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MGMT 200: Working Skillfully in Organizations (Henderson): SWOT Analysis

Library research guide for Kevin Henderson's MGMT 200 classes.

What is a SWOT analysis?

A SWOT analysis is an analysis of the internal and external environment of a company, organization, or nonprofit. Internal environmental factors are generally classified as Strengths or Weaknesses, while external factors are considered Opportunities or Threats. SWOT = Strengths + Weaknesses + Opportunities + Threats. A SWOT analysis is particularly useful in identifying both internal and external factors that are essential in decision-making.

Remember, the SWOT analysis is meant to be an objective summary tool. An analysis which lacks good information will result in a biased viewpoint, and may cause you to reach the wrong conclusion.

Sources for published SWOT analyses

SWOT reports for most public companies and some large private companies are available in these resources. (Note that not every company will have a published SWOT analysis available.)

More information on SWOT analysis

Creating a SWOT analysis

Maybe there isn't a published SWOT analysis available for your company or organization. Or maybe you need to do your own SWOT analysis for class. How? By collecting information from multiple sources such as company overviews/profiles, industry overviews, market information, and articles/news. If you are researching a public company, take a look at its Annual Report and/or 10-K, especially the section on "Risk Factors."

Here are some other tips on doing your own SWOT analysis, for public and private companies/organizations.

Explore the company website and consider the following:

  • What kind of product/service do they provide?
  • What kind of customer needs are they meeting?
  • Are they meeting these needs better than their competitors, at a better price?

Interview the company, if possible. Call and ask them nicely, stating that you are a student doing research on the company for academic work. NOTE: Most internal information of small private firms (human resource practices, etc.) is highly unlikely to be available in secondary or library sources. In this case, talking with the company may be the only way to get this information.

Take a look at their competitors (check our databases for company overviews, or do a web search) and consider:

  • What kind of product/service do the competitors provide?
  • What are your company's competitive advantages (for example, unique product/service, location, size, customer service, price, etc.?)
  • How does your company differentiate itself from others (what's its niche?)

Do an environmental scan: what environmental factors may have an impact on the market that your company is in? Any emerging trends? Disruptive forces? What are the opportunities and threats? Feel free to incorporate your personal observations and experiences.