17 minutesBy Canva Team

SWOT analysis: How-tos, templates, and tips

Discover what a SWOT analysis is, what its components are, and how to use one for current and future plans. View examples and find tips on making your own SWOT matrix on Canva.
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What is a SWOT analysis?

A SWOT analysis is a technique that visualizes, organizes, and categorizes internal and external factors that may affect a business, brand project, initiative, or campaign. SWOT stands for its four primary categories: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

A SWOT analysis is often done before changing an ongoing plan or implementing a new one. A SWOT diagram, a visual template that aids team members during analysis, can be used by anyone — from businesses and freelance professionals to students.

The typical SWOT template uses a 2x2 grid wherein each box represents the four letters of the SWOT acronym. All factors will be organized into these four categories.

Sample SWOT analysis template

In a SWOT diagram, data is arranged into four categories to help teams and businesses make actionable changes.

A brief history

Before the existence of SWOT, there was the SOFT approach, which stands for Satisfactory, Opportunities, Faults, and Threats. It's a technique published by the Long Range Planning Service (SRI) in 1965 that researchers have claimed to be the predecessor of the SWOT.

However, researchers have yet to determine a universally accepted creator for the SWOT analysis technique. Currently, its invention is credited to Albert Humphrey, who made it in the 1960s for companies looking for an easier way to execute the planning process. Ever since its use, the SWOT framework has only grown in popularity.


Why is SWOT analysis an effective tool?

A SWOT analysis is one of the best tools teams can use for awareness, discovery, and organization. Below are the different reasons why the SWOT grid is an effective tool.

Increases awareness

Teams conducting a SWOT analysis may become more aware of their blindspots, barriers, and previous assumptions on the internal factors affecting their business or project. These typically come in the form of strengths and weaknesses.

Awareness of these during planning is crucial, especially if the members are about to create a business or develop a new strategy. It’s because these are the factors that members can better control and easily work on.

For instance, a company planning to offer its products to a global audience must first evaluate if its current system can handle the increase in production. Any weaknesses that surface must first be worked on so they may be turned into strengths. By doing these, the business increases its chances of success and reduces the risk of having internal problems during implementation.

Allows discovery

A SWOT analysis can also bring to light the external factors one can take advantage of or ones that may hinder the growth of a business. These, on the other hand, come in the form of opportunities and threats.

Discovering these factors gives the teams the freedom and the challenge to be more creative and open-minded — they can find alternative ways to tackle their change in plans or new ventures. For example, a new restaurant may find opportunities in a specific location due to its dense population, but it may also find threats from other businesses with a similar concept.

Columns for opportunities and threats in a SWOT analysis chart

Identifying opportunities and threats like in this SWOT analysis template can provide valuable insights when pivoting or adjusting plans.

Promotes organization

A SWOT analysis can help teams be more organized. The analysis can help the reporter deliver their points logically during a performance review or progress update. As for the audience, such a diagram aids in better digesting the information being presented.

Aside from that, it can also help members who are pressed for time or need a concrete basis when making decisions and setting goals. That’s because it narrows all factors down to the ones that will impact their business most quickly.

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Simplifies the analysis process

When analyzing, it’s tempting to look at all factors — from the biggest to the most minor details. This process can be overwhelming and time-consuming, especially if the members decide to act upon it. What the SWOT aids in is narrowing down the factors to the most impactful, important, or easily actionable ones — therefore both simplifying and streamlining the analysis process.

Provides a written record

With a SWOT chart, teams have a written record of what worked and what didn’t on a particular strategy. They can use the information written as a guide when refining any changes or acting upon an idea.

Aside from being a guide for making future decisions, the analysis can also be used to determine which aspects of a project or business must be tracked. Your team’s reporter or presenter will surely appreciate having a basis on which they should keep an eye and pull data for future SWOT analysis. It will promote more accurate and focused reporting and encourage continuous improvement over impactful aspects of a business or project.

Enables collaboration

It is possible that an individual can do a SWOT analysis independently. However, a more effective analysis considers other points of view and fresh perspectives. Hence, a brainstorming SWOT session and collaboration from the whole team is needed.

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Adaptable across projects

Unlike other tools, the SWOT, by its very nature, is flexible and can be used to analyze everything, from a company’s general business to the team projects of different departments.

Below, we explore how to conduct a SWOT analysis and turn your results and insights into action. You can browse through templates and relevant SWOT examples on Canva to help you get started on your SWOT analysis and apply it to your situation or business environment.


When to use a SWOT analysis?

