We often talk about how best to develop the foresight a project manager needs to identify factors that are important to meeting organizational objectives, both internal and external to the project. Instead of relying on chance or worse yet, the appearance of project-threatening risks to alert you to impending issues, there are some methods that can be used to analyze project circumstances to predict and plan for bumps in the road ahead. SWOT is a project analysis tool used to gauge project strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. How can you use this method to safeguard your project venture? Let’s step through the fundamentals:
The SWOT analysis starts with identifying your project’s strengths and weaknesses with a focus on either the project team or the broader organization as a whole. But what can be categorized as project strengths or weaknesses?
As they relate to your organization or project’s value chain, strengths are what give your project team or product a distinct advantage over others in your same industry. For example, your project team members and the experience they hold may give you an edge over other organizations or consulting teams. Do you have expert developers holding unique programming? If so, jot them down as a strength when analyzing your project using this method.
Intuitively, to single out your project’s weaknesses, step through the inverse of the analysis that brought you to your project’s strengths. Are there any downfalls of your process, project, or product that put you at a disadvantage in your field? True enough, you may rightly find it difficult to pinpoint these but do so with the understanding that all projects have areas for improvement. For example, the expert resources that you identified in the strengths section of the project analysis tool may be very costly, making your project’s dependency on them a disadvantage.
Slightly different from strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats are factors external to your project or organization that offer chance for increased success (e.g., early deployments, money saved, and so on).
Opportunities external to your organization that would give you an edge may be a specialized market that has opened up that may serve as a new client base. Another opportunity might be a shift toward a new technological product that your organization can exploit for further advancement. In other words, think big picture to identify external opportunities available to you.
Finally, threats are looming hazards that may affect your project’s progress. Is there legislation that has recently passed that would influence your project’s timeline or resources? Again, think big picture to determine what these threats may be and document them so that you can work to plan for pending changes.
As with most analyses, the full potential of this project analysis tool is seen when negative future consequences that may have been looming are avoided through action inspired by the analysis that is done. If at all possible, turn weaknesses and threats into strengths and opportunities that can positively influence your schedule or your bottom line with proper planning and preventative action.
What other project analysis tool do you use to increase your skills as a project manager?