Business Analyst interview question: How do you conduct a SWOT analysis?
The “SWOT” in a SWOT analysis stands for “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.” It is a business analysis technique that takes a holistic view at a business problem. That problem might be a process, an application or system, a business solution, or anything else the business uses or relies upon.
Whatever the problem is, the business probably wants to change it somehow. This requires a Business Analyst to assess the best way to do that at a strategic level. When you make such a change, it’s important to understand the influences being exerted upon the problem in question, as well as the influence that the problem itself asserts externally.
The SWOT analysis is ideally suited to this purpose. A SWOT analysis can help identify issues the business needs to address. It could also identify options for addressing the business problem. Either way, the analysis can help identify impediments and barriers so as to devise a plan against them.
What are Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats in a SWOT analysis?
A strength is anything about the problem being evaluated that works well. It may also be anything that confers a key advantage. Strengths may be something that the business wants to keep in a future solution.
A weakness is anything about the problem being evaluated that does not work well, or which provides some sort of disadvantage to the business. Weaknesses are usually things the business wants to get rid of.
An opportunity is any external fact that has the potential to provide an advantage if properly utilized. For example, market conditions might be ripe for the change the business wants to make. Or new technology might recently have become available that could enable the business to do new things.
A threat is the opposite of an opportunity. It is any external fact that has the potential to damage the business if not addressed. A cyber attack is an obvious kind of threat. But threats can also come from the marketplace, changing customer preferences, economic conditions, or some other source.
Once you identify each part of the SWOT analysis, you can put it in a 2-dimensional matrix with strengths and weaknesses on one axis and opportunities and threats on the other axis. Strengths may cause, increase, or interact with opportunities or threats–and so can weaknesses. For example, at the junction of strength and opportunity you might list strategies for leveraging the strengths to take full advantage of the opportunities. The same goes for the other combinations.
The analysis is done when you identify a strategy for each combination of strength/weakness with opportunity/threat.
How do you actually conduct a SWOT analysis?
While a Business Analyst could just fill in the matrix herself, it’s much better for him to get as much stakeholder engagement as possible. Often this is done by having a “workshop” where all of the impacted stakeholders get together to share information. These workshops yield very good results because you get people talking with one another in a way they might not otherwise. The participants fill out the matrix by consensus.
The Business Analyst can lead the meeting. She can use a projector to show the matrix as she fills it out on the computer, or she could use something as basic as a whiteboard to capture everyone’s thoughts.
What are the limitations of a SWOT analysis?
A SWOT analysis is great for providing a high level strategic analysis and overview of the problem. You need that perspective to guide you to the specifics of a solution. However, the SWOT matrix does not provide the more detailed analysis that will be required in solution requirements and design. The Business Analyst would need to take what she learned from the SWOT analysis and then dive deeper into the details in future activities.
How would you answer a Business Analyst interview question about how to conduct a SWOT analysis? Leave your thoughts in the comments!