Strategic Management Evaluation

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Strategic Management Evaluation

Draper IT

Strategic Evaluation

ModuleBusiness & Innovation Management

1.Introduction

In today’s marketplace, businesses are constantly under to maintain profitability and competitiveness and their success or failure can depend on the quality of the strategic thinking and strategic management undertaken by the business (Campbell et al 2002). Thus in order to participate any level of strategic thinking or strategic management and undertake a strategic evaluation it is essential to understand exactly what a strategy is. Mintzburg (1987 cited by Campbell et al 2002) suggests the ‘five Ps of strategy;

  • A plan;
  • A ploy;
  • A pattern of behaviour;
  • A position in respect to others
  • A perspective.

Adding that it is not possible to see any of these P’s in isolation. However, this is a very simplified view of strategy and perhaps a much better definition from a business perspective is given by Johnson and Scholes (1999);

“the direction and scope of an organisation over the long term: which achieves advantage for the organisation through its configuration of resources within a changing environment to meet the needs of markets and to fulfil stakeholder expectations.”

Thus in essence a strategy is deciding what way is best and what tactics will be employed to achieve the business goals.

Naoum (2001) suggests that developing a business strategy can take seven stages;

Stage 1. Strategic Analysis

Stage 2. Strategy Formulation

Stage 3. Evaluation Of Alternative Strategies

Stage 4. Strategic Choice

Stage 5. Action Plan

Stage 6. Strategy Implementation

Stage 7. Strategic Control And Feedback

The aim of this assignment is to undertake the processes required for some of the stages for the Draper Engineering case study, notably stages 1 to 4. This will be undertaken through the completion of the tasks shown in Figure 1. A copy of the complete case study can be found in Appendix One.

Figure 1 Assignment Tasks

2.Task One – Strategic Analysis

Strategic analysis is define by Morris (2001, p25) as “the collection and analysis of information relevant to the long term prospects of an organisation, comprising of both external and internal analysis” which is shown diagrammatically in Figure 2

Implementation

Analysis

Choice

External

Internal

Figure 2 External & Internal Strategic Analysis. Morris(2001)

External analysis looks outside the organisation at the competitive environment to determine future implications, whilst internal analysis looks inside the business to identify strengths and weaknesses that will affect its ability to compete in the long-term (Morris, 2001).

One tool used in strategic analysis is SWOT or TOWS analysis, an acronym for Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats. It is a very powerful tool for understanding and decision-making for all sorts of business situation in order to focus on the things you do well, whilst reducing weaknesses to make the best possible advantage of opportunities available (De La Salle University, 2002).

Further summary information on SWOT analysis can be found in Appendix Two

A SWOT analysis was undertaken for Draper Engineering and the results are presented in Figure 3.

Figure 3 SWOT Analysis For Draper Engineering Ltd

2.1Five Issues For Improvement By Draper Engineering Ltd.

A Warehouse Management System (WMS) fully integrates warehouse management operations with the rest of the business, such as sales, purchase and accounts and subject to the installation the warehouse operations can be world class. However, this technology is not cheap and suitability can be dependant upon the type of solution sought, such as to build or buy (Frazelle, 2002)

Draper should not consider implementing a WMS with no guarantees of the final contract as this would mean that although they would experience the benefits of the system, they would also have to shoulder the full burden of the costs with possibly no contract from either of these companies. In order to improve this situation and produce the best business solution for Draper Engineering they need to have a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with each of the companies.

An SLA is “an explicit statement of the expectations and obligations that exist in a business relationship between two organisations: the service provider and the customer” Verman (1999, p1). Were Draper to agree an SLA with the other parties this could ensure that not only would they be guaranteed the contract, but that they would also have a written document of the expectations of each of the parties involved in advance of implementing the WMS. Should these expectations be unrealistic, Draper could withdraw from the negotiations and reconsider their position with respect to the WMS without having incurred any expenses.

