Definition

SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis)

SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats analysis) is a framework for identifying and analyzing the internal and external factors that can have an impact on the viability of a project, product, place or person. 

The framework is credited to Albert Humphrey, who tested the approach in 1960s and 1970s at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Developed for business and based on data from Fortune 500 companies, the SWOT analysis has been adopted by organizations of all types as an aid to making decisions.

As its name states, a SWOT analysis examines four elements:

  • Strengths - internal attributes and resources that support a successful outcome.
  • Weaknesses - internal attributes resources that work against a successful outcome.
  • Opportunities - external factors the project can capitalize on or use to its advantage.
  • Threats - external factors that could jeopardize the project.

Once the SWOT factors are identified, decision makers should be able to better ascertain if the project or goal is worth pursuing and what is required to make it successful. Often expressed in a two-by-two matrix, the analysis aims to help an organization match its resources to the competitive environment in which it operates.

Cate Costa provides an example of a simple SWOT analysis.

Contributor(s): Linda Tucci
This was last updated in September 2013
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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