses to Question 8 and Question 7 shows that respondents think that SWOT analysis should be conducted once the shelf-life on a previous SWOT analysis has run out, which the results show are believed to be every 3 months. The consistency of the results from these two questions also proves that

respondents were still answering the questions consciously and with thought; increasing the validity of this survey’s results. Question 9 Question 9 asked respondents to indicate whether or not they use SWOT analysis to synthesize or pair SWOT’s findings with any other strategic models. Of the 76 respondents to answer this question, 46 people (65%) answered that they Chart 5: Do you use SWOT to synthesize or pair findings with other strategic models?

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do not pair SWOT’s findings with other strategic models. 27 respondents answered “Yes,” they do pair SWOT’s findings with other strategic models. The results of this question indicate that the majority of the respondents to this survey utilize SWOT by itself, relying solely on SWOT’s findings to move forward with their strategic planning. In conjunction with this dichotomous question, respondents that answered “Yes” were asked to provide further explanation in an open-ended explanation box. 20 people added comments. All of the comments gathered provided further rationale for when and why to use SWOT with other strategic models. Comments ranged in focus, but the majority of them either cited specific models that are seen as a good complements to SWOT analysis, or explained their reasoning for why they don’t rely on SWOT by itself. Some insightful comments were:
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SWOT analysis is largely used to support other analysis, but also to provide insight into potential avenues the company may move towards. Together with other analytical tools (STEEP, PEST, Four Corners), SWOT analysis forms part of a structured competitor profiling programme that feed into the strategic planning cycle. Usually, SWOT is a method for doing comparative analysis with other techniques, or as a funnel for getting people thinking on a macro level. This helps identify what specific analytic techniques need to be added.

Some specific models that were listed were, in no particular order: Competitor Profiling (stated in 3 of 20 open-ended answers), Risk Assessment Analysis (stated in 2 of 20 open-ended answers), Scenario Analysis (stated in 3 of 20 open-ended answers), Six Thinking Hats Analysis (stated in 2 of 20 open-ended answers), Four Corner’s Analysis (stated in 3 of 20 open-ended answers), STEEP and PEST (stated in 2 of 20 open-ended answers). This information is valuable in terms of further, more specific research exploring which analytic/strategic models are best for SWOT analysis to be paired with.

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Question 10 The last of the primary questions in this survey asked respondents whether or not they believe SWOT analysis adds value to strategic forecasts. This question, a rather point-blank question pertaining to the main hypothesis of this study, yielded wavering results despite its quantitative results seen in Chart 6. In terms of the results to the dichotomous answer to this question, 59 of the 76 respondents (78%) said that they do believe SWOT does add value to strategic forecasts. However, an open-ended Chart 6: Do you believe SWOT analysis adds value to strategic forecasts?

explanation section was added to gain more insight into respondent’s choice of “Yes” or “No”. These results indicate that SWOT is seen as valuable, but, in a different way than intended, and, for the most part, not while used by itself for analysis. For example, SWOT’s use as a group “thinking tool” helps bring groups together, puts all perspectives on the table, and can be used as a starting point to further analysis. These answers also show that people’s understanding of the technique is rather limited. “Informing SWOT development effectively” is a critical step in SWOT analysis, it is not just “a management exercise around a table” (Olsen, 2008); this is something that respondents did not demonstrate an understanding of in their open-ended answers to this question. Only a handful of comments included any knowledge of SWOT’s ability to help in the prioritization of strategies and issues; one of these comments can be seen in the list below. In general, open-ended answers pertaining to SWOT’s ability to add value to strategic forecasting included statements such as:


Only modestly. It is a thinking tool. Management should wrestle with these issues in an open forum.

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It is a good tool to gather input from our team. The process of completing a SWOT is more valuable than the analysis because it helps to get everyone on the same page. SWOT creates awareness, thus increases the validity of your forecasts. A good framework for discussion and analysis. Implementation is tricky in poor performing companies because they tend to hide their heads in the sand. No, it is not future-oriented. I believe a SWOT type analysis adds value through pulling the different departments of the company together to develop a synergistic strategy. It also helps prioritize the needs of each department within the context of overall company strategy. It's a good starting point. Adds value? Yes. Able to stand on its own? No.

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Essentially, this survey’s respondents believe that the value SWOT adds to strategic forecasting is not always analytic in nature. It can add value by creating new patterns for thought, providing an open-forum discussion about the situation at hand, and by laying the ground-work for further analysis. While the answer to this question yields the result that respondents do believe SWOT adds value to strategic forecasts, it is contingent on many nuanced conditions that were outlined in the respondents’ comments. Supplemental Questions Supplemental questions were included in this survey in order to gain more insight about the background of survey respondents, as well as more insight about areas for further research. This section will individually review each of the supplemental The first 5 Supplemental

questions, its general purpose, and the results gathered.

Questions all had at least 70 respondents; the last Supplemental Question only had 27. Question 1

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Supplemental Question 1, answered by 74 respondents, was asked in order to determine whether or not the results of this survey would reflect an international understanding of SWOT analysis. Although 59% of the respondents were from a US perspective, the other 41% were from Europe, Asia, and “Other” regions of the world such as Australia, the Middle East, and at least 13 respondents who worked with organizations that have multiple locations. Question 2 In another attempt to gain more insight about the perspectives of the respondents to this survey, Supplement Question 2 asked respondents to indicate what industry they primarily operate within. The results to this question proved that results of this survey reflect a variety of industries, and it also Chart 8: Industries of Chart 7: Geographical Location of Respondents

implies that it reflects a variety of uses of SWOT analysis. Responses to this question indicate that no industry was represented drastically larger than another. The “Other” category included numerous industries such as: Health Insurance, Marketing/Advertising, Media and Entertainment, Consulting, Non-Profit, Education, and Security Services. Question 3

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Supplemental Question 3 was asked in order to determine respondents’ depth of understanding about how to conduct a SWOT analysis. Results from this question should be used as a supplement to the results gather by the explanation section of Question 4, as well as answers to Question 10; both focusing primarily on the use of SWOT in the “realworld”. Supplemental Question 3 asked respondents what the best environment was to conduct a SWOT analysis. As referenced in the discussion

section for Question 10, SWOT should be more than “a

management exercise around a table” (Olsen, 2008). The results of this Chart 9: Best Environment to

question show that respondents do believe that having multiple perspectives from within (and from outside) the organization is important; the extent of this does vary however. This is an area that would benefit from having a more refined focus placed on it in future research. Of the open-ended answered gathered by those that answered “Other”,

respondents generally agreed with the idea that a broader perspective is best: ALL departments may be a bit strong, but certainly the broader the representation, the more in depth the analysis; A SWOT analysis should be complete, first by a internal analyst and then passed up the management chain; A combination of all of the options. Essentially, the results of this question suggest that there is no “perfect” environment, but that SWOT should be performed in an environment conducive to high visibility and input from all perspectives of an organization. Question 4 & 5

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Of the listed strategic methods (in Supplemental Question 4, and previously in Question 2) and analytic models (in Supplemental Question 5, and previously in Question 3), respondents were asked to rate their frequency of using the techniques. The purpose of this question was to learn more about potential techniques that SWOT analysis could be easily paired with. When looking at how respondents’ rated the methods and models, it is clear that Competitor Profiling, Scenario Planning, and Financial Analysis (Sales History and Balance Sheets) are, on average, the most frequently used.

