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Create a Virtual SWOT using Google Drawings

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Sina May
Theorizing that one could time travel within her own lifetime, Sina stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished...
You can provide a virtual interface for remote stakeholders in a SWOT analysis through a Google Drawing template. By making real time viewing and collaboration possible, your team can build a stronger product.
It is vitally important to find virtual methods for performing business processes when working with remote stakeholders. Without these virtual interfaces, members of your team can feel left out of important interactions. The practice of performing a SWOT analysis is one instance where I have struggled as a remote employee. The best tool I found to solve this problem turned out to be a little unexpected but ended up being everything we needed - Google Drawings.

SWOT Analysis: A Teaching Moment

First off, I wanted to give a little bit of background into SWOT analyses to understand why they are useful and how they are typically performed. 

SWOTs are a business planning practice which allows a team to evaluate a product or business venture from multiple perspectives. Evaluating an item’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats helps to identify what is necessary for a positive outcome. You can SWOT a feature, a decision, or even a person.

When performing a SWOT, your team will meet and discuss all of the possible aspects that would affect a project. Those are organized  into the four categories which give the analysis its name:
  • Strengths: advantages that your business or organization has with this item (e.g. experience with a technology)
  • Weaknesses: disadvantages that your business or organization has with this item (e.g. legacy code systems that need updating)
  • Opportunities: environmental factors that could work to advantage (e.g. a conference will be promoting the technology you‘re considering)
  • Threats: environmental factors that could work to your disadvantage (e.g. the competition has very low price points)

Analyzing an item’s pros and cons from both internal and external perspectives will give you a better understanding of what will need to happen for your plan to become successful.

TL;DR : A video covering the subject (There are admittedly better resources, but this show is amazing...)

Our Requirements

When evaluating software  for our team, our virtual SWOT we had the following requirements:
  1. Participants needed to see updates in real time
  2. Support participants in multiple locations
  3. Any participant could make an update
  4. Must be able to quickly categorize points
  5. Must be able to reallocate points
  6. Prefer not to require participants to create a new account
  7. Once completed, maintain easy access of board for the team and stakeholders

Our Solution

We found that most online SWOT tools didn’t support our most important requirements, those of concurrent viewing and modification. We decided to take another look and see if we could do what we wanted with our existing tools instead. Our Project Manager, Jessica Riga, suggested using Google Drawings since everyone in the company has a Google account. With a little bit of creativity we were able to create a virtual SWOT board which acted like a real SWOT board.

We ended up creating a drawing that included: a square for each SWOT category, categorization hints, and a stockpile of virtual Post Its. We then distributed a link to the board to our participants before our meeting. This solution met all of our requirements and we were able to perform a successful SWOT which everyone could see and interact with. The SWOT continues to be available to everyone in the company since the link is easily shareable via Google Drive (with sharing permissions allowing us to keep it protected but view-able to posterity).

The Template

I’ve made our SWOT template freely available to anyone who’d like to use it. I've designed it in a way that makes it look like a SWOT performed in a meeting room with a bit of fun thrown in : handwriting fonts, angled Post Its, and bright colors. If you wanted to skip the Post Its and add a new text box to store your points, this would also work, but makes it a little more work to re-categorize a point.

Although it’s simple, I can guarantee that both your remote stakeholders and the rest of your team will love it. They will be able to work better with their team, the results will be cleaner than a whiteboard and the final product won't get erased. 

Feel free to share your own glorious SWOT stories after you’ve given it a try  ;) 
Author:Sina May

Expert Comment

by:Brian Matis
As a participant in that meeting, I thought the way you handled the virtual board was awesome! Great basis for an article, too. And thanks for sharing the template. I'm looking forward to putting it to good use myself! :-)

Expert Comment

See also: OneNote

Author Comment

by:Sina May
I didn't realize OneNote had multi-user editing. Pretty cool as an alternative.
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Expert Comment

OneNote is hard to beat, sorry to say... but this exercise was very cool nonetheless.

Administrative Comment

by:Jim Horn
Ladies and Gents - Everyone is welcome to create a similar article on OneNote, and I would look forward to reading that.

Author Comment

by:Sina May
Our org has a Google Apps account which made Drawings a bit more accessible. I could definitely see a company with Office 365 going with OneNote instead.  :)

Expert Comment

by:Deborah Canales
What a nifty idea! My company utilizes Google Apps so I will have to keep this in mind to share with my users. :) Thanks!

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