SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It is one of the most popular tools in marketing used today. For good reason, it is a simple tool, easy to use and gives a nice general heads up on what is going on in a given market. Like all tools, it has its positives and negatives.
The plus about the SWOT is in its simplicity. You don’t need to be an expert in marketing to do this; it is very qualitative so it is easy to use. The strength of this tool is really in the skill of the person doing the analysis and that is the weakness. A SWOT is only as good as the person who is doing the analysis. The SWOT can be a very subjective tool, which is why the strength of it is in the ability to really understand what it is they are analyzing. Without the strength of a good analyzer, the SWOT’s ability to really inform loses a lot of what it can offer.
Often large companies hire an consultant to do this or a junior person, I do not recommend this as part of a good analysis program. If you get a junior person, ensure the more experienced executive is around to answer all the detailed questions to fill in the knowledge gap. The SWOT can and often is very subjective when used; I highly recommend you have someone who can detach themselves from the results. Often on the threats and weaknesses, people can over look certain things based on their own biases. For example, you may not see a new technology or competitor as a real threat because of your own view of them. This can weaken the tools ability to really tell you what you should be looking at.
To really help counter the weaknesses of the SWOT, it is best to use it with quantitative tools along side it. These tools can help shore up some, not all of the weaknesses in SWOT. If you don’t use these tools with SWOT, you really need someone who understands the market and the tool really well! Otherwise, use caution with this tool, it’s easy but sometimes too easy if not used right.