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Chart 10: Supplemental Question 4; Frequency of Strategic Methods Use

Chart 11: Supplemental Question 5; Frequency of Despite previous results (Question 2 and 3) that indicated high levels of understanding of many of the methods and models listed, these supplemental questions indicate that 9-Forces, Driving Forces, and War Gaming are not used frequently

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compared to all of the other techniques listed. For the purpose of this study, these questions were sufficient for exploring new techniques to pair SWOT analysis with; however, this could be an area for further research. Finding techniques that respondents are already familiar with and are comfortable using frequently are techniques that SWOT has the potential to be easily paired with due to its popularity and generally simple structure. Question 6 The last Supplemental Question asked respondents to list any favorite uses for SWOT, or any strategic scenarios they believe SWOT works best with. There were only 27 responses to this last question, but these comments helped solidify findings from earlier questions. SWOT is best when not used by itself, it can help establish a priority list (when conducted correctly), and it helps bring perspectives together in order to form a better conceptual map for the situation at hand. Some of the comments, as examples, included:

It is just a matter of habit. For some of us, the easy and the most popular model. It can be limiting if done alone. I think it works well for new managers/leaders and for turnaround situations to focus on priorities. SWOT can be very effective in project management - as in, do we employ resources or not to this project? Anticipating competitor actions by SWOT'ing their business and organization. When used in conjunction with other analysis tools. SWOT as input to Porter 4-Corner; SWOT for Strategy development; SWOT for solving complex business issues; SWOT for assessing Scenarios or Business Alternative Routes. Summary After analyzing each survey question individually, and then comparing all of the

• • • •

survey’s results, it is clear that SWOT is a technique that is widely used, should be used

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only as a component of multiple analytic steps (and techniques), and as a platform for collaborating as many internal and external perspectives as possible. To review the initial hypotheses of this study: 1) SWOT is rarely used correctly outside of the academic setting, 2) SWOT does not directly add value to creating an actionable strategic plan, 3) SWOT is not performed as often as it should be, 4) SWOT should be used in conjunction with other commonly known and understood analytic techniques. In regards to the fourth hypothesis, the survey utilized for this study yielded more results than expected that prove that SWOT’s affect on strategy is reliant on its ability to act as a starting point for further analysis as opposed to being used strictly for analysis by itself. While this may seems like a simple concept, the results of this survey also provided a more specific list of techniques that SWOT could be paired with: Competitor Profiling, Scenario Planning, and Financial Analysis. Proving the first hypothesis, the results of this survey also suggest that the “realworld” use of SWOT lacks structure and formality, namely in the areas of conducting indepth research before actually conducting analysis and rank ordering the outcomes of the technique. In line with the second hypothesis of this study, as an analytic technique, SWOT does add value to creating an actionable strategic plan, just not directly. SWOT’s indirect contribution to strategic formulation comes from its ability to act as a platform for multiple perspectives and ideas from within and outside of the organization; this, however, is only an indirect effect on strategy formulation. In regards to the third hypothesis of this study, the results gathered by Questions 6, 7, and 8 clearly demonstrate that SWOT is not performed as often as it should be. This fact appears to be something that respondents to this survey were completely aware of; changing this is likely an up-hill battle revolving around time and money, as well as

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comfort and convenience. The reasons why it is not performed more are not clear from the results gathered by this study.

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CONCLUSION In terms of strategic planning and consulting, SWOT analysis is one of the most popular analytic techniques utilized by business professionals (Fehringer, 2007, p. 54). Given today’s wavering and constantly changing markets and economies, correctly implementing and utilizing analytic techniques is ever more important. SWOT analysis was chosen as the technique to examine in this study due to its popularity and widespread use throughout competitive intelligence, strategy formulation, and other areas in business that utilize analytic techniques. As stated at the beginning of this study, the primary hypotheses formulated after extensive literary-based research were: 1) SWOT is rarely used correctly outside of the academic setting, 2) SWOT does not directly add value to creating an actionable strategic plan, 3) SWOT is not performed as often as it should be, 4) SWOT should be used in conjunction with other commonly known and understood analytic techniques. Each of these hypotheses will be discussed individually within this section of the study. SWOT analysis has many roles in the varying steps of strategic planning, and, as this study found, ranges in use as a conceptual tool, an analytic aid, a launch pad for brainstorming and communication, and as a visual representation of analytic findings. However, compared to the way that SWOT was first introduced by Stanford University’s Albert Humphrey in the 1960’s, the use, effectiveness, and purpose of SWOT analysis varies within its application to real-world situations (GRIN Verlag, 2007, p. 2). The purpose of this study is to highlight reasons why SWOT should be used with other analytic models to validate findings/strategies, as opposed to using it by itself, simply as a thought-tool; as well as highlight reasons why the teaching of SWOT analysis

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should be reexamined due to the difference between theoretical teachings versus realworld use. This section will provide conclusive thoughts in regards to the findings of this study, implications of these findings in terms of teaching competitive intelligence and SWOT as an analytic tool, and areas for further research that were discovered while conducting this study. Hypotheses This study found all four initial hypotheses to be correct. The following subsections will discuss this study’s conclusions relative to each hypothesis. Hypothesis 1: SWOT analysis is rarely used correctly outside of the academic setting. The results of this study indicate that the majority of professionals, who utilize SWOT analysis, do not use it as originally intended (i.e. as an analytic technique). Many professionals only use SWOT as a visual tool, a brainstorming platform, and/or for background discussion to use as a starting point for further analysis. While this result is partly due to SWOT’s generally simple structure, it is primarily due to professionals’: inability to apply SWOT to complex real-world issues, common informal use of SWOT as a simple conceptual aid, and lack of initial in-depth research before implementing SWOT as a brainstorming platform for analysis. The origins of these misconceptions are unknown, however, it can easily be implied that there are some roots in the way the technique was originally taught in an academic setting. Although this study did not explore the exact reasons SWOT analysis is continually misused, it can be implied that these misconceptions about the uses of SWOT may have been perpetually passed along teacher to student. The basis for this implication is based on the responses gathered