The key issue identified here, is the ageing workforce of Draper, which can be explained by the work by Warr (2000 cited by Furnham, 2005) where he poses and answers five questions on the ageing workforce and job performance. Figure 4 illustrates his findings;

Figure 4 Warr's Five Questions on Job Performance and the Ageing Workforce. Warr (2000 cited by Furnham, 2005, p764-765)

The implications of Warr’s (2000 cited by Furnham, 2005) findings on Draper are profound, as many of the personnel issues experienced by Draper are explained in his work. The fact that the workforce is loyal is only to be expected and other benefits careful, reliable, knowledgeable and socially skilled, but unfortunately they are less willing to change, which may be why many of the new initiatives have failed. Also, the high turnover rate in e-commerce could be linked to younger staff (though the case study does not specify this. However, to improve the personnel structure at Draper, they have a number of options available to them;

  • Change management.

It is not enough to simple understand how change is going to be administered but it is imperative that staff understand why change is happening so that they can engage with the solution and the change. As part of the change management employers need to provide support and training to encourage staff buy-in and deal with any resistance upfront (Hiatt and Creasey, 2003. Prosci, 2006)

  • Andragogical Training directed at older learners.

Warr (2000 cited by Furnham, 2005, p764-765) states that “older people are slower and have more difficulty remembering, however, training can be adapted to an older person’s limitations and expertise”. One such method is referred to as andragogy, how adults learn. If Draper developed a training scheme that implemented an andragogical approach to training that targeted the older members of staff, they could experience very positive results from their staff, in the form of learning and motivation.

  • Incentives for younger staff to reduce absenteeism and retain staff.

Although Drapers need to look after their loyal team of workers it is essential that they can actively encourage younger members to the team and reduce the turnover in this area. One such method is to introduce incentives into new contracts which actively encourages longevity of service, such incentives could include;

  • Annual incrementing pay scales
  • Flexi-time
  • Annual leave rewards for zero absenteeism
  • Team building exercises
  • Gift vouchers
  • Purchase schemes for personal IT equipment at corporate reductions

The fact that Draper Engineering have a large product development team is a strength of the business, however, spending the majority of their time improving existing products and solving customer complaints is a fundamental weakness; Draper’s need to be looking to the future and their long term goals, which should involve new product development.

To overcome this problem and move the business forward, a small working group should be set up within the department, consisting of the most motivated and technically up-to-date members of staff to brainstorm and generate project ideas that can be developed into new products. This has an added benefit of staff participation and ownership which encourages the desire to succeed as the products are their own ideas.

Generally speaking the term outsourcing means to transfer previously internal products or services to an outsider provider (Roeben, 2004), which is as it suggests is where a third party carries out functions which was previous undertaken within the business. However, in the case of Draper Engineering, a medium sized IT business, it appears that they have outsourced their core competency, which is the means by which they should be able to separate themselves from their competition.

The decision to outsource the IT division is a fundamental error to the business and weakens their internal and external strength, that they are particularly vulnerable from competition from Hardy’s to whom they originally outsourced. To overcome this problem and improve the company position radical action is required such as;

  • Diversify into new areas.
  • Insourcing
  • Collaboration with Hardy’s for key contracts.

If Drapers’ is to survive in the long term they need to resolve this fundamental issue and redefine their core competencies in order to compete effectively in the market place.

In addition to outsourcing a core competency, the IT division, being a fundamental error, it is also had a negative effect on Draper’s reputation. Simply by virtue of the fact that Draper’s originally undertook this work, previous customers are making their complaints to Drapers, which indicates that customers or potential customers still make the association and are dissatisfied with the service. It is essential that Drapers rectify this problem otherwise they are likely to experience a backlash in other areas of their business.

To improve the situation Drapers have two options;

  • Act as consultants for Hardy's on Draper products

Instead of letting the reputation of Draper’s be damaged by Hardy’s lacklustre performance, Drapers could offer to act as consultants on the major products and services they previously provided. The benefit of this action to Drapers could be twofold, the reputation of their business would be saved and would also generate revenue for the value of the consultation work.

