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SWOT methodology: a state-of-the-art review for the past, a framework for the future/SSGG metodologija: praeities ir ateities analize?

1. Introduction

Among many fads and fashions emerging constantly in strategic management field, during the recent decades, the SWOT framework has enjoyed outstanding popularity among both researchers and practitioners. This tool includes environmental analysis (the process of scanning the business environment for threats and opportunities) and the organizational analysis (the process of analyzing a firm's strengths and weaknesses) (Fig. 1).

SWOT analysis is a widely used tool for analyzing internal and external environments in order to attain a systematic approach and support for decision situations.

The impressive ability of SWOT is the matching of specific internal and external factors, which provides a strategic matrix that makes sense. It is essential to note that the internal factors are within the control of the organization, for instance, finance, operations, marketing, and other areas. On the other hand, the external factors are out of the organization>s control, such as the economic and political factors, new technologies, and its competition. The SWOT matrix consists of four combinations which are called the maxi-maxi (strengths / opportunities), maxi-mini (strengths/ threats), mini-maxi (weaknesses/opportunities), and mini-mini (weaknesses/threats) (Weihrich 1982).

Although the SWOT analysis dates back to 50's and 60's (1), Weihrich (1982) that introduced SWOT matrix as a tool for situation analysis, can be regarded as the most important reference in this field that has provided some classic examples.

After that time, SWOT has been pointed in most of the references of strategic planning. Although this analysis seems out of date in comparison with recent approaches such as resource-based planning and competency-based planning Dyson (2004) pointing out the relation between SWOT and two above approaches could show that SWOT is such a flexible framework which can combine with newer methods to offer novel methods. Although strategic planning has a lot of instruments and many approaches, thousands of researches and hundreds of papers have utilized SWOT in recent years. So we will review those papers in section 2.

Papers of SWOT applications in different industries will be mentioned in section 3. Also the numerous papers that have mentioned the SWOT weaknesses and shortages and combining other instruments and techniques, have tried to modify its methodology will be described in section 4. Integrating SWOT with other methods is reviewed in section5. Finally, concluding remarks on SWOT trends, methodology and applications in published papers will be presented in section 6.

The aim of this paper is reviewing the literature of SWOT to answer questions such as: "what research methods are most commonly used?", "what topics and areas are treated most often in the SWOT field?", "what is the scope of these studies?" and "which journals or countries stand out with highest number of papers using this technique?". Such questions have already been raised with the objective: "to improve our knowledge in this field".

It is hoped that this paper could serve the needs of interested readers for references of SWOT studies and applications, and hence promote the future development of SWOT.

2. Review of published SWOT papers

2.1. Data collection

We decided to focus our study on papers published in refereed journals, not therefore including sources such as books or papers presented at conferences. This was based on the belief that academics and practitioners usually prefer using journals to acquire and disseminate novel knowledge. Other resources, such as books, are generally confined to the dissemination of previously established knowledge.

Therefore the papers were checked that there was, SWOT' or, TOWS' acronym in title, abstract or keywords of them.

To conduct this literature review, databases have been searched and papers that have been published in indexed journals, up to the end of 2009, were recognized. These databases are:

--Web of Knowledge

--Science direct



--Oxford University Press






--IOS Press

--Beech tree publishing

--Project Muse

--Group Dynamic

--Emerald insight

In total, 557 papers on SWOT were found in related databases, which have been evaluated in this literature review, however total number of papers seemed to be more than 557 cases, due to the papers had been found on more than one databases.

2.2. Trends & Classifications in SWOT papers

Based on our survey, papers on SWOT have been published for 28 years, the earliest dates back to 1982. No paper on SWOT was published between 1982, when the earliest paper was released, and 1987.

SWOT analysis is not considered very long lasting method. Actually it did not use to be common so much before 1993, but the number of its publications has soared from 2000 and the largest number of papers (72) was published in 2008 as was shown in Table 1.

In order to better analyze the growth, we divided the period under study into six categories. Each category shows the number of published papers every five years until 2009 as can be seen in Fig. 2. The growth in the number of papers in recent years shows that interest in SWOT analysis is increasing among researchers. It can be observed in Table 1 that 54% of whole papers on SWOT were published in 2005-2009 as was shown in Fig. 2.

Among 425 papers which their origins are recognized, about forty five percent (45%) of whole SWOT papers were provided by three countries: UK, USA, and India (2). Top ten ranked countries in providing SWOT papers were shown in Table 2.

'Marketing Intelligence & Planning' and "Health Policy" are the journals which have published the highest number of SWOT papers (9 papers). 'Long Range Planning' occupies the third rank with 6 papers (Table 3).

Application variety of SWOT caused to publish 557 papers in 424 journals!

Table 4 ranks authors in order of the number of their papers. Also, the number of papers on which the author was the first among collaborators is seen as well in this table. If two authors had an equal rank, then the number of papers on which their name appeared first was compared. We should appreciate Weihrich, who was the initiator of the method.

