We are all familiar with SWOT – Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Few of us have not experienced creating one; it is sort marketing101 and even Business Planning101. It is effective and often used tool. What you put into it, is what you will get out of it.
I challenge the use of SWOT occasionally, especially when setting vision not replacing it but also using SOAR adjacent to the process. SOAR an Appreciative Inquiry, a Strength-Based tool sometimes can deliver differently and I think more challenging results at times.We have used it in corporate planning but how often do we play catchball with our SWOT to drive it down as far in and out of the organization that is useful. My belief though is that we do not use SWOT enough and instead of being an annual tool, in some cases it could be a daily tool. This is just an outline on how I would propose SWOT could be used and like all things it would work differently for each company. But here is my stab at the process.
In operations what if we used SWOT all the way down to the front-line staff. The external environment would, of course, be things that are out of their control and the internal things within their control. And if initiated, similar to catch-ball the SWOT is tied to the overall SWOT identifying those SWOT type things along the way.
Purchasing would use SWOT very similar to the traditional marketing uses of the tool. We would evaluate materials and vendors using this analysis. I am not naïve enough to think that we are not already doing this in some manner and SWOT may be an over-simplification for some. However, utilizing SWOT and cascading it down from corporate what better way do we have in aligning a culture fit with our vendors. If we want our vendor relationships to be nurtured, I see no better way of evaluation and monitoring. It also provides a platform when we see certain markets/services weakening. In addition, we all have Key Accounts. We think of them in a variety of ways, but I would venture to say we are not often looking at the support structure that they have. Do you know your Vendor’s Key Accounts well enough to do a SWOT on them? Many might not even want you to do that thinking you might bypass them in the future, right? I would wonder if that is the case are they really a key vendor?
In Sales and Marketing, well, we have been doing this a long time. We may consider that we own this tool. If so, do we really use it to the fullest extent? Most of us will use SWOT for planning purposes of our Product/Service Markets and for Key Account Management. Many of us will be able to tie the SWOT back to Corporate Planning. For the vast majority of us, SWOT ends right there.
What if we utilized as I mentioned above for purchasing, to explore our Key Customer’s Key Accounts? Would that not allow us to anticipate and react better? Provide better forecast? What if our non-key accounts were group by a SWOT Analysis? Would help to assign salespeople and other resources? What if new customer acquisition were driven by a SWOT analysis? Would we adjust to better customer management? Would we have a better way to anticipate their needs and maybe even “Challenge” their direction?
We learn and grow throw the edges, and as we create and become more knowledgeable around the edge to include both Vendor and Customers, we will find more opportunity. Using SWOT gives us a proven method of exploration and capturing this information consistently across our community. It aligns the edges quicker and more effectively to the core than any other method that I am aware of. As a result, we can put it to better use.