Monday, 30 March 2015

The consistently popular SWOT analysis

A recent Google Trends analysis (see below) highlights some interesting insights in the popularity of some of the most widely used Strategy Analysis tools:
The chart above shows the popularity, measured in terms of Google search frequency, of 5 popular strategy analysis tools. (Google Trend analysis allows only 5 search terms at a time.)
  1. McKinsey 7-S
  2. Strategy Canvas
  3. PEST analysis
  4. Porter's 5 Forces analysis
  5. SWOT analysis
Looking at this analysis, I draw 3 interesting conclusions:
  1. Despite being much maligned by many as being too simplistic to be of any real value, the humble SWOT analysis is the most popular of the three models by a wide margin. This is consistent with my own experience: the SWOT analysis is the cornerstone of any analysis, and whilst it is easy to abuse, it is a vital tool when in the hands of a skilled strategist.
  2. The popularity of all of the search terms, especially "SWOT analysis" is noticeably seasonal, peaking each November and March. This suggests that interest is still tied to some annual planning process. It is disappointing to see that strategy is still seen as a periodic episode linked to some financial and business planning calendar and not a more fundamental way of thinking about how a business is run on an ongoing basis.
  3. Finally, the popularity of all search terms appears to be gradually diminishing over time. It would be heartening to believe that this is simply because everyone is now familiar enough with these terms to no longer need to search them on Google, but my own experience suggests that it is more likely to be because people are more inclined to chase the latest fad rather than relying on fundamental strategic analysis, as suggested by the Strategic Learning framework..