To assess SWOT papers based on citation frequency, we presented top 10 papers based on their citation counts (3). These papers have been cited 24 or more times in data banks (Table 5). The largest number of citation of a paper (114) is belonged to Jackson et al. (2003). Also Rizzo and Kim paper (2005) and Weihrich (1982), with 67 and 64 times of citation, occupied second and third rank.

2.3. Approaches in SWOT studies

The contents of SWOT papers could be divided into methodological, case study and applied-methodological papers:

--Methodological papers provide a new idea on SWOT structure and its concept.

--Case study papers guide the practice, offer the recommendations for action and explain the stages to be fulfilled.

--Applied-methodological papers are mixture of methodological and case study approaches, on the other hand, these papers have modified or changed the SWOT method, so that they can provide an adaptive method and adjust SWOT to their own problem.

--Major part of SWOT studies (91%) are case study in different areas and industries. Meanwhile only 5% of whole papers are allocated to methodological category and 4% of them is allocated to applied-methodological (Table 6 and Fig. 3).

3. Application areas and scopes of SWOT papers

A review of most frequent areas and scopes which SWOT has been applied in case studies or applied-methodological papers is presented in Table 7. The main problem in making of this review is that there is no classification on SWOT applications in previous papers. Therefore we have classified them based on our reading of the papers.

According to Table 7, some of the most common fields of SWOT applications (according to Table 7) are reviewed in below:

3.1. Agriculture

It is a bit surprising that the fields which SWOT is used the most, is agriculture and its sidelong fields--while business fields and industries may be more expected to be involved in strategy formulation and implementation process.

The first work in this field is a paper by Faesel and Hill (1995), though using SWOT in agriculture prevailed almost since 2002 and many papers published since then. An interesting point is that these papers are mostly belonging to developing countries (particularly India) and them often assessing agriculture condition in a specific geographic region rather than strategic positioning of a special organization. For example, Wah and Merican (2009) released a paper which can be mentioned here.

3.2. Health& health care

Regarding to the big amount of journals in health field, it is not surprising that the number of papers in this field is big as well, so one of the first applied SWOT papers (Lanzotti 1991) is related to this field. The number of papers published in this field has reached its peak within 2002 and 2003 but it has decreased in recent years.

In addition, the most common usage of SWOT in health field is related to strategy formulation of research and treatment centers. A paper by Lane et al. (2008) can be mentioned as an example.

3.3. Tourism

Using SWOT in tourism field has started later than other fields; and the first article is Ravindranath (1997). But this trend has been ascending so it has increased every year so the biggest number has published in 2009.

The most of articles in this field assess tourism potentials in a particular geographic area or a special city (mostly in developing countries) and several papers have published assessing tourism in provinces of China, as an example a paper by Gu ShiCheng et al. (2009) can be mentioned.

3.4. General management of companies

Initial and predictable application of SWOT has been in the field of companies management and strategy formulation for them in corporate level or one of its functions (of course, SWOT application in marketing will be separately described in the next section). After the advent of SWOT, the published papers within the first years focused on strategy formulation for companies. Even the first one which was Weihrich's work, (1982) presented a real example for Volkswagen Company. In addition, the most cited SWOT article (Jackson et al. 2003) belongs to this field.

3.5. Marketing& market planning

Since the main application of strategy planning has been in marketing, not surprisingly there are lots of articles in this field. The first two (Giles 1989) (Piercy, Giles 1989) have been published in Marketing Intelligence & Planning. As another example, Novicevic et al. (2004) can be mentioned.

3.6. Environment

The first article in this field is belonging to Glasson (1999) and no paper published up to 2002. Then, the significant number of papers, published in this field mainly resulted from papers which have been published in recent 3-4 years.

An interesting point here is most of the papers of environment field have conducted in national level, for instance Ghazinoory and Huisingh (2006). In addition Lozano and Valles (2007) article is one of the good ones.

3.7. The rest

10 percent of whole categorized papers belong to "the rest" category including Newsprint, service, banking, hydraulic power generation, NIS, program development, legislation, gaming, foreign policy, economic policy, national economic and etc. As it is seen, many of these subjects are in macro level and topics such as policy making (for example, Sharma et al. 2009), macroeconomics (for example, Diskiene et al. 2008) and national innovation system (for example, Ghazinoury and Ghazinoori 2006) have been conducted.

The number of these kinds of papers is increasing constantly; it means that in many new fields, SWOT, as an analytical tool is being used.

3.8. Levels of SWOT applications

SWOT is generally used for policy making, decision making and strategy making (or planning). In the review of SWOT papers, we identified that SWOT analysis has been used in three levels: corporate, national and regional planning. 33% of case study and applied-methodological papers were about national planning. 3% were about regional planning, and 64% were in corporate level (Fig. 4).

4. Methodological development of SWOT

As SWOT framework does not have a strictly defined structure, sometimes it becomes an art more than a science, which makes it difficult for practitioners to use SWOT and extract strategies of it. However, there have recently appeared many methodological works on SWOT to make it more rigorous and operational. Most of these researchers have pointed to SWOT difficulties and then proposed some solutions to modify its shortcomings. These works are briefly summarized below for practitioners to understand and to apply SWOT in a more objective and precise way.