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citing “college” as where they originally learned about SWOT. Teachers of the technique should attempt to provide their students with more real-world application as opposed to simply explaining the theoretical use of SWOT. This may reduce further misconceptions about the technique. Hypothesis 2: SWOT does not directly add value when creating actionable strategic plans. While Hypotheses 1, 3, and 4 were found to be correct in the exact form as stated, it should be noted that Hypothesis 2 is contingent on the technique’s direct effect on creating actionable strategic plans. As noted in the Results Section, the survey results yielded differing quantitative and qualitative answers pertaining to the same question. Since the qualitative answers did not satisfy the requirement of explaining SWOT’s direct effect on strategy, the finding has been worded in this way, for this reason. This study examined SWOT’s ability to add value analytically to strategic plans. As the results of this study showed, using SWOT (even if only informally) breaks down “silos” within organizations, promotes communication within all areas of an organization, allows for the organization to gain perspective about a situation from multiple levels, and establishes a starting point for further analysis. These are all positive outcomes that indirectly add value to creating comprehensive, accurate, strategic plans. Hypothesis 3: SWOT is not performed as often as it should be. The results gathered by this study indicate that while most people and organizations only conduct SWOT once a year, the majority of respondents believe that it is a practice that should be completed Quarterly. These results indicate professionals’ belief that SWOT is not performed as often as it should be in order to continue to produce timely and relevant analysis. Despite this study’s ability to indicate this, the reasons why

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professionals do not conduct SWOT more frequently was not clear from the responses collected in this study. It is likely that the practice of SWOT is seen as a yearly activity during a habitual annual strategy discussion. As will be discussed later in this section, performing more specific research into the temporal use of SWOT analysis within business strategy would prove to be a useful research topic for the future. Hypothesis 4: SWOT should be used in conjunction with other commonly known and understood analytic techniques. In order to address this hypothesis directly, respondents were specifically asked if they use SWOT in conjunction with other analytic techniques. 65% answered that they do not pair SWOT with any other techniques. Despite this result to a simple dichotomous question, the results gathered in open-ended comments and other questions infer that this hypothesis is in fact more true than false. When asked to explain their answer to the question of “Do you believe SWOT analysis adds value to strategic forecasts?”, it became apparent that although respondents may not directly use SWOT with other techniques, their responses certainly imply that multiple techniques should be used in order for it to have an impact on strategy. To further explain this point, the results from a Supplemental Question indicate that when respondents listed their favorite uses for SWOT, the majority of the open-ended responses included the listing of multiple techniques, but only explaining SWOT as one step in the entire process of creating a strategic plan. Respondents may not see this as working “in conjunction” with other techniques, however, until a strategy is completely formulated, all techniques utilized work in conjunction with each other toward that end strategy; this connection was clearly missed when answered the initial Question concerning respondents’ use of SWOT with other techniques.

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Based on research and survey findings, SWOT is one of the most popular techniques used in strategy formulation. In order to identify other popular techniques, respondents were asked to indicate which techniques they were most familiar with or used the most often; these techniques are Competitor Profiling, Scenario Planning, and Financial Analysis (namely Sales History and Balance Sheets). Due to SWOT’s

widespread acceptance and use, it is recommended that SWOT be paired with other analytic techniques that are also widely accepted and used. It is inferred that

professionals who chose to use SWOT would be likely to use other techniques that are used frequently and understood by many other professionals. It is for this reason that the study sought to highlight techniques that professionals already utilized and were familiar with. Implications of Findings within Competitive Intelligence The primary implication of this study’s findings, within the realm of competitive intelligence, is primarily concerned with the teaching and understanding of SWOT analysis. Intelligence is the practice of creating a forecast related to the future; it is proactive in nature, not reactive. SWOT analysis, when used alone, does not provide information that can be classified as either reactive or proactive, it simply breaks down a situation for what it currently is. In order to make the information actionable in a futureoriented, proactive way, the information should also be analyzed by way of another avenue or technique. However, this is not common practice. SWOT’s simplicity is often times the primary reason why the technique is either misused or misunderstood. People who use the technique believe that once all of the quadrants are filled in, the work is over and “that” is your analysis. Three of the four hypotheses in this study indicate that business and competitive intelligence students need

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to be better guided in terms of the correct ways of utilizing SWOT, understanding that it is a tool that should be implemented more than once a year, and that it should not be utilized by itself and instead in conjunction with other analytic tools and further analysis. Some of the open-ended comments gathered by this study’s survey indicate that the way SWOT is taught in the classroom is not “complex” enough. A simple solution to this problem would be to utilize more reality-based case studies or applied projects when teaching the technique in order to account for the complexities of the real-world. Another popular comment was that SWOT is sometimes used only as a visual tool during production stages of reports. This is something that should be addressed by professors as well. Using SWOT as a visual tool can be very effective (especially when presenting to executives that enjoy visual information), however, it needs to be clear that the main purpose of SWOT is its value as an analytic tool; the visual product is merely a byproduct of its actual purpose. The same rule goes for SWOT’s use as a communication tool. While this is effective in bringing an organization together and breaking down silos, it is not the primary purpose of the technique. Competitive intelligence professionals as well as other business professionals concerned with strategy and analysis can all benefit from the findings of this study. Knowing how and when to properly implement SWOT analysis, and knowing that it should not be used alone is an idea that seems relatively simple, but this study provides further reasoning for pairing SWOT with additional analytic techniques. Professionals also learn from this study that SWOT analysis should not be confined to becoming a once-a-year activity. The “real-world” is a highly complex and ever changing place; for example, performing a situational analysis in January is highly likely to lose much of its value come July. This study suggests that SWOT analysis should be performed at least

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quarterly in order to account for the real-world’s ever changing complexities. Further research may indicate an approach that may not be locked into a specific calendar or cycle, but instead, a more proactive tool to apply to changing business environments. Suggested Areas for Future Research The potential for further research within the realm of SWOT analysis varies widely. Therefore, areas for further research will be discussed independent of one

another within sub-sections. Making SWOT’s Findings Actionable This study infers that SWOT analysis should be paired with other analytic techniques in order to actually create actionable analysis and add analytic value to the overall strategic plan. Discovering familiar and/or frequently used techniques by

professionals could provide a starting point for future researchers to determine in what ways SWOT’s pairing with these techniques could be most effective. To confirm the finding that Competitor Profiling, Scenario Planning, and Financial Analysis are the most commonly used analytic techniques (other than SWOT), future research using focusgroups and surveys would be helpful in validating results or identifying other key models. Determining “how” and “when” SWOT should be used in conjunction with the top identified techniques would be a valuable finding. Whether it is in the form of

triangulation, or simply combined with another technique, it would be insightful to determine if it is best to begin analysis with SWOT (i.e. in order to facilitate information, breakdown a complex situation into simple quadrants, etc), or use it after conducting other analytic techniques (i.e. in order to avoid blind spots relating to one’s internal “Strength” and “Weaknesses”). The argument can be made both ways; determining the most effective order would be a study of value.

