Big Business
Sole Trader

A simple tool to analyse strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats

The big idea

The original goal of this humble tool was to identify why corporate planning failed. The origin of SWOT analysis is credited to Albert Humphrey, who researched 1,100 companies from 1960 to 1969. The resulting tool he used was called SOFT analysis based on: what is good in the present is Satisfactory; good in the future is an Opportunity; bad in the present is a Fault; and bad in the future is a Threat. In 1964 when this was presented to Urick and Orr, they changed the F to a W, and soFt become sWot. 


The SWOT matrix provides a framework for assessing internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats. It helps open up critical thinking across the whole of your business activities. Carrying out this analysis will often be illuminating, both in terms of pointing out what needs to be done, and in putting problems into perspective.

SWOT analysis focuses on the following questions:

  • What are your aims?
  • What do your customers want?
  • How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors or partners?
  • How can you improve your services?
  • How do you distinguish internal conditions (strengths and weaknesses) from external conditions (opportunities and threats)?

The Tool

The tool is based on the traditional SWOT matrix and includes a number of prompts to help you think through each area. It is an activity you can do on your own or with a group and the initial brainstorming can be quick and fun.