SWOT Alternative: SCOPE Situational Analysis

For generations in marketing and business we’ve used the SWOT Analysis to evaluate a company's, unit's or brand's position, and consequently as a starting point to devise future strategy. It has served us well since its inception in the 1960s with its simplicity, functionality and intuitiveness; remaining unchanged and unequivocal for over 50 years. It provides a useful tool for segmenting internal and external factors into positives and negatives, yet in doing so it can be limiting in its scope to introduce wider factors which could and should come into play when developing our plans. Most executives merely use the SWOT Analysis as a method of grouping factors into the four buckets, with limited consideration for aligning internal Strengths to specific external Opportunities, or to understand Weaknesses with regards to mitigating Threats. In this respect, the SWOT doesn’t provide a progression in its strategic development.

I’d therefore like to put forward a new model as an alternative to SWOT Analysis, the SCOPE Situational Analysis tool. The premise behind SCOPE is to offer a situational analysis that takes a more 360 degree view; encompassing past, current and future perspectives as follows:

S – SITUATION: Rear-view - pertaining conditions that have a relevant and material impact on planning decisions with regards to internal or external environmental factors.

C – CORE COMPETENCIES: Unique abilities or assets of the business that provide the basis for the provision and realisation of value to customers, and are critical to the creation of competitive advantage.

O – OBSTACLES: Potential issues or threats that could jeopardise the realisation of the Core Competencies and thereby impinge on future Prospects.

P – PROSPECTS: Opportunities that exist internally or externally to the business which can enhance sales and / or profits, created through leveraging its Core Competencies and overcoming Obstacles.

E – EXPECTATIONS: Future-view - predictions of future internal and external conditions that are likely to materially influence, positively or negatively, the delivery of plans to meet the identified Prospects.

SWOT Analysis Alternative

SCOPE retains many similarities to SWOT, yet allows extra freedom to present additional information and considerations pertinent to the planning process.

The Situation provides an outline and understanding of the prevailing conditions upon which the strategic plan is to be developed. It should consider both internal and external factors which have led the business to its current position, and which have a bearing on the identification of future opportunities, trends and plans.

Core Competencies are specific factors that a business sees as being central to the way it operates which fulfil 3 key criteria:1. Are not easy for competitors to imitate, i.e. are unique2. Can be leveraged across products and markets3. Contribute to the end customer’s experienced benefits, i.e. add valueIn these respects, Core Competencies provide the fundamental basis for the business achieving a competitive advantage in its defined market given the pertaining conditions.

Obstacles may be either internal or external, and reflect specific issues that need to be addressed if the business is to deliver on its Core Competencies. In this respect, they shouldn’t necessarily be defined as either a “Weakness” or “Threat” but rather be perceived as hurdles to the plan to be overcome over the duration. “Weaknesses” imply longer-term systemic issues causing a strategic disadvantage. Obstacles are shorter-term situations that need to be resolved.

Prospects are chances for the business to create additional sales and / or profits by taking advantage of its Core Competencies in the context of its Situation. Identification of Prospects provides the foundation for both goal setting and strategic development going forward.

Expectations reflect anticipated developments, i.e. what does the planner see happening in the future that could have either a direct or indirect influence on the execution of the plan and achievement of the defined Prospects. What are the key predictions that will have a bearing on the plan? These can be both quantifiable and subjective, providing the planner with an appreciation of, and insights into, the future on which to direct their strategic thinking.

SCOPE provides an alternative way of categorising the factors upon which strategic development can take place. It enables us to structure our analysis and thinking in order to develop strategies and plans in a naturally progressive fashion.