Weihrich (1982) introduced SWOT and pointed to two difficulties in applying this method:

--Time dimension in SWOT matrix;

--Complexity of Interactions of Situational Factors.

He proposed preparing several SWOT Matrixes at different points of time to solve the first and using interaction matrix to solve the second (Fig. 5). None of them unfortunately was noticed in practice.

After 1982 for many years, no methodological modification in SWOT happened, Even Hill and Westbrook (1997) said:

"It may be time to relinquish our fondness for SWOT analysis which seems now to have passed its sell-by date, because of fundamental concerns about the intrinsic nature of SWOT analysis such as:

--The length of the factors lists;

--No requirement to prioritize or weight the factors identified;

--Unclear and ambiguous words and phrases;

--No resolution of conflicts;

--No obligation to verify statements and opinions with data or analyses;

--Single level of analysis is all that is required;

--No logical link with an implementation phase".

Also Pickton and Wright (1998) introduced the SWOT limitations (Fig. 6).

Subsequent papers gradually in addition to pointing out SWOT limitations, proposed the solutions to modify it:

Beeho and Prentice (1997) said that the major attractions of SWOT analysis are: first, it is familiar and, second, it is,user friendly', as it does not require the need for complex information or computer systems. Indeed, SWOT analysis offers a simple structured approach to identifying a company's strengths and weaknesses and comparing these to opportunities and threats faced by the organization due to its environment. But it has some of shortcomings, for example:

--SWOT analysis is global to a product (or attraction in this case) and can be unfocused;

--Owing to its simplistic nature and ease of use, the technique has been used in a slack manner and is susceptible to subjectivity and bias from managers who can present an unrealistic appraisal of company attributes.

To refinement of it, a new type of analysis has been proposed, ASEB (activities, settings, experiences, benefits) grid analysis.

Ramos et al. (2000) solving the problem of non-weighting factors in SWOT used a model which supersedes the opportunities and threats of SWOT by the key issues in the environment when comparing their impact on the identified strengths and weaknesses. This SWOT model scrutinizes the main strengths and weaknesses against each key issue in the environment. A score of "+" (or a weighted "++") is proposed when there is a benefit to the organization such as a strength that allows the sector to take advantage of or to counteract a problem arising from a key environmental change or when a weakness would be offset by the environmental change. A minus (or a double minus) is marked when there is an opposed effect on the organization, when strength would be reduced by the environmental change or a weakness would prevent the sector from overcoming the problems associated with or accentuated by an environmental change.

Hussey (2002) faced several flaws in SWOT exercises. For example:

--It is much harder for managers to identify strengths than things that they see as wrong with the organization.

--The insight of many managers is operational rather than strategic and consequently much of what ends up being listed is not particularly useful.

--It is a mistake to assume that managers always have the information and knowledge that enables them to perceive a strategic strength or weakness.

--It is too easy for something positive to be perceived as better than it is.

--The power and influence of managers involved in a SWOT process is not equal.

--Some managers describe an effect as a weakness and do not get to the causes.

He thinks: "SWOT can't ever become really useful unless it is related to a more careful analytical underpinning".

So in the next section, we will mention some exercises in this area.

5. Integrating SWOT with other methods

For improving the effectiveness of SWOT, many researchers have integrated it with other methods (especially analytical and quantitative methods).

Rudder and Louw (1998) proposed the SPACE matrix as a basis for SWOT analysis this matrix determining the organization's strategic posture in the industry makes use of two internal dimensions (financial strength and competitive advantage) and two external dimensions (industry strength and environmental stability). The firm's strategic posture is then classifies broadly as: aggressive, competitive, conservative or defensive. Also, Valentin (2005) introduced Defensive/Offensive Evaluation (DOE) as an effective alternative to SWOT analysis.

Houben et al. (1999) believed that "many companies often only have vague ideas of their competitive strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats". Then they used expert systems for developing a knowledge-based system that can assist managers of small and medium sized companies in performing a SWOT analysis.

Proctor (2000) suggested that executives can possess a powerful tool for generating sustainable strategies and specifying objectives, by combination the three techniques of cross-impact analysis, the TOWS matrix and brainstorming,

One of the most important researches to complete SWOT is the papers that have been presented by a Finnish team. They used Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) at least in 7 papers and combined it with SWOT to innovate a hybrid method4: AWOT. Kurttila et al. (2000) believe that when using SWOT, the analysis lacks the possibility of comprehensively appraising the strategic decision-making situation; merely pinpointing the number of factors in strength, weakness, opportunity or threat groups does not pinpoint the most significant group. In addition, SWOT includes no means of analytically determining the importance of factors or of assessing the fit between SWOT factors and decision alternatives.

For solving these problems, they proposed a hybrid method (AWOT) with following steps:

--Step 1. SWOT analysis is carried out;

--Step 2. Pairwise comparisons between SWOT factors are carried out within every SWOT group;

--Step 3. Pairwise comparisons are made between the four SWOT groups;

--Step 4. The results are utilized in the strategy formulation and evaluation process.