You can use a SWOT analysis when you need a quick and efficient overall review of the result or progress of a project or business. It can prove to be immensely helpful when you are:

  • Creating a management or business plan. Even when your company is still in the brainstorming process or the midst of a soft launch, you can still benefit from a SWOT analysis. Doing one can help you create a more concrete strategy roadmap, which can be crucial when launching, establishing, or expanding your business.
  • Deciding if introducing a new product or service is ideal at the moment. Before you get the ball rolling on introducing new products or services, it’s best first to evaluate your company’s capacity, as well as the marketability of the product or service. With a SWOT analysis, you can determine if you have any weaknesses that may negatively impact the quality and quantity of your product short and long term. Also, you can discover if there are opportunities you can take advantage of to make your launch more successful.
  • In the middle of implementing or improving a new initiative. SWOT analyses are often done before or after an initiative. However, if you would like a quick check on the effectiveness of your plan, you can do a quick evaluation to see which aspects aren’t working in your favor. That way, you can change or eliminate them as soon as possible.
  • In need of a fresh perspective to solve a current issue. Since an analysis requires the participation of multiple members, it’s guaranteed that there will be a handful of different points of view. Having fresh eyes on the listed factors can aid in either identifying the cause or providing a solution to issues or challenges.
  • Doing a quick but full performance review. When pressed for time or before delving into the details of a review or update, you can provide an overview or guide to the discussion with a SWOT analysis. A guide opens the floor and narrows inquiries and discussions to ones that members find urgent and pertinent.
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SWOT analysis examples

SWOT analysis can be done by anyone, regardless of the profession, for a variety of purposes. However, to maximize its effectiveness, it has to be customized to match your needs and wants. Here are three examples of SWOT analysis for three different situations:

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Sample SWOT analysis chart for a Culinary Business

Customize your SWOT diagram to reflect your specific needs and circumstances, ensuring meaningful direction for your business or project.

Running a local business

  • Strengths: Loyal customers and employees
  • Weaknesses: Ineffective use of social media to expand market
  • Opportunities: Using social media to reach new audiences
  • Threats: Increasing number of competitors offering similar products

Running an online business

  • Strengths: Affordable and unique products
  • Weaknesses: Lack of manpower to handle product demand
  • Opportunities: Using productivity tools to streamline processes or hiring a professional to help with budgeting
  • Threats: Changes in shipping costs and rates

Organizing an event

  • Strengths: Smooth ingress
  • Weaknesses: Lack of preparation for an increased number of attendees
  • Opportunities: Bigger venue or increase in manpower
  • Threats: Weather disturbances

Limitations of SWOT analysis

While the SWOT analysis tool is effective in strategic planning, it’s not free from limitations. It’s best to know them to determine if a SWOT analysis fits your intended purpose.

Add sticky notes, charts, or tables to your SWOT analysis

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  • Complex projects or problems are oversimplified: Sometimes, problems like your weaknesses will require a more detailed analysis because of the other factors, like political or environmental factors, that may affect them. When doing a SWOT analysis, such factors aren’t highlighted or considered.
  • Lack of significance ranking of factors: In certain cases, lacking factor prioritization can be a disadvantage. That’s because one assumption of a SWOT analysis is to consider all factors important and then have members work on them simultaneously. This poses a challenge to companies that have limited manpower, budget, or time. As a result, they may allocate most of their resources to a factor that may make a lesser impact than another.
  • Prone to bias or subjective analysis: A SWOT analysis may tend to be biased. This is especially true for a project that involves multiple teams or departments. Different perspectives may cause conflicts, especially in categorization, where one can consider a certain factor as a strength while the other is a weakness.

As a rule of thumb, if team inclusion and efficiency are concerned, doing a SWOT analysis as your initial step is the way to go. To minimize the impact of its disadvantages, consider supplementary resources, graphs, or documents that address them.


Components of SWOT analysis

A SWOT table often has a template visual of a 2x2 diagram. However, it doesn’t have to follow this specific format. Whether you use the expected grid or organize them in single-column lists, you can still easily do a SWOT analysis as long as you have the following components:

Sample of a 2x2 SWOT diagram

A SWOT diagram should always include the four key components (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats), regardless of format.

Strengths are internal factors that you can take advantage of to benefit your business. Most of the time, these factors are what your business does best that distinguish you from your competitors.

Examples of strengths are:

  • Tangible assets like equipment, inventory, and securities like stocks
  • Intangible assets like patents, trademarks, and franchises
  • Internal resources, including human resources and your team members
  • A unique selling proposition, whether that’s a service or a product line.

