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Administration Building
SWOT Analysis Resource Page

ISU Fall 2006 SWOT Analysis – Academic Units

This fall, each department, college, and other academic units have been asked to prepare a SWOT analysis as the initial step in strategic planning, which will occur in spring 2007. The deans and unit directors will determine the procedures for their respective colleges/units, but it might make sense to do the department-level SWOT analysis first and use the results from the departments for the college SWOT analysis. Some departments and colleges may want to schedule time in the Decision Support Center to allow representatives from faculty, staff, and administration to brainstorm in a relatively “safe” environment.

All SWOT analyses are due in the Office of Academic Affairs by October 30th. The SWOT analyses from the colleges and academic units will be incorporated into the SWOT analysis developed within Academic Affairs. In the spring, strategic planning at all levels will build on the information developed from the SWOT analyses.

What is a SWOT Analysis?

A SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) is a strategic planning tool, useful for planning and decision-making at multiple levels within an institution, organization or business.

During the 1960s research conducted at the Stanford Research Institute by Robert Stewart, Albert Humphrey and coworkers eventually led to the development of the SWOT analysis tool. This research was funded by the Fortune 500 companies to address the issue of “why corporate planning in terms of long-range planning was not working, did not pay off, and was an expensive investment in futility,” and to develop a solution to this problem. Further development of SWOT analysis involved addressing the following issues in program planning:

  1. Product – what are we selling?
  2. Process – how are we selling it?
  3. Customer – to whom are we selling it?
  4. Distribution – how does the product reach the customer?
  5. Finance – what are the prices, costs and investments?
  6. Administration – how do we manage all this?

How to do a SWOT Analysis

The use of SWOT Analysis as a planning tool has been expanded beyond its initial use in business, and it is now commonly used as an initial step in the planning process by public agencies, academic institutions, and other organizations. A SWOT Analysis can be useful in marketing of new services and new programs, assessing the value of new projects and new ideas, and any other situation requiring a decision.

A SWOT Analysis looks at and defines the strengths and weaknesses of the internal environment of the organization or organizational unit, as well as the opportunities and threats within the environment external to the organization or organizational unit. The SWOT analysis tool is useful for delineating information important to making decisions about allocation of resources in the competitive environment that institutions and organizations operate within. A SWOT analysis is only one tool that can be useful in planning. Other factors need to be considered in creating a strategic plan (e.g., political, cultural, economic, structural aspects of the university, community, state, etc.).

SWOT Analysis Framework
Clearly describe WHAT the OBJECT of the SWOT Analysis is (e.g., end state, plan, project, program, unit, goal, action)
Internal Analysis: External Analysis:
Strengths (list) Opportunities (list)
Weaknesses (list) Threats (list)

Process in Developing a SWOT Analysis:

  1. Clearly define the objective of the analysis, the purpose of the analysis, the decision(s) that the information from the analysis will help you make.
  2. The object of the analysis can be a new product, a program you want to offer, a service you want to develop, a research project idea, a plan for allocation of scarce resources, an aspirational goal for your unit, any desired end state.
  3. For ISU this fall, these SWOT analyses will form the basis for each unit’s strategic planning.

  4. The four aspects of the SWOT analysis have been defined in a number of ways, but for our purposes the following explanations seem useful:
    • Strengths – attributes of the unit/department/college/university that likely will be helpful to and have a positive effect on the achievement of the desired end state (the object of the analyses as defined above). Strategies to capitalize on these strengths can be developed.
    • Weaknesses – attributes of the unit/department/college/university that likely will have a negative effect on achievement of the desired end state. Strategies to minimize the effects of these weaknesses can be developed.
    • Opportunities – conditions external to the unit/department/college/university that likely will have a positive effect on achievement of the desired end state. Strategies to exploit these opportunities can then be identified.
    • Threats – conditions external to the unit/department/college/university that likely will have a negative effect on achievement of the desired end state. Strategies to defend against these threats can be identified.

Likely many of us have seen or used slightly different definitions of SWOT analysis, and there are also many templates for reporting the information in a SWOT analysis. You are encouraged to look and several of the links at the end of this page for examples of SWOT analyses done by other academic institutions. You will note quite a bit of variability in depth and coverage, as well as format of these analyses. Likely the same will be true of ISU’s department, college, and other academic unit SWOT analyses.

If you would like to read more about SWOT analysis, you can click on one of the links below:
Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SWOT_Analysis
QuickMBA http://www.quickmba.com/strategy/swot/
Businessballs http://www.businessballs.com/swotanalysisfreetemplate.htm

Links to examples of SWOT analyses from a sample of academic institutions are listed below. These are links found on the internet and they may be good, so-so, or poor examples. They do, however, illustrate the various ways institutions have done their analysis.

Institutional SWOT examples:

Montana State University

University of Illinois Springfield SWOT

CSU Fullerton SWOT

Iowa State University's SWOT

University of Houston-Victoria

Ball State SWOT

Smaller Unit Level SWOT examples

Business Texas AMU Texarkana

College of Education Texas A&M Corpus Christi

Arts and Sciences SWOT Saint Lewis University

Department of Biology Old Dominion