These researchers have utilized this algorithm with some changes for a forest-certification case (Kurttila et al. 2000), for a multinomial logit model analysis in forest management decisions of private forest owners (Kurttila et al. 2001), assessing the priorities among resource management strategies at the Finnish Forest and Park Service (Pesonen et al. 2001), evaluating the management strategies of a forestland estate (Kangas et al. 2003), using of value focused thinking in tourism management (Kajanus et al. 2004) and adapting modern strategic decision support tools in the participatory strategy process in a forest research station (Leskinen et al. 2006). They have used combination of SWOT with another techniques such as statistical analysis, value focused thinking and Multiple Criteria Decision Support (MCDS) methods.

Applying the combination of SWOT and AHP in forest industry is not confined to Finnish researchers but Shrestha et al. (2004) have used this method for exploring the potential for Silvopasture adoption.

Using structured methods of Multiple-Attribute Decision Making (MADM) especially AHP to quantify SWOT has been continued by Chang and Huang (2006) (Fig. 7). Also a review of integrated analytic hierarchy process and its applications with SWOT has been done by Ho (2008).


Using Analytic Network Process (ANP) instead of AHP in a hybrid method was the latest contribution to this area (Feglar et al. 2006; Ytiksel, Dagdeviren 2007). In addition, Zaerpour et al. (2008) have integrated Fuzzy AHP and SWOT method. So these modeling became more realistic and at the same time they got more complicated. Let's remember that the core of strategic management (linking technique to worldview) is modeling, and SWOT is a tool for simplification of complex elements of strategic thinking (Grandy, Mills 2004).

Using balanced scorecard and quality function deployment (QFD) to combine with SWOT is one of the methods considered in recent years. This algorithm that called BSQ (A hybrid of balanced scorecard, SWOT analysis and quality function deployment) with a little difference has been used by Hong Kong researchers (Lee, Ko 2000; Ko, Lee 2000; Ip, Koo 2004). Two main stages of development within the proposed systematic and holistic strategic management system are depicted in this method. The first stage is conjoining the SWOT analysis with the BSC. The SWOT is accomplished to develop the key performance indicators (KPI) with the four main perspectives of the balanced scorecard (Financial goals, Customer perspective, internal processes, Learning and growth). The second stage is to make use of the QFD methodology with the BSC>s KPIs identified as the "Whats" and the major strategies of Sun Tzu>s philosophies as the "hows" within QFD. This system is customizable for both profit and non-profit organizations to develop holistic organizational strategic plans (Ko, Lee 2000).

There is an interesting point in that procedure: SWOT is a strategy planning exercise, so it is not the kind of thing one does every month or quarter. But BSC is a method designed for use in ongoing management, and therefore it provides an opportunity for routine use at regular intervals. Then, SWOT and BSC need the different periods of time in planning process. For solving this paradox, Ko and Lee (2000) mentioned: "Despite the fact that there are four perspectives (financial, customer, internal processes, and learning and growth) as the key elements of organizational strategies that must be measured, the BSC remains a means of effectively measuring strategy rather than a means of deciding strategy". This is the main reason that Ko and Lee (2000) feel that "the SWOT analysis serves as a great "stepping stone" to build the key performance indicators (KPI) of the BSC". In the other words, The SWOT matrix precisely identifies the critical success factors which can be implemented into the identification of the different aspects toward the balanced scorecard.

Also Ishino and Kijima (2005) have used soft systems methodology (SSM) instead of QFD to combine with SWOT and BSC. They have described a systems-based methodology called soft systems methodology for strategy communication (SSM-SC). SSM-SC employs SSM as well as SWOT and BSC maps for integrating thoughts and languages of the participants (Fig. 8). As can be seen in that Fig. 8, SWOT analysis and the BSC maps are served as two strategy communication formats, but there is a gap between the findings of the SWOT analysis and the BSC maps and there is no mechanism for synthesizing the two in that paper. This point shows the difference between two mentioned papers (Ko, Lee 2000; Ishino, Kijima 2005) in integrating SWOT and BSC.


But in the last 4-5 years, several radical transitions in approaching on SWOT have been occurred that each one can be regarded as a radical innovation:

--Following Curry (1996) discussed knowledge-based modeling for strategic decisions, Marti (2004) introduced an extended SWOT analysis (Fig. 9) which takes into consideration the two main streams of modern strategic thought: the resource-based view and the activity-based view. This new approach used for a strategic knowledge benchmarking system (SKBC) that is a knowledge-based strategic information system framework.In addition, Dyson (2004) said: The application links SWOT analysis to resource-based planning illustrates it as an iterative rather than a linear process and embeds it within the overall planning process.

--A paper by Coman and Ronen (2009) is the most recent work in this field. That paper claims to present a straightforward methodology for making a structured analysis of strengths and weaknesses, which is done based on an analysis of important value-creating events and the strengths and weaknesses that caused these events. This focused SWOT methodology, using the core-competence tree and the current-reality tree, distils the strengths and weaknesses into core competences and core problems. These core competences and core problems are then linked into a plan of action aimed at preserving and leveraging the organization's core competences, while defending against exposure to core problems.

