Conducting a SWOT analysis means listing your company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It is used to evaluate your current market environment and how it may change for better or worse, and then develop a response strategy.
Strengths and weaknesses are for internal factors such as location, patents held and reputation. Opportunities and threats look outside the company for things like competitors, market changes and supplier impacts. When you evaluate those four things against one another, you can see where potential problems lie as well as market gaps that you can position your company to fill.
If you have never done a SWOT analysis, you might not know where to begin. Here are eight tools, software and apps to help you get started. [See Related Story: SWOT Analysis: What It Is and When to Use It]
Looking for a free SWOT analysis? MindTools offers a free SWOT analysis PDF worksheet that you can download, fill out and save on your computer. Each section contains sample questions to help you with the process, such as "What do you do well?" for strengths, "What could you improve?" for weaknesses, "What trends could you take advantage of?" for opportunities and "What is your competition doing?" for threats. MindTools also offers a complete how-to guide that covers what a SWOT analysis is all about and how to create the best one for your business. Similar resources include the TOWS Matrix — an alternative to a SWOT analysis — and tools that help with strategizing, problem solving and decision making.
The term "SWOT analysis" may sound boring, but yours doesn't have to be. Creately, a Web-based SWOT analysis software, lets you create colorful SWOT analysis diagrams that you can fill with content, logos and other personalized elements. The software is also jam-packed with features like premade, professional SWOT analysis templates; Google Images integration; the ability to import your own images; and collaboration capabilities for feedback and contributions from members of your team. Creately also provides sample SWOT analyses from other companies, along with a database of tutorials and diagrams, to give you an idea of how to begin. To start using Creately, just click on the Start Drawing Now button to launch the no-install software right on your browser.
Cost: Starts at $5 per user per month.
Gliffy operates on an HTML 5 editor that is more than two times faster than Flash, making large diagrams quick and easy to create. You can set themes and colors, protect and track changes, and share or publish easily with a read-only URL that you can embed in social media. Gliffy also offers Google Drive Integration so that you can access them on any device, making collaboration and review processes a snap. It also allow Visio imports, allowing you to upgrade your sharing methods while retaining and repurposing all of your old diagrams.
Cost: Starts at $5 per month per user for basic functionality. Access to full features starts at $10 a month per user with Gliffy's Business pricing plan.
Don't have an iOS device? Check out Grapholite, which lets you create, edit and save SWOT analysis diagrams on an Android or Windows 10 device (Windows 8 users need to contact the company directly for a link). Although Grapholite is essentially a flow-charting tool — you can create everything from Venn diagrams to organization charts and mind maps — its SWOT capabilities are more than enough for any small business. This full-featured app offers drawing tools, drag-and-drop shapes and elements, online and offline modes, and the ability to export SWOT diagrams into common image and document formats.
Cost: $49.99 from the Windows Store and $14.99 from Google Play. An online and desktop version is also available for $69.99.
SmartDraw is all about speed. This software claims to let you create a SWOT analysis in minutes. First, choose a template. Then, add action buttons, shapes and other content, all within the Microsoft Office suite. The software will automatically align elements, providing a foolproof way to create professional-looking SWOT analyses. Although SmartDraw aims to help you create a SWOT analysis as quickly as possible, it also offers all types of SWOT examples to review before you get started and use as guidance for your business. In addition to basic SWOT diagrams, other examples include different types of SWOT diagrams, such as angled, pie chart and tabbed; different kinds of SWOT analysis, like Key SWOT Questions, Market Analysis SWOT and Product Marketing SWOT; and SWOT for different types of businesses, ranging from coffee shops to car manufacturers and everything in between.
Cost: Free to download and try. Purchased copies start at $297.
SWOT Analysis Generator
Don't know where to start? Creating a SWOT analysis doesn't get any easier than WikiWealth's free SWOT Analysis Generator. Each section in the generator is prefilled with a list of possible strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to help you get started, and you can also enter your own ideas that aren't on the list. Just enter your product or company name, and start checking off statements that apply to your business. When you're finished, simply click on the Create SWOT Analysis button, and the generator will automatically build your SWOT framework and take you to your SWOT analysis. Besides helping you build a SWOT analysis, what makes WikiWealth's Free SWOT Analysis Generator especially valuable is that it helps you gain a deeper understanding of each section and your business. Once your SWOT analysis is created, you can view explanations and definitions of each SWOT statement, as well as add comments to better evaluate each section. You and members of your team can also up-vote or down-vote items to better prioritize them and make wiser business decisions.
Create a SWOT analysis right on your iPhone or iPad. SWOT Map is an iOS SWOT analysis app that can help you tell a story, inspire and send a message with your SWOT analysis. First, the app offers more than 100 customizable SWOT analysis templates to help you find the perfect fit for your business or product. It also features a robust SWOT Editor to help you create and modify SWOT ideas, content and templates. And if you don't feel like using the editor, SWOT Map lets you use your iPhone or iPad camera to take a snapshot of a handwritten SWOT analysis and then use the rest of the app's functions. SWOT Map stands out because of its collaboration and social-sharing capabilities. You can not only email SWOT analysis diagrams to your team and colleagues but also post them on Facebook and Twitter, as well as save them as images to your Camera Roll.
Cost: 99 cents on iTunes.
Additional reporting by Marci Martin.