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Effectively Teaching SWOT Analysis As explained in the first hypothesis of this study, SWOT’s use in the real-world is different from the way respondents originally learned about it while in college. In order to expand upon this finding, it would be interesting to explore the specific ways the majority of business or competitive intelligence professors teach the technique. Observing and evaluating teachers’ depth of explaining the technique, their ability to provide complex examples of how to apply the technique, and checking to see if the teachers advocate pairing SWOT with other techniques would all be interesting areas to focus on within the realm of teaching SWOT analysis. More specifically, this type of research would help break the cycle of passing along potential misconceptions about SWOT analysis. Best Time and Place to Perform SWOT? The results found within this study indicate that there is some variance in the environment that professionals believe best suit the needs of conducting SWOT analysis. Other results also suggest that professionals believe that the practice of SWOT should happen more frequently than it does currently. Researching both the best environment and best timeframe to conduct SWOT analysis would help make SWOT a more valuable technique. While SWOT is intended to include many different perspectives from within and outside of the organization, further examination into determining what the “best” time and place to conduct SWOT would be a valuable piece of information for business professionals to know. While this study found that professionals believe SWOT should be conducted quarterly, it should also be considered, in performing further research, that it may be best to conduct SWOT even more frequently than this study found. By simply utilizing

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SWOT as a scheduled activity (Quarterly, Yearly, etc), the technique’s findings are not able to evolve with constantly changing business environments. SWOT’s Value Outside the Realm of Analysis One of the unintended findings of this study was SWOT’s indirect effect on strategy formulation and communication within an organization. SWOT’s use as a

communication tool, conceptual tool, and brainstorming platform are all indirect ways in which an organization benefits from the implementation of SWOT analysis. Further exploring these indirect outcomes of SWOT and their effects on an organization would be valuable to know in order to further explain all of the actual benefits of SWOT analysis. Expanding and Repeating this Study Lastly, if this study was to be repeated in the future, it would be useful for the researcher to include a survey question similar to “Do you rank order or prioritize your findings in a SWOT analysis?” With this, finding out “how” the respondent conducts a rank order of findings would be valuable as well. Prioritizing findings is a major step of SWOT that received mixed credit from the open-ended comments gathered by the survey used for this study. Examining respondents’ understanding of the importance for ranking SWOT’s findings, as well as whether or not they even include this as a step in their analysis would be valuable in further exploring the ways in which professionals utilize SWOT. It would be valuable to discover and examine the different ways in which professionals initially prepare and research each component of SWOT, and to what extent. Comparing the results of a future study about SWOT analysis with the results of this study would be valuable in terms of understanding the continuation of the evolution

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of SWOT’s use in business and competitive intelligence. As with any mirrored research, it would also be valuable in terms of validating and confirming the findings of this study.

Figure 11: Areas for Further Research to Examine SWOT’s Ability to Create Actionable Intelligence

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REFERENCES Bensoussan, B. E. & Fleisher, C. C. (2007). Business and competitive analysis: Effective application of new and classic methods. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc. Chapman, A. (2005). Marketing Analysis Techniques. Retrieved from http://www.businessballs.com/pestanalysisfreetemplate.htm. Chido, D. & Seward, R. M. (2006). Structured analysis of competing hypotheses: Theory and application. Erie, PA: Mercyhurst College Institute for Intelligence Studies Press. Choi, J., Lovallo, D., & Tarasova, A. (2007). Better strategy for business units: A McKinsey global survey. McKinsey Quarterly Online. Clark, S. (2004, May 21). For business growth, be a sultan of SWOT. San Francisco Business Times. Retrieved from http:/E/www.bizjournals.com/eastbay/stories/2004/05/24/smallb8.html Coulter, M. (Ed.). (2010). Strategic management in action (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Donaldson, J.W. (2008, June 6). SWOTing the PEST. Jacksonville Business Journal. Retrieved from http://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/stories/2008/06/09/smallb1.html Fahy, J. and Smithee, A. (1999), "Strategic marketing and the resource-based view of the firm", Academy of Marketing Science Review, 1999, 10, 1-20. Fehringer, D. (2007). Six steps to better SWOTs. Competitive Intelligence Magazine, 10, 54 – 57.

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Ghemawat, P. (Ed.). (2010). Strategy and the business landscape (3th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Goodstein, L. D., Nolan, T. M., & Pfeiffer, J. W. (1993). Applied strategic planning – A comprehensive guide. New York, New York: McGraw Hill, Inc. GRIN Verlag. (2007). SWOT analysis – Idea, methodology and a practical approach. Norderstedt, Germany: Pahl, N. & Richter, A. Harvard Business Essentials. (2005). Strategy – Create and implement the best strategy for your business. Boston, Massachusetts. Hill, T. & Westbrook, T., (1997). SWOT analysis: It’s time for a product recall. Long Range Planning, 30, 46-52. Hunger, J. D. & Wheelen, T. L., (2010). Strategic management and business policy: Achieving sustainability (12th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc. Jick, T. D. (1979). Mixing qualitative and quantitative methods: Triangulation in action. Administrative Science Quarterly, 24. 4: 602-611 Johnston, R. (2003). Integrating methodologists into teams of substantive experts. Studies in Intelligence, 47. 57-65. Kotha, S. & Rindova, V. P. (2001). Continuous “morphing”: Competing through dynamic capabilities, form, and function. Academy of Management Journal, 44, 6: 1263-1280.

Koo, L. C. & Koo, H. (2007). Holistic approach for diagnosing, prioritizing,

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implementing, and monitoring effective strategies through synergetic fusion of SWOT, Balanced Scorecard and QFD [Abstract]. World Review of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development, 3, 1: 62-78. Lee, S. F., Leung, R. F., Lo, K. K., & Ko, A. S. O. (2000). Strategy formulation framework for vocational education: integrating SWOT analysis, balanced scorecard, QFD methodology and MBNQA education criteria. Managerial Auditing Journal, 15, 8: 407-423. Liebowitz, J. (2006). Strategic intelligence: Business intelligence, competitive intelligence, and knowledge management. Boca Raton, FL: Auerbach Publications. Malholtra, N. K. (Ed.). (2007). Marketing research: An applied orientation (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Mercyhurst College Advanced Analytic Techniques. (2010, March 15). Summary of findings: Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis – 2 stars out of 5. Message posted to http://advat.blogspot.com/2009/03/swot.html. (2009, March 18). National Maritime Museum. (2008). Internal and external influences. Retrieved from http://www.nmm.ac.uk/leisure-travel-tourism/units/marketing/influences/. Maxi-Pedia. (2010). Five forces model by Michael Porter. Retrieved from http://www.maxi-pedia.com/Five+Forces+model+by+Michael+Porter. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (2010). Action. Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/action. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (2010). Analysis. Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/analysis.