--Novicevic et al. (2004) argue: despite the wide and enduring popularity of SWOT, it has remained a theoretical framework with limited prescriptive power for practice and minor significance for research which makes both practitioners and researchers disappointed because from Novicevic et al.'s point of view "although SWOT generates interesting questions, it provides little guidance to managers". They also argue that the functional overemphasis on SWOT "as a matching tool" has eclipsed other useful aspects of the SWOT framework and the focus of the standard SWOT framework on back-end planning has diverted attention from adding new dimensions of front-end intelligence. As they say planning requires primarily objective decision making, whereas intelligence requires primarily subjective judgments, so they conclude that practitioners and researchers need some formal template to deal with logical inconsistencies in the process of matching the four SWOT components. SWOT components need to be appropriately configured for the development of this template. This paper adopts a cognitive approach of integrating marketing and intelligence views into a new "dual-perspective" SWOT framework. It tries to recognize the difference in the underlying nature of planning and intelligence perspectives so that it can reconfigure the traditional SWOT into the dual-perspective form. The objective nature of the planning perspective calls for the situation analysis in terms of controllable and uncontrollable attributes (Fig. 10).

--Panagiotou and Wijnen (2005) believe that the SWOT's seductive simplicity leads people to use it carelessly also this analysis does not provide a sufficient context for adequate strategy optimization. they claim this sloppiness combined with structural simplicity create the fundamental failures of the SWOT analysis as a tool which only produces short lists of non-prioritized and generalized bullet points. Then they propose a composite "telescopic observations strategic framework" that is built step-bystep by integrating available conceptual frameworks and models in new relationships. In that framework, all macro-environmental factors that may affect an organization have been included in the form of an extended political-economic-social-technological analysis. The extra letters in PESTILE stand for International, to reflect competitive challenges in global markets, Legal and regulatory, and Environmental and ecological. The variables of industry analysis, cost structures, and portfolio analysis have also been included. Equally, the industry's key factors for success and the company's core resources, skills, competencies and capabilities are also present. Cooperative undertakings such as alliances, partnerships, networks and joint ventures have also been included, since they have the potential to change the competitive landscape of an organization. The user's attention is further directed to total quality management (TQM) issues, organizational cultural aspects, structural considerations, value systems needs and e-commerce considerations.

--In the last step, Ghazinoory et al. (2007) introduced a new point: SWOT usually reflects a person's existing position and viewpoint, which can be misused to justify a previously decided course of action rather than used as a means to open up new possibilities. It is important to note that sometimes threats can also be viewed as opportunities, depending on the people or groups involved (Morris 2005). There is a saying, "A pessimist is a person who sees a calamity in an opportunity, and an optimist is one who sees an opportunity in a calamity". Therefore in such ambiguous cases (Emblemsvag, Kjolstad 2002) the use of fuzzy sets is justified to be applied. In fact a factor with certain membership value belongs to one of the categories. For example economic flourishing is an opportunity with 0.7 as membership value and it is a threat with membership value 0.3. Then they proposed an algorithm for rectifying the shortcomings and problems of the SWOT matrix through the use of fuzzy sets. The steps taken for this algorithm are as follows:

--Scaling the factors;

--Aggregation of membership functions of internal and external factors;

--Evaluation, prioritization and extracting strategies.



In that algorithm, by quantifying the factors through the definition of fuzzy membership functions, evaluation of the factors and strategies is made possible and both qualitative and quantitative aspects of the factors are considered. The major approach of the presented algorithm was that in most cases the internal and external factors can't be fully recognized as positive or negative, because their impact on the organization could be observed within a wide spread which may include both positive and negative effects. On the other hand, the aggregation of internal and external factors which leads to extract a strategy in a usual matrix would depend on the intensity and influence of the factors in this algorithm. Hence, these fuzzy membership functions and the extracted strategies can be well prioritized and it may be possible to concentrate upon strategies with higher priority in implementation stage.

An applied example of implementation of this approach is seen in Kheirkhah et al. (2009).

6. Conclusion remarks

6.1. Remarks on trends in publishing SWOT papers

The diversity of SWOT scopes is an interesting issue (Table 7). In fact, SWOT analysis has already been used in most of sectors at least in one case. Also none of the planning tools has been generalized to this extent. If someone wants to compare planning and mathematic knowledge, he can consider SWOT as four basic arithmetic operations (i.e. addition, subtraction, multiplication and division). However it is interesting that the number of SWOT papers on "health"" and "medicine" sectors is considerable.

The same diversity is observed in scientific journals. For example 557 papers from 424 journals have been published from different disciplines. These papers are not limited to management field, SWOT papers are found in different databases including papers on various fields of science

The review of the papers shows that the authors are from different disciplines and a lot of papers have two or more authors. Therefore team working and interdisciplinary collaboration in SWOT papers is prevalent.

It is noticeable that the number of UK papers is the same as USA papers (Table 2). Also another interesting point is about India which occupies the third place. A search in Google trends ( shows an interesting point: the most of the search was done by Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. So we can conclude that the number of submitted SWOT papers from these countries will increase rapidly in the near future.

The limited number of authors who have more than one paper (Table 4) indicates that the specific research scope is not limited to a few authors.