  • Re-Establish IT Division

If Hardy’s were unwilling to agree to a consultant agreement, it would be possible for Drapers to re-establish the IT division once again and encourage previous customers (existing Hardy’s customers) back to them through promises of commitment to service and new product development.

2.2Other Tools For Strategic Analysis.

In recent years business practices have evolved in terms of thought, practice and analysis tools. Consequently there are a large set of analytical tools which provide insight, identifying capabilities and strategic options (Khosrowpour, 1998).

A SWOT analysis of Draper Engineering Ltd has already been undertaken; however this does not scratch the surface of the analysis tools available. Other suitable tools for analysing Draper Engineering would be;

  • PEST or PESTEL Analysis

PEST is an acronym for Political, Environmental, Social and Technological factors whilst PESTEL is extended to include Economic and Legal factors. PEST analysis is a commonly used tool for analysing the external environmental influences on a business, Figure 5 illustrates the PEST grid and the areas that should be considered (Gregory, 2000)

Figure 5 PEST Analysis Matrix. Gregory, 2000

The benefit of undertaking a PEST analysis for Draper Engineering is that it would be undertaken in addition to the SWOT analysis and give a good understanding of the global and external environment; however it is essential that Draper follow the PEST analysis with how to respond to these issues and not simply see these points in isolation. Together PEST and SWOT analysis are able to look at the global picture and then the specific detail of the business

  • Porter’s Five Forces

Another tool for analysing the external environment of a business is Porter’s Five-Force Model, it is however one of the most influential models for assessing the nature of competition. As the name suggests opportunities and threats are assessed by analysing five forces; Figure 6 illustrates the model.

Porter (1980, cited by Campbell et al, 2002) suggests that the five competitive forces shown in Figure 6 determine the nature of competition within an industry. Thorough understanding of each force enables the production of a competitive strategy that embraces the forces, rather than working against them and enable the business to position themselves to take advantage of opportunities whilst minimising threats (Campbell et al, 2002)

Draper Engineering would need to undertake this form of analysis in addition to SWOT and PEST to gain the most detailed picture for an effective strategy. The benefit of Porters Five Force Model is they would be able to identify who they are competing against in the marketplace, it currently appears that they are suffering threats from their customers who are refusing price increases and wanting price reductions; and Hardy’s whom Draper outsourced their IT division to are a threat either from the provision of substitute products or directly competing as a new entrant in the same field. Whilst some of these issues were covered in the SWOT analysis, Porter’s five forces views the business solely from the competition perspective that it offers a very focussed approach.

Intensity of rivalry in the industry

Threat of substitute products

Bargaining power of buyers

Bargaining power of suppliers

Threat from new entrants

Figure 6 Porter's Five-Forces Model. Porter (1980, cited by Campbell et al, 2002)

3.Task Two – Strategic Choice

Macmillan and Tampoe (2001 p132) state “choice is at the centre of strategy formulation, if there are no choices to be made there can be little value in thinking about strategy at all.” Adding that there are limitations to the range of choices such as small businesses are limited by their resources and large companies are unable to change quickly or are restricted by decisions made in their past. However, in good management the “strategic choices have to be challenging enough to keep ahead of competition but also have to be achievable” Macmillan and Tampoe (2001 p133)

Akin to strategic analysis, strategic choice has a large number of tools available to help focus thinking and produce solid strategic decisions. Two such tools available to Draper Engineering Ltd are;

  • Ansoff Matrix
  • Porter’s Generic Strategy

3.1Ansoff Matrix

Igor Ansoff was the first to suggest the diagram shown in Figure 7, for structuring choices of which products or services to offer in which markets.

