I have learned from my good teachers that SWOT analysis is useful. It doesn’t take too many reasons to prove that. It seems useful, actually. What I found in practice was that no one stops doing a SWOT and no one uses it. Why? In practice, I have never seen a project where SWOT was referenced in any way during argumentation or justification. Its only purpose seems to be ornamental. People do it because and only because it looks good. However, I believe that this classic strategic tool deserves a little more attention from professionals.
Now think about chess, the ultimate strategic game. When two chess masters face each other, it is assumed that each one knows the tactics. The whole game depends on the strategy, and all the strategy that a chess player needs to know is in the SWOT. In each position there are strong and weak fields that reveal opportunities and threats.
Most projects aren’t as complicated as a game of chess, so the question is if SWOT is so essential to a chess master, why don’t project managers actually use it? The difference is that while projects use SWOT only in the scoping and planning phases, the chess master NEVER MAKES A MOVE without analyzing the position from strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats perspectives.
The lesson is simple but valuable. In practice, the SWOT analysis can prove to be much more efficient in the development phases of projects. When a project is started, it does not give more than some indications about planning. But over the course of the project, when things so often get messy, SWOT can provide real clues to action.