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Morrison, M. (2009). Rapid BI’s: How to do a SWOT analysis. Retrieved from http://rapidbi.com/created/SWOTanalysis.html. Olsen, E. (2008, July 28). SWOT analysis: How to perform one for your organization. Video posted to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNXYI10Po6A. (2008, July 28) Porter, M. (1998). What is strategy? In S. Segal-Horn (Eds.), The Strategy Reader (p. 1799). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. Random House. (2010). Brainstorm. Dictionary.com. Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/brainstorm Selznick, P. (1957), Leadership in administration: A sociological interpretation. New York, New York: Harper and Row. Stevenson, H. 1976. Defining corporate strengths and weaknesses. Sloan Management Review. 17 (Spring): 51-68. Valentin, E.K. (2001), "SWOT analysis from a resource-based view", Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, 9, 2, 54-69. Weihrich, H. (2001, September 23). SWOT – TOWS Matrix – What are the difference? Who developed TOWS Matrix? Message posted to http://elsmar.com/. Weihrich, H. (1982). The TOWS matrix – A tool for situational analysis. Long Range Planning, 15.2, 54-66. Young, R. (2006, April 13). How to do a SWOT analysis: Strategic planning made easy. Message posted to http://www.mftrou.com/image-files/swot_matrix2.gif.

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Appendix 1

An examination of SWOT analysis and its purpose on strategy
Final version of survey hosted at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/98DGV5P

The results from this survey will be used for a graduate student’s thesis work concerning the use and effectiveness of analytic models in strategic planning. All responses will be kept anonymous.
1) Please indicate the position that is closest to describing your job within your organization: ___ Executive/Corporate Officer ___ Strategic or Competitive Intelligence Team Member (Including Management) ___ Sales & Marketing Team Member (Including Management) ___ Competitive Intelligence Consultant ___ Other (______________________) 2) What methods for strategy are you most familiar with, or at least have an understanding of? Please scale your familiarity with each of these according to the following scale: Not familiar at all---------Recognize, but not familiar----------Familiar-----------------Very familiar

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

Sales history (analyzing recent and past trends) Balance sheets (financials) Statistical Analytic Modeling Competitor Profiling Key Success Factors Matrix (or another Index-type analysis) Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats [SWOT] Analysis

3) Which of the following analytic models are you most familiar with, or at least have an understanding of? Please scale your familiarity with each of these according to the following scale: Not familiar at all---------Recognize, but not familiar----------Familiar-----------------Very familiar

___ ___ ___ ___

Porter’s Model (the five forces) SWOT Analysis STEEP Analysis (social, technological, economic, ecological, political/legal) Scenario Planning

3 ___ Critical Success Factor Analysis ___ Driving Forces Analysis ___ War Gaming 4) Is there a difference in the “real-world” use of SWOT from what you learned about it in college?
Please select one of the follow:

___ Yes, Please explain in this box provide: ___ No ___ I do not know what SWOT analysis is

Please explain your answer to Question 4:

5) Do you, or does your company, use SWOT analysis?
Please select one of the following:

___ Yes (Please continue on with the survey) ___ No (Please indicate why not in the box. This survey is complete; thank
you for participating)

6) How often do you or your company actually conduct SWOT analysis?
Please select one of the following:

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

Monthly Quarterly Every 6 months Yearly Bi-Yearly N/A

7) Under ideal circumstances, how often do you think a company should conduct SWOT analysis?
Please select one of the following:

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

Monthly Quarterly Every 6 months Yearly Bi-Yearly N/A

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8) What is the average shelf-life of SWOT analysis (how often is a SWOT replaced, updated, reorganized)?

___ Monthly ___ Quarterly ___ Every 6 months ___ Yearly ___ Bi-Yearly ___ N/A

9) Do you use SWOT analysis to synthesize findings with other strategic models? ___ Yes ___ No 10)Do you believe SWOT analysis adds value to strategic forecasts? And Please explain why you answered Yes or No: ___ Yes ___ No If yes, please list the models that you pair it with:

Supplemental Questions:

Thank you for taking the time to answer the questions in this survey thus far. If you have time, please answer the following supplemental questions. 1) In what region does your organization conduct strategic planning (i.e. Corporate Headquarters)? ___ United States ___ Europe ___ Asia

3 ___ Other or multiple locations (Please indicate where _________________) 2) What industry are you currently employed? ___ Financial Services ___ Technology/Pharmaceuticals ___ Food/Consumer Goods ___ Manufacturing ___ Transportation ___ Other (____________) 3) In your opinion, the environment to best conduct a SWOT analysis is:
Please select one of the following:

___ A round table discussion with all departments represented ___ A round table discussion between corporate executives ___ By way of an outside consultant ___ By way of an outside consultant in direct communication with department representatives ___ Other (Please explain)
Please provide any further thoughts in the box below:

4) Of the strategic methods and analytic models you are most familiar with (answered in question 2 and 3), which of these do you use most frequently in your position? Please scale with each of these according to the following scale: Never --------------- Rarely ------------------ Sometimes-----------------Often----------------- Very Often ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ Sales history Balance sheets (financials) Analytic Modeling Competitor Profiling Key Success Factors Matrix Porter’s Model (the five forces) SWOT Analysis STEEP Analysis (social, technological, economic, ecological, political/legal) Scenario Planning

3 ___ Critical Success Factor Analysis ___ Driving Forces Analysis ___ War Gaming 5) Please list and explain any favorite uses for SWOT, or strategic scenarios that you think SWOT is most effective:

Thank you for taking this survey!

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Appendix 2 Qualitative Answers Question 4: Is there a difference with the real-world use of SWOT compared to what you learned in college? Primarily focused on Teaching of SWOT:

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Didn't learn about it in college. More detailed and pragmatic approach. I would select only targeted areas. In school we thought we had good information. Now we know we don't have all the information we need.

