To complete a SWOT chart, all you need to know how to do is identify and categorize.
Success of a business depends on coordinating many attributes, both internal and external for business process improvements. You can not hope to rely on just your science or intellectual property to maintain a successful business. You must also monitor factors that you can not control such as regulations or consumer demand.
SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) is a brainstorming tool that can be used in the strategic planning process. Completing a SWOT Analysis is essentially taking a long, hard look at how your idea could become a company. However, a SWOT Analysis could be done at any phase in the development or maintenance of an organization. A SWOT will assess internal and external factors, as well as current and future potential for a small of medium-sized business.
SWOT is a simple, visual tool that does not require a high level of technical knowledge, algorithm, or mastery. To complete a SWOT chart, all you need to know how to do is identify and categorize. Refer to the chart below for the basic layout.
Something that is helpful to achieving the objective and is already an attribute of the organization is considered a strength. Conversely, something that is harmful to achieving the objective and comes from an external origin is considered a threat. In order to complete a SWOT Analysis, you need to create questions centered around these 4 categories. Based on the answers to these questions, you will then take action to answer these questions. This may seem confusing at first, but with practice and understanding it can become an essential, yet simple way to run your company.
A SWOT should be done in a group setting with a diverse group of stakeholders. The stakeholders with diversity of opinions and backgrounds will then use facts and data to drive their answers for the SWOT matrix. Having a group with many different views and experiences will help eliminate bias. The point of a SWOT is to look at your business objectives in a data-driven format, not in an emotional way.
If you are a new company, a deep dive into your company or market is essential. Individuals in your organization that take on assignments which give them insight and previous knowledge on the subject should be selected. Gathering people who are already educated can be more helpful than training someone specifically for a SWOT. These group members also need to prepare and do some research before completing a SWOT Analysis. In order to get the best results, it should not be a "spur of the moment" task. The group should set aside a reasonable amount of time such as a 4-hour time block.
Now that we have an idea of what a SWOT is, we can look at the 4 categories and what they mean. Below you can also get a good idea of the types of questions that would be best for each.
The strengths of a company are internal and positive in nature. Strengths typically de-risk a company. In the case of biotech companies, many times they are either very successful or end up with little to show for their hard work. The more strengths a company has, the less risk it will bring. Seems obvious right?
Here are a few questions that could help shape a SWOT discussion about a company’s strengths:
The weaknesses of a company are internal and negative. As an investment vehicle, biotechnology companies are inherently very risky. Weaknesses inside of your company will increase that risk. Identifying weaknesses early is critical so you are able to course correct.
Below are some questions to ask a SWOT group relating to a company’s weaknesses:
Opportunities are external and positive. Companies are able to take advantage of opportunities despite the fact that they can not control their timing. Successful organizations will actively look for opportunities instead of waiting for them. If you can take advantage of your opportunities, you can reduce your company’s risks in the long run.
Some questions that you can ask about your company’s possible opportunities are below:
Threats are external factors that are generally negative. Threats will always increase the risk of your venture being unsuccessful despite the fact that you can not control them.
Here are some things to ask yourself when assessing your company’s threats:
Decide on the objective
Many times, a SWOT is used to decide whether or not something is worth the cost it incurs. This could be cutting ties from a university, putting out a first product, etc.
Research your market
The best way to create a useful SWOT is to first research and understand your potential competitors and the industry in general. Only then can you understand how your proposed idea will fit in.
Find a group
Who you decide to have in your SWOT group is up to you. But, as outlined earlier, they should be knowledgeable on the product, issue, and diverse in opinions.
Start with the identification and evaluation of strategic factors
You need to focus on the internal factors first, as you have control over those.
Be prepared to do it again
As markets change and new ideas come about, you should be ready to perform more SWOTs. Reevaluating and adjusting plans is normal for a start-up (or a large company).
A doctor analogy is appropriate here. When something serious emerges, you can go ahead and address that. But, it is important to have check ups when something seems a little bit off as well. Performing a SWOT shouldn’t be only for emergencies.
If this is your first time hearing about SWOT, it may seem confusing to complicated. In order to solidify your understanding, check out the graphic below for a great example. Here is an example for a biotech SWOT. The analysis was performed in order for the company to decide whether or not it should make a peptide viral vaccine for coronavirus.
For this example, the group started with strengths. As you can see, the group outlined all of their anticipated strengths. The keyword is anticipated. They might not know and can not predict everything that will happen when developing a new vaccine. Therefore, you need to reassess your SWOT as you go, for strengths and the other 3 categories. Even if you are not in the field of creating vaccines, you can use this example to understand how a company could complete a SWOT for a general biotechnology company.
The simple truth is that you can not just complete a SWOT analysis. They can be incredibly simple and straightforward. In order to garner positive change and be useful, you need to take your SWOT and create a plan of action.
One of the popular methods of turning your SWOT into a plan of action is called ‘matching’. Matching comes from connecting two of the categories. Matching strengths to opportunities shows you areas where you can be aggressive and take action. Matching weaknesses to threats will expose areas you need to work on or things to avoid.
Below is a Confrontation Matrix, which is used to further analyze the output of a SWOT analysis. In this matrix, you can combine each category and realize the importance/relevance of each combination. Listing each category by importance can be helpful when looking for the most pertinent strengths or weaknesses.
A second popular strategy to convert your SWOT into a plan is converting. Now that you have data on the negatives (weaknesses and threats) you can start to convert them into positives. For example, if your staffing is limited, start finding ways to add additional personnel like volunteers or interns. You can also seek partnerships or seek an accelerator to convert threats/weaknesses into opportunities/strengths.
A SWOT analysis is not exclusively reserved for a growing business or new idea. You can also complete one for your personal life when entering a new phase of life or facing a tough decision. Personal SWOTs work best when you can focus on a single goal or problem that you want to address. However, it is important that you have a clear understanding of what you want before you begin. Otherwise, you might end up wasting your own time by not setting clear boundaries and expectations. Below is a matrix of some personal SWOT questions.
Because you will have singular control over personal SWOTs, the best option is to convert your negatives into positives. This could mean growing a skill set or finding creative ways to turn your weaknesses into strengths. For instance, if you are very outgoing, you should know not to confine yourself to an isolated work environment.
Personal SWOTs are powerful because they allow you to uncover opportunities that you might not have otherwise spotted. By understanding and accepting your weaknesses, you can manage to eliminate threats that might otherwise hurt your ability to move forward.
SWOT is a simple, yet useful framework for analyzing your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It helps you build on what you do well, to address what you are lacking, to minimize risks, and to take the greatest possible advantage of chances for success.
But, it is not the only tool. Performing a valuable SWOT requires insight into what questions you need to ask and doing research to support the answers you need.
This information comes from a talk with Dr. John Bilello, ScienceDocs consultant, in partnership with University Lab Partners. Dr. Bilello has a PhD in Molecular Biology and was the former Director of Technology Development at GlaxoSmithKline. In addition to an established track record of innovative basic and clinical research, Dr. Bilello has experience in both project and organizational management.
If you want to learn more about business planning, check out this article from ULP about Creating an Effective Business Continuity Plan.