In the 1960s, a popular trend emerged in the study of strategic management. Growing corporations were looking for a competitive edge, and they encouraged academics to study the best ways to plan and execute business strategies.

One of the most popular and enduring ideas to arise during this period was the SWOT analysis. When businesses learned how to write a SWOT analysis, they unlocked a way to seamlessly incorporate internal and external factors into a single plan.

More than half a century later, the SWOT analysis remains one of the most popular methods for business leaders and project managers alike.

What’s a SWOT analysis?

A SWOT analysis examines a company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to better understand how it fits into the broader market. The results paint a picture of where the company stands and where it might head by leveraging strengths and mitigating weaknesses.

Businesses typically use the results of SWOT to inform long-term strategic planning, letting the data help them make broad business decisions. But, because this analysis type is data-driven, leaders must do their best to remain objective and acquire high-quality research.

The 4 critical components of a SWOT analysis

A SWOT analysis has four critical components. Strengths and weaknesses refer to internal business factors, and opportunities and threats refer to external factors like market conditions, regulations, and natural forces like weather.

1. Strengths

Strengths differentiate a company, offering it a competitive advantage. Some examples of strengths in a SWOT analysis are a solid social media presence, world-class technology, or a great location. Companies determine their strengths so they can leverage these differentiators, perhaps showcasing them in advertisements and job descriptions.

2. Weaknesses

While hard to look at, you can only improve upon weaknesses you know about. If you know you lack funding, you can create a strategic plan for gaining further investments. And if employees have expressed that they don’t feel as connected to fellow employees as they’d like, you can mitigate this weakness by scheduling regular team and company-wide social calls to build employee engagement.

3. Opportunities

Both strengths and weaknesses can introduce opportunities for your business to seize. Low employee engagement encourages you to implement an engagement-boosting strategy to turn this weakness into a strength. And a strong social media presence presents opportunities to work with popular influencers to build further brand awareness.

4. Threats

A threat is anything that puts your company or an individual team’s success at risk. This could include a new competitor eating up your market share, cybersecurity risks, or new and impactful regulations. Recognizing potential threats before they occur gives you the chance to craft plans to either avoid the risk entirely or mitigate it when it happens.

Benefits of using a SWOT analysis

More than just a buzzword, the SWOT analysis is a helpful tool for developing an intelligent business strategy. Its benefits can have lasting and impactful effects beyond those that appear on the surface, like:

  • Increased visibility: The information this analysis provides gives you a clearer picture of where the company is at and where it’s headed, or can head with some strategic planning. This increased business and market visibility means you’re not simply cruising into the unknown — you have a data-driven map.
  • Better strategic plans: The increased visibility offered by the analysis’s information also means you can create more accurate and thoughtful strategic plans. You can use this data to build a comprehensive roadmap leading to your ideal future, one that boldly addresses potential threats and takes advantage of upcoming opportunities.
  • Leadership-wide awareness: You’ll work with fellow company leaders to conduct this analysis and share it with the entire leadership team once drafted, fostering awareness and ensuring everyone’s department-specific project plans and product roadmaps align with general SWOT strategizing.
  • Helpful documentation: The best practice is to conduct this analysis every 3–5 years, making this valuable documentation you can refer to as the company grows to determine whether you’re identifying SWOT elements accurately and planning for each item effectively.

How to create a SWOT analysis: 5 steps

Creating a SWOT analysis may seem simple, but thorough preparation makes all the difference in the final results. Here’s a five-step guide to effectively conducting this analysis.

1. Define objectives

While you can use this analysis to broadly determine the company’s SWOT elements, it’s most effective if you have a clear objective in mind. Focus your analysis on a couple core company goals — like increasing revenue and brand awareness — to narrow down your information. You can then conduct several SWOT analyses to gain a more comprehensive understanding of your business.

2. Research

An effective analysis depends on excellent internal and external data. Internal indicators might include sales metrics and financial summaries, while external dimensions could be expert viewpoints or focus group feedback.

During this investigative phase, cast a wide net for expertise. The richness of an analysis comes from diverse inputs, eliminating the possibility of subjective biases skewing the results.

3. Brainstorm

Looking at the data, work with the leadership team to create a comprehensive list of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Remember to consider both internal and external elements, like an excellent workforce and unstable supplier.

4. Edit

The more focused and relevant your analysis, the better. Referring to your original objectives, trim your SWOT analysis chart to focus on essential items your team feels are highly accurate and worth including in the company’s strategic plan.

5. Strategize

Share the analysis’s results broadly and make sure leaders incorporate this data into their long-term and high-level plans. Set a date for auditing this chart alongside the results of the company’s strategic plans and a date for conducting another SWOT analysis.

A SWOT analysis example

Let the following example solidify your understanding of this analysis type, and consider using this SWOT example as a template when conducting yours.

SWOT analysis example: Building a website

A wedding planner has scaled their business via referrals. Now, they want to expand their online presence and target new clients in the surrounding metro area. They decide to conduct a SWOT analysis to see if creating a website is a worthwhile move to achieve this goal.


  • Great photos to use for website content
  • Plenty of referrals from satisfied customers
  • A solid online presence on social media


  • No background in website creation
  • Limited time to create or maintain a website
  • A small budget for the project


  • A cousin who makes websites as a hobby
  • A client-offered referral code for a cheap website domain
  • A local bakery that offered a discount on cakes if the planner features them on the site


  • More people are moving to social media to find a wedding planner, which could make the website irrelevant
  • A competitor analysis reveals that there are already popular wedding-planning websites targeting the same audience
  • A poorly executed site might give potential customers the wrong impression

Based on this analysis, the planner refrains from building the site, instead focusing on developing a stronger social media presence.

Create a better strategic roadmap with Tempo

Once you’ve completed your analysis, it’s time to create strategic project roadmaps that incorporate this valuable data. Use Roadmunk by Tempo to make an audience-friendly, flexible map that aligns with broader strategic plans. Then, use Timesheets by Tempo to better understand how long your team takes to complete planned initiatives. Sign up today.