The position of Weihrich, H. as the pioneer of SWOT concept within other authors is notable (Table 5), because we still see that a lot of passages are cited from his paper (Weihrich 1982) by other authors. In addition, team working of Finnish (Kangas, Kurttila, Kajanus, Pesonen, etc.) and Jackson and his colleagues is remarkable.

The quick and exponential growth of SWOT papers in recent years implies the idea that "SWOT does not need to be recalled"!

Most of the reviewed papers used SWOT in a case study and/or some of them developed its methodology (Fig. 3). The papers personalized the methodology of SWOT based on a special case is only 4%. So, more work should be done in this area.

6.2. Some remarks on SWOT methodology

SWOT concerns can be divided into two categories:

--The first category deals with problems in implementation of SWOT within organization. These concerns can be solved only by organizing and training the panel of SWOT effectively. Unfortunately only a few papers have paid attention to this area in order to solve these flaws and it should get more attention than before.

--The second category deals with scientific concerns which we discussed in details in section 4. Some of the trends in this area are:

1--Integration of SWOT with other scientific techniques specially decision making and quantifying techniques;

2--Making intelligent SWOT by using corresponding techniques (which is more ingenious and it is a more recent trend);

3--Time dynamism of SWOT needs more attention and usually gets neglected by most of the authors. The most important question about this trend is, how can today's management extract tomorrow strategies based on S, W, O and T factors of yesterday?'. Although Weihrich's paper in 1982 mentioned this problem and proposed its solution but fellow researchers did not put any further effort to this issue;

--It is clear that a lot of SWOT flaws have been rectified by researches conducted so far, but those researchers overlooked the most important advantage of SWOT: simplicity!

--It is obvious that integrating the empirical and mathematical techniques within SWOT to fixing its flaws or malfunction makes its application complex. This is a key issue when researchers use SWOT technique.

6.3. General remarks

It is clear that the use of SWOT in papers and planning researches will be continued in coming years. This argument is based on reviewing the trend of papers have been published so far and its continuation and reviewing the trend of SWOT evolution. However this conclusion is based on the main advantage of SWOT approach in strategic planning:

Basically, SWOT is a logical approach on which every organization should assess its external and internal environments to adopt its strategy. On the other hand SWOT is located between the scenario planning and resource base approaches.

Based on the above, we predict that the application and methodology of SWOT will be developed in coming years, and therefore much research will be done in this area.

6.4. Prerequisites for effective application of SWOT

In this stage, there is a question: What are the conditions under which a SWOT analysis can create maximum value?

For answering this question, we can consider two general problems of SWOT in the opinion of the most important criticizers of it (Hill, Westbrook 1997):

1--SWOT was developed in an era of stable markets, however the major of today's markets have a dramatically dynamic nature of demand and the increasing proliferation of segments. Of course, in our opinion, it's not always a correct rule.

2--"Much of SWOT usage rarely amounts to much more than a poorly structured, very general, hastily conducted exercise that produces unverified, vague and inconsistent inventories of factors regarded by the proposing individuals as most important components of their organization's strategic situation". It is clear that imprecise or vague reference in such an analysis to factors external and internal to an organization will always detrimentally affect communication and verification of proposed factors and thus lead to inferior outcomes of strategic analysis. It appears that this common flaw in SWOT analysis is caused mainly by misconceived SWOT deployment, insufficient levels of skills and diligence, and strategic information gaps, no by the nature of SWOT!


For solving these problems, we suggest a model for the conditions which a SWOT analysis can have maximum effectiveness under them (Fig. 11).

6.5. Two suggestions and one challenge on future researches (5)

In many cases, extracted strategies are not limited to ST, WT, SO and WO and the strategies could be extracted from triple factors: WTO, SOW, etc. So we propose creating a joint area between SO, ST, WO and WT cells and considering the integrative strategies in this area.

In most of the strategic planning models, the objectives are determined before SWOT analysis. Therefore the strategies should be extracted to reach the objectives. In this regard, we suggest considering objectives in an appropriate place in SWOT matrix (Fig. 12).

According to above figure, a key question comes to mind: whether the strategies have to be extracted based on the determined objectives, and then their validity gets evaluated in comparison with S, O, W and T factors?

Or if the strategies have to be extracted based on four factors and then their conformity should be assessed by the objectives? What can we do if a contradiction occurs? Which one should be changed: the objectives, the strategies or the factors?

If the answer to this critical question is not met and the link between strategies and objectives is not established effectively, all over strategic planning process will face to this challenge.

doi: 10.3846/16111699.2011.555358


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(1) SWOT analysis originated from efforts at Harvard Business School to analyze case studies. In the early 1950s, two Harvard business policy professors, George Albert Smith Jr. and C Roland Christensen, started to investigate organizational strategies in relation to their environment. In the late 1950s, another HBS business policy professor, Kenneth Andrews, expanded on this thinking by stating that all organizations must have clearly defined objectives and keep up with them. In the early 1960s, classroom discussions in business schools were focusing on organizational strengths and weaknesses in relation to the opportunities and threats (or risks) in their business environments. In 1963, a business policy conference was held at Harvard, where SWOT analysis was widely discussed and seen as a major advance in strategic thinking (Panagiotou 2003).