Converting theoretical into practical and then executing. Applying SWOT Analysis in practice tought me the importance of high-quality intelligence as input (vs. basing SWOT analyses on secondary sources, as is typical of the academic approach) and the wide applicability of the model to units, individual managers, teams, projects, products and services, functional areas, etc. There are many more gray areas within and between the components. Practical application. There are factors you simply cannot imagine until you come face-to-face with them. In college, everything is described in precise definitions and is black & white. In the real world, analysis is met with compromises and different people have different ideas about how to do things. Main difference is that college SWOT lessons tend to look at issues in a silo/vacuum, without recognizing the significant interconnectedness of issues in the real world. We use SWOT quite extensively at our organization, but I don't remember learning anything about SWOT in university. A little less cut and dried...lots more uncertainty in the real world. Textbooks don't deal with the need for honesty in assessing the company and how difficult it is for managers to accurately assess weaknesses and strengths. I didn't learn about SWOT in college, but "on the job," initially as an intelligence analyst with government, then as a CI consultant working with clients. Yes, many "smart folks" don't get it. You have to explain it reeaallyy slooowly.

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Primarily focused on Real World use of SWOT:

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Experience enhances an effective SWOT SWOT is poorly understood by executives who tend to use it for everything Real world is much more complex and dynamic problem with SWOT you need to add insight. SWOTs are overused and little understood in my "real-world" experience. SWOT is garbage in, garbage out. If you have brilliant people, it can be a decent, but not ideal tool for deriving insight. If the people are less than independently brilliant, the results are quite often banal tripe. Organizational mis-information renders it problematic. I usually find there are two disconnects. Usually, a SWOT put together by a client may be acting at to high a level. This makes the questions they are asking to generic for the SWOT to be useful. Secondly, I think SWOTs are usually done in a vacuum without a clear link to how it will support executive decisions. Instead it becomes a nice to have analysis piece. Therefore most times when you encounter the client you spend working on these linkages and then you move into analysis. SWOT in the real world is actually a regurgitation of a report and is little more than a summary of your evidence. People talk about it all the time, but I have yet to see it actually used by practitioners in the full matrix form. Factors influencing business are less obvious than what they may seem There often appears to be confusion or misrepresentation of parameters. Usually this is when a SWOT is created on a number of competitors at once (part of sales training for instance). Threats and Opportunities are often internally focused on that Competitor, rather than being focused on external factors, that may be similar across multiple competitors. Real world is more complex and changes faster. The major problem with SWOT is, most people / companies use it to make a "list" of stuff with little meaning and virtually no business application. To our clients we say - "so what, what does this list mean to your business?" The other problem is it looks backward at what the competitor HAS DONE or IS DOING at the moment. No vision! SWOT is usually taught as a macro tool for an entire firm. Real world competition typically occurs in the product, market, or business unit levels. My "real-world" experience with SWOT involves a flexible model that changes. The basic model is altered to fit the situation and what is being analyzed If you are knowledgeable of your field, unless your market is really big, you already know and understand the conclusions of the SWOT


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Professionally, you never write out or present a SWOT matrix. SWOT is the thought process you go through in your head - as the presenter or the peer reviewers - to come up with the most basic of assessments. The decision makers in my industry are almost always offended them if they're included in presentation because it always comes across as if the presenter if talking down to them. Bottom line, SWOT only captures insights so basic that if you need to go through an elaborate explanation to get to your point, then you're viewed as incompetent. In real-world the impact of a poorly developed SWOT analysis has a real impact! I do not use SWOT in an organized manner however the 4 areas develop organically. That being said the major difference is the level of complexity in "real world" scenarios is far greater then it was in school. One of the major variables that causes complications in my companies strategy is socioeconomic differences in different geographic areas of the country. For example, a price driven strategy may work in Oklahoma City but not in New York where service and convenience is more of a decision making factor. The Real World cannot be captured by SWOT Alone and needs some additional tools to better capture 'data' to help analyze situations better You must be more creative to win the "game" in real life It rarely leads to actionable intelligence or strategic decisions.

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Question 5: Do you, or does your company, use SWOT analysis? Please explain in the box provided if you answer “No” to this question. Need Other Models:

Beyond superficial assessment of multiple entities, more detailed analytic approaches are required to address sustained competition against known industry players. Per the above, SWOT only captures insights so basic that if you need to go through an elaborate explanation to get to your point, then you're viewed as incompetent. It is expected that SWOT is one of the many formalized logic functions that even a junior analyst routinely performs in their head as they review data. We have 20+ other structured analytic techniques that we routinely use to explain events and strategic decision points to our managers -- SWOT is never one of them.

Not Formerly:

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We do not formerly use a SWOT analysis. However, we think about our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats all the time to determine the best places to dedicate our time and resources. Yes and no. Some people put focus on the social side and call it a 360 and some people put focus on the objective conceptual factors and conduct the analysis with hard numbers. It seems to be more like window-dressing - you add it to show the client you have done what they asked, but often other analytic techniques and processes are more valuable to them, but they are not as recognizable to the client. Yes, but in a different form to product a metric measurement. Strength links to Weakness. Weakness links to opportunity. Opportunity links to threat and back again. As I mentioned in question #4, there is not an organized "SWOT" analysis process but all of the areas eventually get covered.

Don’t Know:

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I don't know what it is really. Not sure I am not familiar with SWOT Lacking a business intelligence unit within the company

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Question 9: Do you use SWOT analysis to synthesize or pair findings with other strategic models? If “Yes”, please explain your reasons in the box provided. Named Multiple Techniques: Competitor Based:

I use comparative SWOTs for key competitors/ strategies/ business opportunities/ business models. SWOT alone is simplistic. It does not purport to cover many other analytical topics though it is sometimes stretched to represent a complete competitive analysis. Competitor Profiling. With Porter 4-Corner Analysis.

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Multiple Perspective Techniques:

Together with other analytical tools (STEEP, PEST, Four Corners), SWOT analyses form part of a structured competitor profiling program that feed into the strategic planning cycle. We use in context of Four Corner's analysis. SWOT becomes part of Six Thinking Hats analysis of strategic directions. Risk analysis, Scenario analysis.


General:

Usually, SWOT is a method for doing comparative analysis with other techniques, or as a funnel for getting people thinking on a macro level. This helps identify what specific analytic techniques needs to be added. SWOT analysis is largely used to support other analysis, but also to provide insight into possible directions in which a company might undertake. SWOT is too rudimentary to handle the factors, let alone the findings, captured by our other strategic models; the best use SWOT can hope for is to inform input into the other models. To use a very basic example, we routinely use ACH models when we review why we defeated a competitor on a bid for a large contract (or vice verse). Factors within that ACH typically weigh strengths and weaknesses of each; but as the ACH can be scoped to address a specific question of strategic value it adds value.

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To get more details in order to act upon it. SWOT analysis, especially if followed by a TOWS matrix can be very use to identify driving forces which can be applied in scenario building. I thought this was supposed to be second-nature? Basically just a personal foible to have contestable findings from another method.