Present

Market Need

New

Market Development

Diversification (related or unrelated)

‘Do Nothing’

Withdraw

Consolidate

Market penetration

Product Development

PresentProduct New

New

Market Geography

Present

Figure 7 Ansoff Matrix. Ansoff (1987 cited by Macmillan and Tampoe, 2001 p137)

The axes of the diagram are; Macmillan and Tampoe (2001, p135-137)

  • Product – including services and any form of offering
  • Market Need – any group of potential customers whether defined by their needs, inclinations or income bracket
  • Market Geography – geographical location

For the present market geography the model defines four cells, with the top left representing the present status of the business. Movement within or away from this cell represents the possible future choices about products and markets. Macmillan and Tampoe (2001, p135-137). Figure 8 summarises the strategy for each quadrant.

Market Penetration

Product Development

Market penetration is the name given to a growth strategy where the business focuses on selling existing products into existing markets.

Market penetration seeks to achieve four main objectives:

  • Maintain or increase the market share of current products.
  • Secure dominance of growth markets
  • Restructure a mature market by driving out competitors.
  • Increase usage by existing customers

A market penetration marketing strategy is very much about “business as usual”. The business is focusing on markets and products it knows well. It is likely to have good information on competitors and on customer needs. It is unlikely, therefore, that this strategy will require much investment in new market research.

Product development is the name given to a growth strategy where a business aims to introduce new products into existing markets.

This strategy may require the development of new competencies and requires the business to develop modified products which can appeal to existing markets.

Market Development

Diversification

Market development is the name given to a growth strategy where the business seeks to sell its existing products into new markets.

There are many possible ways of approaching this strategy, including:

  • New geographical markets; for example exporting the product to a new country
  • New product dimensions or packaging: for example
  • New distribution channels
  • Different pricing policies to attract different customers or create new market segments

Diversification is the name given to the growth strategy where a business markets new products in new markets.

This is an inherently more risk strategy because the business is moving into markets in which it has little or no experience.

For a business to adopt a diversification strategy, therefore, it must have a clear idea about what it expects to gain from the strategy and an honest assessment of the risks

Figure 8 Summary of The Ansoff Matrix. Tutor2u Limited (2006)

Thomas and Egan (1998) identify that the Ansoff matrix is suitable for both situation analysis, ‘Where are we now?’ and directional policy modelling, ‘where do we want to be?’, adding that it excels at profiling product/market alternatives whilst identifying the risks of different strategic options. Curtis (2006) however suggests that to use the model effectively needs the ‘X’ factor, imagination, without which it is difficult to identify what new products your existing customers may want.

This tool would be particularly useful at Draper Engineering as it would identify exactly what their current market position is in terms of products and customers. It appears from the case study that whilst they currently have four major European car manufacturers and two American truck manufacturers as customers, there is no clear description of the products and services that they provide. Ansoff’s matrix would focus their attentions to what it is they produce and where they would like to go in the future, as it seems to date that although they are willing to try new strategies there is little coherence in their intensions or achievements. Additionally, whilst Draper have started developing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems and their associated software there is little suggestion of imagination in their approach, SAP and Oracle were marketing their ERP systems in the late 90’s early 00’s and are now the principle vendors, that if Draper are to enter the market now almost 6 years later they are entering as underdogs. Such analysis using Ansoff would identify a need for greater imagination in identifying the next big trend, one in which Draper could be involved in from the outset rather than midway through the product lifecycle.

3.2Porter’s Generic Strategy.

Porter (1979 cited by Gilligan and Wilson, 2003, p2) states that “a firm’s relative position within its industry determines whether a firms profitability is above or below the industry average, the fundamental basis of above average performance in the long run is sustainable competitive advantage”.

