by Kevin Gepford
What’s SWOT?: SWOT analysis is a framework for doing research and formulating a business strategy. It analyzes strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and can be applied to existing businesses, teams and departments, and new business ideas.
Why it Matters: This is essential for developing your group’s Value Proposition. Insights from your internal research are synthesized to map ways to improve operations, use resources more efficiently, and anticipate risks to your group and its success.
Creative teams are often anxious and confused places. So little time, and so many deadlines with conflicting priorities piled on. On top of that, there are external forces to worry about, such as our very survival. It’s no secret that creative teams can viewed as a cost center. Corporate bean counters cast their steely gaze across our ranks, and wonder: What’s the value proposition here? How well is our creative team contributing to our overall success? Could we save some money? … and then Boom! The entire creative team is swept away, and all the work farmed out to mercenaries… like to an outside agency. I’ve seen it happen.
Our challenge — the mandate, no matter how secure your creative team — is to pre-empt this and other threats. Make a case for ourselves, and start changing perceptions and increasing our strategic importance before we hit a bump in the road. Remain constantly aware that we’re constantly competing for corporate resources, for our reputations, and for relevance.
Divide and Conquer
SWOT analysis makes this problem tractable, using a system of four quadrants. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats — all the internal and external factors that can help or hurt our success.
Despite its roots in Fortune 500 business planning, SWOT analysis has broad usefulness. It can help just about any existing product, team, or industry looking to devise better strategies and improve decision-making.
Strengths and weaknesses are things under our control — what we are uniquely good at doing, and where we could improve. Opportunities and threats are outside our control, and include finding opportunities to further our influence in the business as well as the things that could derail everything; we can only anticipate and react to them.
Weaknesses are not negatives. They are opportunities. When you look at your operational shortcomings, it’s to identify the biggest areas in need of improvement. Your team’s weaknesses can — and must — be flipped into future strengths. Continual improvement is an crucial to remain vital to your organization.
As an added bonus, it’s pretty easy.
Strengths: Specific things we are good at
- Competence and capabilities
- Knowledge of the business
- Existing resources
- Delivering great creative that advances the business interest
- Reputation for flexibility and partnership
- Meeting deadlines and budgets
Weaknesses: Specific things we need to improve
- Gap in skills and knowledge
- Staff motivation and involvement
- Leadership and management issues
- Reputation for disorganization, missing deadlines, stubborn
- Underfunded by organization
- Understaffed and unable to deliver what is required
- Don’t have the right digital tools
Opportunities: Specific things we can do, that we aren’t already
- Be more proactive in working with partners — help them plan ahead
- Innovate with new ways to develop creative
- Innovate with ideas for reaching business customers
- New product development (i.e. build a mobile app for customers)
- Take advantage of trends in social media
Threats: Specific changes in our environment that could hurt us
- Corporate takeover or reorganization
- Business fails to thrive in competitive marketplace
- Reduced work due to cancellation of a product or show, or loss of a client
- Budgets are cut
- Our role can be substituted and outsourced to agency, or overseas
- Our creative work fails to impress management
- Our creative work fails to attract or retain audience
Sample SWOT chart:
Download: Blank SWOT worksheet
SWOT analysis will start the thinking process for how your business unit (your team) might grow from a service to strategic role. It will help your team leaders to better understand your strategic potential by identifying your capabilities, your weaknesses, your biggest risks, and goals you can target, in order to make a bigger difference.
About the Killer Ops series:
How can creative teams increase their Value Proposition? How can they become better strategic partners in the organization? Following the entrepreneurial model of Product Development, creative teams – and organizations – can learn to think and act like a startup, to develop a framework for continuous innovation, improved operations, and greater success.