When developing strategies that take into account various inputs or decision factors having a tool that enables information to be both captured and communicated clearly and simply is vital. This is especially true in the world of supply chain where challenges and activities can be complex to communicate to internal and external stakeholders who may not be well versed in the key issues and challenges.
Using best practice methods such as templates or models can aide greatly. This is especially true for tools that are used throughout the organization irrespective of the department. One of the most often used templates, that excels at both capturing information and communicating it in a simple fashion is the SWOT analysis model. SWOT’s are commonly used throughout business and as such can be easily interpreted outside of the supply chain management team.
SWOT Analysis is often utilized within the strategic planning process. It is a widely-used technique that encourages reviews of both internal and external factors. The results can also be utilized to assess various business activities ranging from organizational performance through to product development and improvement projects. It can be a great tool to utilize at the outset of any strategic sourcing or outsourcing project to get the current state of play out in the open.
SWOT, at its basic is a tool that is used to assess four key areas.
In-house activity or characteristics that provide benefit in achieving organizational or strategic goals. For example you may have highly trained and motivated staff.
In-house activity or deliverable that may have a negative influence on your strategy. For example your ERP system may have severe data integrity issues.
These are outside factors that may be helpful to meeting your goals. For example you may consider outsourcing a non value add activity as an opportunity.
Threats are external pressures or activities that may have a damaging effect on the goal. For example Governments introducing stricter regulations in your industry may be considered a threat.
SWOTS can be a highly effective communication tool. They can facilitate indentifying actions that support the organizations strategy whilst helping to highlight issues that require closer attention.
As with any tool however, SWOTS are not perfect. People will typically be more adept in identifying weaknesses and threats then opportunities and strengths. Its true that SWOT’s can be subjective and can lack grounding in fact and data. In addition and perhaps of key importance, SWOTS on their own do not instigate activity and they can when used in their worst example, be seen merely as a glorified to-do list. Whatever the result of your SWOT analysis – it is one of the first steps developing your plan – the SWOT is not the plan itself.