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Presentation:

SWOT is only one tool. It's primary value is in constructing the overall argument for a course of action. It is a persuasive device rather than an analytical one, primarily.

Question 10: Do you believe SWOT analysis adds value to strategic forecasts? Yes, But (Either) Not Directly, Not Alone, and/or Not Analytically:

• • •

Only modestly. It is a thinking tool. Very little. It's a good starting point. It’s just a useful exercise to go through for any business management team though the effectiveness of the exercise depends on the level of diligence put into the analysis. You simply have to know your own business inside and out to be able to capitalize on your strengths and identify and improve on your weaknesses. I am referring to a qualitative SWOT analysis - not any quantitative model. I believe that the process of discussion among management as to what is a Strength, Weakness, etc. is as valuable as the output itself. Management should wrestle with these issues in an open forum. It is a good tool to gather input from our team. The process of completing a SWOT is more valuable than the analysis because it helps to get everyone on the same page. SWOT creates awareness, thus increases the validity of your forecasts It is usually too shallow to act upon in and of itself and need additional analysis to add to validity and usefulness

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Opportunities and threats need to be teased out in different ways. Most often, SWOT analysis simple invites executives to drink the backwash of their own unexamined assumptions. If properly performed it is quite good. Often it is shallow and repetitive. It provides a method for combing thoughts on a topic in a tidy format. It can be used as a quick tool for jumping off points. I think the value of SWOT is mostly dependent on the precision of the question being asked and how it links to management needs. People think SWOTS can be used for any strategic analysis and there's little time to actually perform a SWOT independent of a pursuit. If you did, it is usually so strategic as to be considered just a handy compartmentalization of already known facts. Competitive Intelligence usually is too tactical or operational to have much use for a SWOT. We do them at my firm really as just a check-in-the-box. They're of very little use. As a presentation tool, yes, but as an actual methodology, not really. It is the discreet analysis of data and anticipated trends that really add value, without stuffing them into contrived boxes. I believe any and all supplementary information is beneficial to an organization as they attempt to achieve their goals. I also believe that this type of analysis is not industry specific - it could be used in Sales, Marketing, Finance, etc. etc. etc.... Adds value? Yes. Able to stand on its own? No. Yes, in most cases, but if it's for a long-term strategic forecast, then that forecast would have to be updated pretty regularly to still be useful over time--including SWOT. We have projects from two months ago that aren't any good now because of new information proving to be a game changer. To still prove useful to us, the project (and SWOTs) would have to be updated to reflect that. SWOTs are often viewed as a informational piece of intelligence. Information that is a base to further investigation. Scenario planning or detailed competitor analysis of sales history is seen as a more valuable tool when looking at our competitors. SWOT analysis is really the foundation of any competitor profile. Their threats are often too focused upon, somewhat biasing the strategic forecast. SWOT does add value and is better than nothing. It provides a high-level view of strategic direction but by itself, is incomplete. Strengths and weaknesses, without regard to competitive offerings, such as those uncovered through Porter's 5 forces, is incomplete. A good framework for discussion and analysis. Implementation is tricky in poor performing companies because they tend to hide their heads in the sand. YES - when used in conjunction with other analysis models. On it's own - NO.

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Yes, but like all analytical tools, SWOT analysis has its time and place. A SWOT analysis is not needed if it does not provide any analytical support to an overall assessment. A SWOT analysis should not be done, just for the sake of it. If combined with a TOWS matrix SWOT analysis is very useful to identify which steps a company (or a opponent, political party, guerilla group etc etc) could take in the short-, mid- and long term. I believe a SWOT type analysis adds value through pulling the different departments of the company together to develop a synergistic strategy. It also helps prioritize the needs of each department within the context of overall company strategy. Foster a creative thinking session that allows for innovative thought...coupled with competitive knowledge helps you create risk mitigation factors, ahead of your competition I believe it would if a company did a SWOT on themselves as well as the competitor and then compared the findings. That does not happen companies do not like to perform SWOT analysis on themselves. The information gathered will help the management level to figure current situation and perhaps it will lead the members how to create a new strategy if needed. SWOT allows a look at some key factors in relation to a situation or environment. It is a simple way of inputting base information into a thinking process and using it as a foundation for further study

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Yes:

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SWOT analysis helps to understand not only business potential, but the reality of meeting potential, which can be an integral part of strategic forecasts. If a company has a great advantage of a big gap, each of the situations must reflect in future strategies Because it most cases managers present overviews which are too generalized SWOT analyses form part of a wider situation analysis effort, which is fundamental to strategy development. Constant (quarterly) review helps identify opportunities and a more rapidly shifting landscape. Depending on how it is done and who listens. If the proper factors are appropriately indentified It's a simple way to help identify key areas for resource allocation and company focus, both short and long term. It's a good way to stop and recalibrate to the current situation.

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Done well, it forces a candid assessment of realistic strategic alternatives. Helps us focus particularly on market competitors. SWOT is a useful tool for triage in a new market space or when facing new market entrants, or a presentation tool for other strategic findings (rather than an analytic technique to develop those findings). The difference is subtle. It breaks down when additional levels of focus are required. SWOT also is focused on the present, versus the future state of the target, which is an absolute requirement for strategic forecasting. It provides an additional perspective to the forecasts. It's the basis and necessary part of all strategic planning. It must be said, if you use SWOT in a red team context, you should be very aware of mirror imaging, but at the same time SWOT analysis provides you with an excellent framework to get more familiar with the internal (S and W) and external (T and O) environment of an organization and which courses of action they might take in the short, mid and long term (applying the TOWS matrix gives you these answers)." If well done and if information is available within and from the Competitors It allows to identify factors that affect our business and helps in forecasting strategically. In order to understand the market, a company must step back and analyze what their strengths and weaknesses are currently. They then need to see what opportunities are available to strengthen their weaknesses and in turn create more opportunities to succeed.

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No, it is often superficial. A SWOT looks at corporate-level performance of the firm. These are actually referred to as win themes, and their construction is commonly trained in MBA programs. A successful strategic forecast needs to encompass insights into all of the following areas: our historic performance, where we are positioned now, the anticipated sustainability of our current position, where the upcoming business opportunities are likely to be, if we are positioned to take advantage of those opportunities and if not can we adapt in time to do so, whether we do better to grow or maintain our current size, the likely positioning of our key known competitors, likely new competitors, leading market forces, health and strategies of key customers, our human resource picture and strategic recruiting needs, and the required role of corporate alliances/mergers/acquisitions. SWOT, no matter how far you stretch it, can't do that. Furthermore, you shouldn't have to stretch a model to meet your basic needs; thus other models are better suited. Because I don't think is future oriented.

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Unless you understand the dynamics of the key players in your industry, yourself included, a strategy would not make much sense. Unless, there is a completely new type of product/service and you are the first to offer the solution to your identified customers.