Competitive advantage can be of two basic types: low cost or differentiation, which combines with the scope of activities to produce three generic strategies for achieving above average performance (University of Cambridge, 2006), illustrated in Figure 9;

  • Cost leadership
  • Differentiation
  • Focus
  • Cost focus
  • Differentiation focus

Competitive Advantage

Lower Cost

Differentiation

Competitive Scope

Broad Target

1. Cost Leadership

2 Differentiation

Narrow Target

3a. Cost Focus

3b.Differential Focus

Figure 9 Porter's Generic Strategy. University of Cambridge (2006)

1. Cost Leadership

2 Differentiation

In cost leadership, a firm sets out to become the low cost producer in its industry. The sources of cost advantage are varied and depend on the structure of the industry. They may include the pursuit of economies of scale, proprietary technology, preferential access to raw materials and other factors. A low cost producer must find and exploit all sources of cost advantage. if a firm can achieve and sustain overall cost leadership, then it will be an above average performer in its industry, provided it can command prices at or near the industry average

In a differentiation strategy a firm seeks to be unique in its industry along some dimensions that are widely valued by buyers. It selects one or more attributes that many buyers in an industry perceive as important, and uniquely positions itself to meet those needs. It is rewarded for its uniqueness with a premium price.

3a. Cost Focus

3b.Differential Focus

The generic strategy of focus rests on the choice of a narrow competitive scope within an industry. The focuser selects a segment or group of segments in the industry and tailors its strategy to serving them to the exclusion of others.

In cost focus a firm seeks a cost advantage in its target segment

Differentiation focus a firm seeks differentiation in its target segment

Figure 10 Summary of Porter's Generic Strategy. University of Cambridge (2006)

Following a cost leadership, differentiation or focus approach has advantages to the business; however it is the strategic choice to decide which option to follow. The University of Salford (2006) identify some anticipated benefits of each of the strategic options (Figure 11);

Cost Leadership

  • Earn high profits because its costs are lower than competitors charging a similar price
  • Charge a lower price than competitors so increasing sales and market share
  • Enter new markets charging a lower price than competitors

Differentiation

  • Sell their products at a premium price
  • Create a barrier to the entry of new competitors
  • Earn above average profits by reducing elasticity of demand for the product.

Focus

  • Does not require so many resources as a broad strategy
  • Allows specialisation
  • Lowers the cost of entering new markets for small firms.

Figure 11 Benefits Of The Strategic Options Identified In Porter’s Generic Strategy. University of Salford (2006)

However, when Porter developed the strategy he argued that an organisation that did not choose between a cost leadership or differentiation would be ‘stuck in the middle’ and consequently he believed they would not achieve competitive advantage. Subsequently one of the criticisms of the model is that it is possible to have a hybrid strategy that combines low cost with differentiation. A further criticism is that low cost itself does not sell products, customers have other reasoning such as quality that affects their decision.

That said in the case of Draper and many other businesses Porter’s generic strategy is a very useful tool for understanding how to achieve competitive advantage.

4.Task Three – Strategy Selection

As Macmillan and Tampoe (2001, p132) state “choice is at the centre of strategy formulation”, but selecting an appropriate strategy and direction from all the available strategic choice tools can be a difficult decision. To overcome this problem and ensure that each option is fairly and equally assessed a further evaluation tool or framework may be used, examples include RACES (Haberberg and Rieple, 2001 cited by Evans et al, 2003), SCARE and CARES standing for Resources, Acceptable, Consistent, Effective and Sustainable. However a more popular framework is the SFA framework (Evans et al, 2003; Little, 2006)

  • Suitability – does the proposal fit with the organisations strategic plan or organisational values? It is essential to identify if a particular option would make full use of an organisations strengths, whilst avoiding its weaknesses or any external factors such as changes in legislation or government policy (Butler, 2001)
  • Feasibility – can it be carried out and will the desired results be available in the timescale? In many cases the feasibility of any option is limted by the firm’s capacity and resources (Butler, 2001)
  • Acceptability – whilst being more subjective, relating to organisational values, this is key to whether the strategy will cause any major crises with stakeholders. Some stakeholders may find one option appealing whilst it is decried by another, this is particularly the case in partnerships and small firms where one wants to grow the business whilst the other wants to consolidate the business (Butler, 2001).

To which a fourth criterion has been added;

  • Achieving competitive advantage – this can be low cost or differentiation, as explained in Section 3.2.