(2) Notice: some of these articles were presented by two or more countries.

(3) The information about cited times is exist in SCOPUS data bank for each article.

(4) It should be noted that before them Yahya (1997) had used SWOT for cross-checking the result of AHP method, but he had not integrated the method.

(5) The authors express thanks to Professor Alireza Aliahmadi for these suggestions.

Sepehr Ghazinoory [1], Mansoureh Abdi [2], Mandana Azadegan-Mehr [3]

[1], [2] Department of Information Technology Management, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran [3] Department of Industrial Engineering, Iran University of Science & Technology, Tehran, Iran

E-mails: [1] (corresponding author); [2]; [3]

Received 29 December 2009; accepted 05 November 2010

Sepehr GHAZINOORY is an Associate Professor in the Department of Information Technology Management, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran. He received his BSc, MSc and PhD in industrial engineering from the Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST). He has authored numerous books and articles about cleaner production, strategic planning and management of technology in Persian and English. He was also consultant to the Technology Cooperation Office (TCO) of the Iranian President for four years and a senior consultant in formulating the National Iranian Nanotechnology Initiative. He is currently a consultant to different ministries and organizations.

Mansoureh ABDI is a PhD candidate of science & technology policy making in the Department of Information Technology Management, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran. She received her BSc in industrial engineering from BuAli Sina University and her MSc in industrial engineering from Tarbiat Modares University. Her thesis is about policy extracting to promote NIS in Iran by theory of constraints. She is working on innovation network in Iran and compare with other countries in this case.

Mandana AZADEGAN-MEHR has received her BA in accounting (with honors) from the School of Economic Sciences, Tehran, Iran and her MBA from Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST). She currently works as the Marketing manager of Iranian Congenial Mobile Co. (ICM Co.). She is also interested in research on strategic management of new technology-based firms and venture capital funds.
Table 1. Number of papers on SWOT in each year

Year    Number   Percent (%)

1982      1          0.2
1983      0          0.0
1984      0          0.0
1985      0          0.0
1986      0          0.0
1987      1          0.2
1988      1          0.2
1989      3          0.5
1990      0          0.0
1991      2          0.4
1992      2          0.4
1993      6          1.1
1994      8          1.4
1995      7          1.3
1996      11         2.0
1997      10         1.8
1998      15         2.7
1999      14         2.5
2000      28         5.0
2001      21         3.8
2002      35         6.3
2003      43         7.7
2004      48         8.6
2005      63        11.3
2006      50         9.0
2007      48         8.6
2008      72        12.9
2009      68        12.2
Total    557         100

Table 2. Top 10 countries on SWOT papers

Rank   Country              Number of paper

1-2    UK, USA              52
3      India                50
4      China                35
5      Turkey               15
6      Germany              13
7      Iran                 12
8-9    Finland, Australia   11
10     Poland               10

Table 3. Top 10 journals on SWOT papers

Rank   Journal                                    Number of paper

1-2    Marketing Intelligence & Planning          9
       Health Policy

3      Long Range Planning                        6

4      Promet-Traffic & Transportation            5

5-10   Management Decision                        4

       Managerial Auditing Journal

       Forest Policy and Economics

       Journal of the Institution of Engineers
       British Food Journal
       Ekonomicky Casopis

Table 4. Top 10 authors on SWOT papers

Author           Number of papers   Number of      Total
                 as first author    other papers

Kajanus, M.      1                  6              7
Ghazinoory, S.   5                  1              6
Kangas, J.       2                  4              6
Kurttila, M.     2                  4              6
Arslan, O.       3                  1              4
Lee, S. F.       3                  1              4
Er, I. D.        0                  4              4
Weihrich, H.     3                  0              3
Kumar, S.        3                  0              3
Lee, K. L.       3                  0              3

Table 5. Top 10 cited papers on SWOT until July, 1th, 2010 in Scopus

Author            Year   Paper title                       Cited times

Jackson et al.    2003   Recent Research on Team and       114
                         Organizational Diversity: SWOT
                         Analysis and Implications

Rizzo and Kim     2005   A SWOT analysis of the field of   67
                         virtual reality rehabilitation
                         and therapy

Weihrich          1982   The TOWS Matrix A Tool for        64
                         Situational Analysis

Kurttila et al.   2000   Utilizing the analytic            64
                         hierarchy process AHP in SWOT
                         analysis--a hybrid method and
                         its application to a
                         forest-certification case

Hill and          1997   SWOT Analysis: It's Time for a    51
Westbrook                Product Recall

Ho                2008   Integrated analytic hierarchy     39
                         process and its applications--A
                         literature review

Gordon et al.     2000   Strategic planning in medical     36
                         education: enhancing the
                         learning environment for
                         students in clinical settings

Hackbarth and     2000   Building an E-business strategy   32

Dyson             2004   Strategic development and SWOT    27
                         analysis at the University of

Houben et al.     1999   A knowledge-based SWOT-analysis   24
                         system as an instrument for
                         strategic planning in small and
                         medium sized enterprises