Remember that you can only consider an asset or resource a strength if it puts you at a clear advantage compared to your competitors. If it’s something other businesses also have, it becomes a requirement rather than a strength.

Weaknesses are internal factors you either lack or find challenging compared to your competitors. It may also be something your competitors can do much better than you.

Examples of weaknesses are:

  • Limited resources, whether that’s financial or skilled people who can handle the job
  • Ineffective systems or procedures
  • A lack of or unclear unique selling proposition

As you think of weaknesses, remember to be honest and realistic. It will benefit you in the long run and prevent any unpleasant surprises in the future.

Opportunities are external factors that can positively impact your business, whether improving your sales or accomplishing your company’s mission. They can be a change in market trends or the availability of new technology.

Examples of opportunities are:

  • Untapped markets for your products
  • Media coverage, including going viral on social media
  • An emerging need for what you’re offering
  • Not as many competitors

To find opportunities, you always have to keep your eyes and ears on the ground, anticipate trends that may happen in the future, and look out for even the smallest or simplest opportunities that can make a big difference. However, before taking them on, it’s best that you discern if the effort you'll take on is worth the reward.

Threats are external factors that have the potential to affect your business negatively. They may also be factors that could, if not addressed, put your company's or product's future at risk.

Examples of threats are:

  • Increasing number of competitors
  • Negative media coverage
  • Constantly changing environment, standards, or requirements
  • Complaints or negative customer feedback

One tip to discovering threats is by looking at your competitors and what they’re changing. Similar to opportunities, it’s best to discern if you’ll make similar changes based on perceived threats, as there’s a chance that it may benefit them but not your company.


How to do a SWOT analysis?

Even if you can easily use a SWOT analysis generator to create a SWOT matrix, it’s still good practice to be aware of the step-by-step process in case you need to make one from scratch or customize an existing template. There’s more to an analysis than enumerating and categorizing factors. So the next time you do a SWOT, here are the steps to remember:

Choose from various SWOT analysis templates

Before doing a SWOT analysis, you must first select the project you want to examine further. This step is crucial to prevent analysis paralysis and make your discussion too broad. Not only does it provide direction, but it also encourages focus, which makes it easier for everyone involved to stay on the same page.

If you’re having trouble deciding which to focus on, you may browse projects you’ve worked on in your team folder and then determine those needing a review. Alternatively, you can evaluate an idea before its introduction or launch. Either is a good starting point for an analysis as long as it’s specific enough for you to get more actionable insights afterward.

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Choosing what to analyze
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Once you’ve decided on the project, it’s time to contact all stakeholders and hold a brainstorming session. If the project involves members from multiple departments, including members from different teams in the session is best. For a more fruitful discussion, you may also choose only to include those who actively participated or who are highly knowledgeable about the project.

You can ask them to prepare a general list of internal and external factors beforehand. That way, during the actual SWOT analysis session, the only responsibility left for your members is to categorize them by relevance. Doing this can aid in making the actual SWOT analysis session run more efficiently.

Creating a grid is easy, especially since you can use any form as long as it has the four components mentioned. If you prefer to make it from scratch, you can use Canva’s table maker tools and features. For extra creativity, you can also create custom shapes in lieu of these grids and easily add text.

You also have the option to start with a pre-made SWOT analysis template. To edit one, browse Canva’s SWOT analysis examples for ideas or customizable templates. Customizing a template can save you both time and effort in designing one that matches your purpose.

Once the team members have their general lists on hand, they may write down or categorize the list of the internal factors affecting the business under Strengths or Weaknesses. For guidance, below are some questions that you can ask yourselves. The answers to these questions are typically what you can include in each category.

Strengths

  • What do you do best?
  • What are the resources you have?
  • What makes you unique or stand out from competitors?
  • What does your market or audience like about you?

Weakness

  • What resources are you lacking?
  • What can you improve on?
  • What aspects of the business aren’t hitting their goals?
  • What does your market or audience complain about you?

As soon as you’re finished with the previous step, you can move on to providing a list of the external factors that may positively or negatively impact your business. You must categorize these factors under Opportunities or Threats. To help you, here’s a list of guiding questions to ask yourselves to make categorization easier. Similar to the internal factors, if a factor answers the question under a category, that's where it should be categorized.

Opportunities

  • Which resources or technology can you use to improve?
  • How can you stand out more from your competitors?
  • What weaknesses do my competitors have that you can use to benefit the company?