Supplemental Question 1: In what region does your organization conduct strategic planning (i.e. Corporate Headquarters)? If “Other or multiple location”, please explain.

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It is done on an as needed basis whenever a strategic planning need arises. EMEA and the Americas U.S. and Europe US, Europe, Asia, Africa (on a regional basis) Worldwide Primarily for clients in US. As a consulting firm we do the SWOTs for clients, presently a majority of their focus is in US. EMEA, APAC, Americas US (Corporate) and local facilities: Asia, Europe, Africa & Australia Europe US/Asia Australia United States, Eutrope, Asia, and Middle East United States and Canada Global UK Dubai, U.A.E Middle East, Africa, Asia, Australasia, US

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Supplemental Question 2: What industry are you currently employed? Other, please specify. Consulting: • Business Consulting

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Professional services Government Consulting Management consulting - clients represent a broad swath of industries Consulting - Public and Private sector - mainly Aerospace & Defense Consulting Government Organizations Business Services/Recruiting Management consulting Analyst Consultant Consulting Management Consulting

Technological/Security Services: • Security Services

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Security Services Security Technology and government services Security Services Service Software Services Security

Marketing: • Marketing, Advertising

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Advertising Competitive Strategy - Brand and Marketing Consulting

Education:

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Media:

Education Education Education Education Education

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Media & Entertainment Media Media

“Other”: • Health Insurance

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Analysis Industrial distribution Community and economic development Analyst Non Profit Non Profit Real Estate / Parking Non-Profit Wholesale Distribution

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Supplemental Question 3: In your opinion, the environment to best conduct a SWOT analysis? If “Other”, please provide any further thoughts in the box provided.

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ALL departments may be a bit strong, but certainly the broader the representation, the more in depth the analysis. Multiple sources -- including industry and community data, focus groups from inside and outside the company. Executive management with facilitation by a consultant is likely to be the most effective way to conduct the exercise. In locked room free from distractions... Actually it's good for keeping executives entertained while you do the real analysis" Separately, by a group of specialized consultants, mediated by a CI analyst. ...all departments should be represented but not necessarily present. The group needs to small enough to have efficient discussions, but have a thorough understanding of the organization. Not management, but by mid-level employees who really see the issues as they are. I have found they are almost 100% accurate every time while management is out of touch. As a consultant your primary role in these situations is to mainly function as a facilitator. I think having all departments represented becomes too cumbersome. I think the first cut usually needs to have the execs define what they are looking for and establish key research points. These can be taken back to departments for further elaboration. A combination of all of the options. I would replace "round table" with collaboration tools like SharePoint, Jive, etc. Generally, SWOT can be utilized by individual departments to help their own improvement processes, not just at the corporate level. It's simply faster to have some outside consultation. Perhaps doing a shallow quarter-by-quarter SWOT and then hiring an outside firm to do a yearly SWOT is the best approach. Another problem for most companies (our clients) is they are too internally focused on their business. Most clients lack comprehensive info / knowledge

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of industry competitors and virtually no insight on the outer ring of distant competitors....the ones who sneak up and kill them.

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Intelligence staff (internal or consultant) in direct interaction with consumers, and as necessary, key SME's and other sources A SWOT analysis should be complete, first by a internal analyst and then passed up the management chain. However, often times, as the SWOT analysis moves up the management chain, its validity and value go down because of the internal politics that take place. No manager wants to admit to damaging weaknesses. Often times, SWOT analysis usually gets inflated with unrealistic data. By using an outside consultant you open for new visions that is otherwise invisible (out of focus). Workshop round up with all departments at least at two levels and a final workshop with Top Execs with the presence of External and Internal consultants. Step 1 should be "By way of an outside consultant in direct communication with department representatives" and step 2 should be "A round table discussion between corporate executives". The consultant should summarize data and present a case to the executives but the ultimate decision making should come from the executives. Most firms value the word of an external consultant over their own employees. Series of individuals from key departments tasked to conduct with a round table discussion to synthesize, discuss and prioritize

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Supplemental Question 6: Please list and explain any favorite uses for SWOT or strategic scenarios that you think SWOT is most effective: With Multiple Techniques or As a Starting Point:

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For some of us, the easy and the most popular model. Limiting usually if done alone. We use SWOT analysis to determine how capable we and our competitors are in dealing with the market environment (i.e. how well do we and they compete), which allows us to identify the best way to use our strengths to exploit opportunities and defend against threats. Competitor profiling Anticipating competitor actions by SWOT'ing their business and organization. I like to use SWOT for head to head analysis against key competitors Marketing/Competitive analysis. Again, SWOT is good for quickly making assessments but is usually seen as complete. This is no reason why one could not elaborate on SWOT using other methods and feeding back into SWOT for a more complete picture. For example, war gaming to uncover unknown weaknesses and then feeding these back into the SWOT matrix. This usually isn't done. When used in conjunction with other analysis tools. SWOT combined with a TOWS matrix in a red team context is perfect if you start an analysis on whatever kind of organization is active within your operating environment, regardless whether it is a political party, terrorist organization, guerilla movement, local government etc. SWOT as input to Porter 4-Corner.

Thought-Tool or Discussion-Starter:


Use it for a quick sketch or overview of a situation - more for brain storming and part of the scope setting. It allows all stakeholders to be part of and buy into the program I think SWOT is a useful "icebreaker" tool when kicking off a market or strategic analysis initiative. It provides a method of getting the team focused, as well as gives you insight into how they view their world. It provides an opportunity to check if their assumptions are correct. I find SWOT works well for new hires and for sales training where you need to impart a consistent frame of reference for members of staff. I also believe there is tangible value in using SWOT as a tool to uncover areas of competitive opportunities and threats that executives may not have been

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aware of. More so, gives executives an opportunity to look at the business through competitors' eyes. Market Expansion:

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Entering an entirely new market (what they dub blue ocean these days). Especially one of those regions where god knows whether it's even viable for products & services to be there in first place. Market penetration. Customer targeting. Creating new businesses and new markets. Market characterization

Random Scenarios:

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Strategic Planning or special initiative development. It is just a matter of habit. I think it works well for new managers/leaders and for turnaround situations to focus on priorities. I like to use SWOT when comparing marketing models against other organizations with a similar client base. SWOT can be very effective in project management - as in, do we employ resources or not to this project? Asset assignment. Business Plan. New Product Development. Supply Chain Management A SWOT analysis should be used to evaluate own company's direction to help with laying out the strategy, or how well the company stuck to previous strategies. SWOT for Strategy development. SWOT for solving complex business issues. SWOT for assessing Scenarios or Business Alternative Routes.

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