Table 6. Approaches in SWOT papers in each year

                 1982-92   1993   1994   1995   1996   1997   1998

Methodological   2         --     1      --     1      1      2

Case study       8         6      7      7      10     9      12

Applied-         --        --     --     --     --     --     1

                 1999   2000   2001   2002   2003   2004   2005   2006

Methodological   1      2      2      1      1      5      1      1

Case study       13     22     16     33     41     40     61     48

Applied-         --     4      3      1      1      3      1      1

                 2007   2008   2009   total   %

Methodological   2      2      2      27      5

Case study       43     68     64     508     91

Applied-         3      2      2      22      4

Table 7. Areas and scopes in case studies and Applied-methodological
papers on SWOT

Area                   Content                     number   percentage

Health & healthcare    life scenario planning,     67       12.6
                       elderly care, Primary
                       Care, hospital, public
                       health, nursing, mental
                       care, ...

General management     Management and strategic    37       7.0
of companies           planning in business,
                       companies, firms,
                       Offshore outsourcing, ...

Marketing & market     Marketing and market        32       6.0
planning               planning at local,
                       national, regional and
                       international levels

Learning & education   Learning & education at     28       5.3
                       school, university &

Agriculture            Fishing, feed and food,     88       16.6
                       dairy, olive, farming,

Medicine & pharmacy    clinical diagnosis,         25       4.7
                       surgery, dental,
                       pharmacy, ...

IT                     Internet, information,      22       4.2
                       computer, software, ...

Environment            Cleaner production,         30       5.7
                       wastewater, solid waste,

Textile                Textile, clothing,          16       3.0
                       garment, apparel, ...

Forestry               research station, forest    25       4.7
                       management, forest and
                       Park, ...

Tourism                Rural, urban, cruise, ...   39       7.4

Manufacturing          Shipbuilding, machine       12       2.3
                       tools, Machinery, motor
                       vehicles, ...

Transportation         Ports, airline, airport,    20       3.8
                       sea passenger, road, ...

Metal                  titanium alloys, metal      10       1.9
                       powder, foundry, ...

Electronic             Cable TV, capacitor, ...    6        1.1

Library                Library Fundraising,        4        0.8
                       library strategic
                       planning, ...

Construction           Construction                7        1.3

Oil & gas              Oil and natural gas         4        0.8

Military               Military                    2        0.4

Cosmetic               Cosmetic                    3        0.6

Financial              Finance                     3        0.6

The rest               Newsprint, service,         53       10.0
                       banking, hydraulic power
                       generation, NIS, program
                       development, legislation,
                       gaming, foreign policy,
                       economic policy, national
                       economic, ...

Total                                              530      100

Fig. 1. SWOT matrix

                  Strengths     Weaknesses

Opportunities   SO strategies       WO
Threats              ST             WT

Fig. 2. Number of papers on SWOT

1980-1984      1
1985-1989      5
1990-1994     18
1995-1999     57
2000-2004    175
2005-2009    301

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Fig. 3. Approaches in SWOT papers (percentage)

Case study                   508; 91%
Methodologic                  27; 5%
Case study and Methologic     22; 4%

Note: Table made from pie chart.

Fig. 4. Three levels that SWOT analysis
has been used for them

Corporate      64%
National       33%
Regional       3%

Note: Table made from pie chart.

Fig. 5. Interaction matrix (Weihrich 1982)

Opportunity Strenght       1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9   10

1              +     0     +     0     0     +     +     0     0    0
2              +     0     0     +     0     0     0     +     0    0
3              0     0     0     +     0     0     0     0     0    +
4              +     +     +     0     0     +     0     +     +    +
5              +     0     +     0     0     0     +     0     0    0
6              +     0     0     0     +     0     0     0     +    +
7              +     +     0     +     +     0     +     +     +    +
8              0     0     0     0     0     +     0     0     +    0
9              +     0     0     +     0     0     0     0     0    0
10             +     +     0     0     +     0     0     0     0    0

Fig. 6. Limitations of SWOT (Pickton and Wright 1998)

Inadequate definition           Lack of          Over-subjectivity in
      of factors           prioritization of       the generation of
                                factors          factors:compiler bias

* Factors which appear   * Factors which arc     * Factors missed out:
to fit into more than    given too much          lack of
one box/category         emphasis                comprehensiveness

* Factors which do not   * Factors which are     * Serendipity in the
appear to fit well       given too little        generation of factors
into any box/category    emphasis
                                                 * Disagreement over
* Factors described      * Factors which are     factors and to which
broadly: lack of         given equal             box/category they
specificity              importance              belong

* Lack of information                            * Factors represent
to specify factors                               opinions not fact

Fig. 12. Proposed modifications on SWOT matrix

Objectives   Opportunities      Threats

Strengths    SO strategies   ST strategies

                Integrative strategies

Weaknesses   WO strategies   WT strategies
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Title Annotation:strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
Author:Ghazinoory, Sepehr; Abdi, Mansoureh; Azadegan-Mehr, Mandana
Publication:Journal of Business Economics and Management
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Mar 1, 2011
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