Threats

  • In what aspects are your competitors doing better than you?
  • What marketing trends or industry changes should you be concerned about?
  • What other obstacles do you find challenging to deal with?

At this point, it’s a good idea to review the content of your SWOT template. See if there are any factors you'd like to add or remove. You can discuss the factors that will make the final list with team members involved in the session. Preferably, these factors answer the questions listed above, are relevant to the project, and are supported by data. For a tangible record of the meeting and the finalized list, feel free to take advantage of Canva Docs to create meeting minutes(opens in a new tab or window).

Some companies prefer to contact a third party to assist them with refining their SWOT analysis. If you decide to go this route, limiting editing access to both the template and your company folders is best. This ensures that only company employees, specifically those involved in the project, can view or edit the template's contents.

After your analysis, select the factors you want to act upon. These may be opportunities you want to take advantage of before they disappear or weaknesses you want to work on before they worsen. Ideally, improving internal factors comes before preparing for the external ones.

Finally, the last step in the SWOT analysis is for you to take action. Go ahead and begin strategizing on how to tackle the category you chose. It’s recommended that you start small and don’t bite off more than you can chew. By solving the easily actionable items, you'll have an idea of how to take on the bigger challenges in the SWOT analysis.


Get inspired with SWOT analysis templates

Begin with pre-made, professionally designed templates to take your SWOT analysis to the next level. Collaborate and fill out your template in real time on any device. Differentiate one business, project, or initiative from one another by assigning each with a unique color, style, or look.


All you need in a SWOT analysis maker

Whether going over the yearly performance of your startup or investigating factors affecting the change in views on your YouTube channel, easily organize your thoughts on Canva. With Canva’s Whiteboards features and easy-to-use tools, you and your team can effortlessly collaborate to achieve your goals.

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  • Your ideas visualized

    Your ideas visualized

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  • All your work, in one place

    All your work, in one place

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SWOT analysis best practices

As easy as a SWOT analysis is to create, there are still some things you can do to ensure it turns out the best and most useful it can be. Here are four best practices to remember when making your SWOT analysis:

Keep it short and sweet

Keep your points short and sweet. Stick to bullet points or phrases and avoid paragraphs. This will make it easier for you and your team to summarize what you have listed down as your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Only involve relevant people

Though it’s nice to have multiple perspectives to ensure you’ve considered all points and factors, too many may be confusing or unintentionally widen your topic scope. So, it’s best only to involve relevant people in your analysis. These may be members who actively participated in the project or have been directly impacted by it.

In your Canva Whiteboard, you can modify how you share your SWOT so that your team has editing, viewing, or commenting access. Just click the “Share” button on the upper right-hand corner of your design.

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Copy link to share your SWOT analysis whiteboard

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Be honest and realistic

The end goal of a SWOT analysis is to take action on factors you can control. Being honest, transparent, and realistic, especially with your strengths and weaknesses, can help you set achievable goals with limited resources. If possible, provide data or research to back up the factors included in the list.

Enrich your analysis with other strategy techniques

Since the SWOT analysis has limitations, it’s encouraged that you complement it with other strategy techniques. Here’s a list of the others to consider:

  • SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results): This technique focuses on more positive aspects of your business or project.
  • PESTLE (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, and Environmental): This technique considers the macro-environmental factors that can affect one’s project or business.
  • TOWS (Threats, Opportunities, Weaknesses, and Strengths): This technique is similar to SWOT. The differences are the reversed order and the method of producing strategies that involve combining factors. For example, WT strategies are focused on minimizing weaknesses while avoiding threats.
  • SCRS (Situation, Core Problem, Response, and Solution): This technique focuses on problem-solving and is useful for decision-making.
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SWOT analysis FAQs

The purpose of a SWOT analysis is to provide you with information to make better decisions for your business, brand, project, initiative, campaign, or channel. Being informed gives you more opportunities to think about ways to reduce harmful risks and increase the likelihood of success rather than flying blind. It also encourages you to look at different perspectives that may be surprisingly effective or beneficial.

Aside from following the best practices, there are additional things you can keep in mind when doing a SWOT analysis to make it effective. First, be as specific as possible. Narrow down exactly what you want to analyze and provide details for later discussions. In addition, you should always consider your competitors. This helps you gain valuable insights into where you can stay ahead of the market and pinpoint areas for improvement.

You can take many courses of action after doing a SWOT analysis. Some of them are to proceed immediately to strategy planning, take advantage of a peak of a trend, or reduce weaknesses by eliminating ones that don’t require much effort.


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