How can we ensure that we've captured the right information in our SWOT analysis?

We've looked at so many aspects of the Sales and Order Entry process that our heads are spinning with all the information. How can we ensure that we've captured the right information in our SWOT analysis?
A SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) can be a good way to harvest lots of relevant information about a topic in a single pass. Here are some tips to ensure that your SWOT analysis process captures the right information:
  • Have you clearly defined the topic? Do you clearly understand what it is you'll analyze? Is it a business entity (e.g., a team or functional area)? Is it a process? A solution? An individual? Because the analysis can be very broad, it is important to have a good definition of the focus of the effort, otherwise a great deal of time could be spent with limited results. Be sure you've stated accurately and clearly what you'll analyze. Look back at the problem statement to determine where the focus of the analysis should be: If you're analyzing a Sales and Order Entry process, should the analysis cover the quality of orders or the capacity of the system? Knowing the key focus areas would help narrow the evaluation of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats to the particular problem being addressed, versus on the entire business process and players involved. ''.
  • What are you trying to accomplish? Why did you choose a SWOT analysis instead of some other analysis technique? Why did you choose to conduct a SWOT analysis on this particular entity? Be sure you understand what you hope to gain from the analysis. Take the time to think through what information might come from the analysis, and whether it will answer the open questions. A brief trial of the analysis and assessment of the quick results will help determine if you are using the right tool to get at the desired information.
  • Are you asking the right people? Have you talked to everyone who has a substantially different view of the topic? Have you talked to everyone with a stake in the outcome—i.e., reviewed the Stakeholder Analysis for candidates to talk with? ''. What's important is that you get as complete a perspective as possible about the subject of the analysis, from all sides and points of view. The resulting information will be much richer and may present new information not previously considered. Will everyone be comfortable sharing their input? Be sure that you've asked the right players to join the conversation, and that you've set the stage for active, safe participation.
  • Are you considering all the angles? Be sure you've covered the bases when it comes to understanding the business entity: its internal workings (its strengths and weaknesses), and the external factors that influence it (opportunities and threats). Be sure to consider what's going well and what's helpful (strengths and opportunities), what's going badly, and what's harmful (weaknesses and threats).
  • Are you keeping it relevant? Try to be an objective facilitator who helps keep the conversation focused on the topic at hand. Leverage recent examples—for example, from the last 6-18 months—instead of letting participants rehash ages-old stories that no longer apply. Keep the focus of the discussion in plain view, and keep the team focused within the boundaries of the subject, the problem statement, and the project objective. These will help the group focus the conversation, and allow the facilitator to objectively keep things on track.










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