In order to implement this framework, it is essential to set an initial basis for comparison; for Draper like any business this could be a baseline scenario of do nothing, absolute or relative positioning or finally comparison with industry norms. Once this initial phase of preliminary analysis is complete, it is necessary to develop scenario’s within which to analyse various strategies, which are compared with the initial baseline scenario. The final stage of preliminary analysis is to narrow the range of options to a limited number of strategies in order to undertake a more detailed analysis, this can be achieved through ranking and decision trees. It only on completion of the preliminary analysis, that it is possible to undertake an in-depth assessment using the SFA framework.

Based on the choice of strategies in Section 3, Ansoff Matrix and Porter’s Generic Strategy; Draper would need to collate data on their position within the industry, though they would need to decide on the basis for comparison for scenario examination. Finally, whilst there appears to only be two strategies that narrowing the options seems futile, providing thorough analysis has been undertaken using the matrices a number of strategic options should present themselves for assessment. Draper would then need to decide using suitability, feasibility and acceptability analysis which strategy would strengthen the balance of activities within the business, based on a solid framework for comparison.

References

Butler, D.F. (2001)Business Development: A Guide to Small Business Strategy. Butterworth-Heinemann. Oxford

Campbell, D. J., Stonehouse, G. and Houston, B. (2002) Business Strategy: An Introduction. Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann. Oxford.

Curtis, T. (2006) CIM Coursebook 06/07 Marketing in Practice. Butterworth-Heinemann Ltd, Oxford.

De La Salle University (2002) Quality Tools: SWOT. (Online) Available at http://quality.dlsu.edu.ph/tools/SWOT.html Date of download 1st January 2007

Evans, N., Campbell, D. and Stonehouse, G. (2003) Strategic Management for Travel and Tourism. Butterworth-Heinemann. Oxford.

Frazelle, E. (2002) World-Class Warehousing and Material Handling. McGraw-Hill Education. New York.

Furnham, A. (2005) The Psychology of Behaviour at Work: The Individual in the Organisation. Psychology Press. Hove.

Gilligan, C. and Wilson, R.M.S. (2003) Strategic Marketing Planning. Butterworth-Heinemann. Oxford.

Gregory, A. (2000) Planning and Managing a Public Relations Campaign. Kogan Page Limited. London.

Hiatt, J. and Creasey, T.J. (2003) Change Management: The People Side of Change. Prosci Research. Colerado

Johnson, G. and Scholes, K (1999) Exploring Corporate Strategy: 5th Ed. Prentice Hall. London

Khosrowpour, M. (1998) Effective Utilization and Management of Emerging Information Technologies Idea Group Publishing. London.

Little, G. (2006) CIMA Exam Practice Kit: Test of Professional Competence in Management. CIMA Publishing. Oxford.

Macmillan, H. and Tampoe, M. (2000) Strategic Management. Oxford University Press. UK.

Morris, S. (2001) Business Finance Professional Manager. Financial Times Prentice Hall. London.

Naoum, S.G. (2001) People and Organisational Management In Construction Thomas Telford Publishing. London.

Prosci (2006) Why Change Management? (Online) Available at http://www.change-management.com/tutorial-2007prep-why-CM.htm Date of download 3rd January 2007

Roeben, D.F.O. (2004) Planning and Controlling the Outsourcing of Maintenance and Technical Services. Books on Demand. Norderstedt.

Thomas, M.J and Egan, C. (1998) CIM Handbook of Strategic Marketing. Butterworth-Heinemann. Oxford.

Tutor2u Limited (2006) Ansoff's Product / Market Matrix (Online) Available at http://www.tutor2u.net/business/strategy/ansoff_matrix.htm. Date of download 4th January 2006

University of Cambridge (2006) Porter's Generic Competitive Strategies (Online) Available at http://www.ifm.eng.cam.ac.uk/dstools/paradigm/genstrat.html Date of download 4th January 2007.

University of Salford (2006) Porter’s Generic Strategy (Online). Available at http://www.lhfm.salford.ac.uk/students/Stratman/handouts/week_08/week_08_lecture.html Date of download 4th January 2007

Verman, D. (1999) Supporting Service Level Agreements on IP Networks. Macmillan Technical Publishing. Indianapolis.

Appendix One

Draper Engineering Case Study

Draper Engineering Ltd are a medium sized IT business. Current customers include four of the major European car manufacturers and two American manufacturers. All of these customers are extremely demanding with many frequently refusing to accept price increases, others wanting price reductions and while two companies expected Draper’s to be involved in developing new warehouse management systems with no guarantee that they would receive the final contract.

The workforce at Draper’s is very loyal with many of the technical and middle management personnel have worked for the company for over 20 years respectively. However in the last 5 years staff turnover in the e-commerce section has been particularly high. Many initiatives have been tried to reverse this trend, but all have failed. At management and technical grades staff turnover is low, but the recent appointment of a new operations director has resulted in one or two notable departures.

Draper’s have a large product development team who spend the majority of their time improving existing products, solving customer complaints and providing customer support with new product introductions. New product development has featured low on Draper’s list of priorities in recent years. Instead the company has invested heavily in trying to maintain its current position and market share. Competition remains fierce and the business urgently needs a new sense of direction.

Eighteen months ago the outsourced IT division was sold to Hardy Media Solutions, a large company with numerous multinational contracts. Hardy’s performance to date has been rather in different with numerous enquires being received from previous customers about poor service and lack of supplier involvement in new projects. In recent months Drapers have started developing Enterprise Resource Planning Systems and associated software. Already the company have received twenty credible leads and the senior management are now looking at other new innovative ways in which the business can grow.

Appendix Two

SWOT

(Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)

Taken From: http://quality.dlsu.edu.ph/tools/SWOT.html

Why use the tool?

SWOT Analysis is a very effective way of identifying your Strengths and Weaknesses, and of examining the Opportunities and Threats you face. Carrying out an analysis using the SWOT framework helps you to focus your activities into areas where you are strong and where the greatest opportunities lie.

How To Use the Tool

To carry out a SWOT Analysis, write down answers to the following questions, where appropriate, use similar questions.

Strengths

  • What advantages do you have?
  • What do you do well?
  • What relevant resources do you have access to?
  • What do other people see as your strengths?

Consider this from your own point of view and from the point of view of the people you deal with. Don't be modest. Be realistic. If you are having any difficulty with this, try writing down a list of your characteristics. Some of these will hopefully be strengths. In looking at your strengths, think about them in relation to your competitors - for example, if all your competitors provide high quality products, then a high quality production process is not a strength in the market, it is a necessity.

Weaknesses

  • What could you improve?
  • What do you do badly?
  • What should you avoid?

Again, consider this from an internal and external basis: Do other people seem to perceive weaknesses that you do not see? Are your competitors doing any better than you? It is best to be realistic now, and face any unpleasant truths as soon as possible.

Opportunities

  • Where are the good opportunities facing you?
  • What are the interesting trends you are aware of?
  • Useful opportunities can come from such things as:
  • changes in technology and markets on both a broad and narrow scale;
  • changes in government policy related to your field;
  • changes in social patterns, population profiles, lifestyle changes, etc.; and
  • local events.

A useful approach to looking at opportunities is to look at your strengths and ask yourself whether these open up any opportunities. Alternatively, look at your weaknesses and ask yourself whether you could open up opportunities by eliminating them.

Threats

  • What obstacles do you face?
  • What is your competition doing?
  • Are the required specifications for your job, products or services changing?
  • Is changing technology threatening your position?
  • Do you have bad debt or cash-flow problems?
  • Could any of your weaknesses seriously threaten your business?

Carrying out this analysis will often be illuminating - both in terms of pointing out what needs to be done, and in putting problems into perspective.

You can also apply SWOT analysis to your competitors. This may produce some interesting insights!

Key Points

SWOT analysis is a framework for analyzing your strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunities and threats you face.

This will help you to focus on your strengths, minimize weaknesses, and take the greatest possible advantage of opportunities available.

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