Tools and Techniques in Environmental Analysis
Tools and Techniques in Environmental Analysis
Environmental scanning is the process that seeks information about events and relationships in a firm’s environment, the knowledge of which help top management chart the firm’s future. Environmental scanning entails partitioning the external environment into sectors, namely, cultural, economic, political, technological, and so on. This helps establish a firm’s information needs within those sectors. Data are usually collected by monitoring and forecasting changes in important variables identified in each sector. That data are then transformed into consolidated information, which is integrated into the firm’s strategic planning process (Georgantzas and Acar 1995). Environmental scanning is used to gather information from the environment. These information are used to craft a strategic plan that will help an organization achieve and maintain a competitive advantage. In order to be successful, the organization must align its strategies and plans with the information gathered from the environmental scanning.
SWOT (Strengths and Weaknesses, and Opportunities and Threats) is a basic analytical tool in management that has become popular in recent years. SWOT analysis is often used by strategic planners and top management in developing competitive strategies. It is typically used to decide corporate strategies and to make product or market level analyses (Reddy 1994). SWOT is a widely used thinking framework for identifying Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It enables key factors to be visibly recorded as a high-level summary of a business. SWOT analysis is a summary that is simple but powerful. The technique is commonly used by consultants to document the key factors arising from the review of a particular project or business. The use of SWOT enables an assessment to be made of the overall internal state of a business and the direction in which it is heading, through looking at its Strengths and Weaknesses. It also enables a judgment to be made about aspects of the external business environment, which can affect the performance of the business, through looking at the Opportunities and Threats it faces in the wider world (Elkin 1998). The SWOT analysis on its own is not a strategy. It is merely a tool that helps an organization in making informed decisions. The SWOT analysis is primarily used to identify and analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the organization, as well as the opportunities and threats exposed by the information collected of the external environment. The SWOT analysis is a simple yet useful tool in analyzing both the internal and external environments of the organization. SWOT analysis together with other tools such as PEST (Political, Economic, Social, and Technological) analysis can be used as a basis for the analysis of business and environmental factors.
A PEST analysis looks at the Political, Economic, Social and Technological drivers of a particular industry. PEST are external factors that must be analyzed and understood in order for an organization to succeed. The PEST analysis focuses on the external forces that affects the organization. It is most useful when used together with other tools such as the SWOT analysis.
o Political Factors – may have direct or indirect impact on the organization’s operation. Decisions made by the government may have an effect on the business. The political arena has a big influence on how organizations operate, the purchasing power of the customers and other businesses.
o Economic Factors – the organization is affected by economic factors. Economy also affects the purchasing power and behavior of the consumers.
o Sociological Factors – include the demography, lifestyle, cultural aspects of the consumers. These factors have a big influence on the consumer needs and wants. Sociological factors also affect the size of potential markets.
o Technological Factors – technological change plays an important role in shaping how organizations operate. Technological factors are important in gaining competitive advantage. Technological innovations can improve production efficiency, quality and speed. New technology is changing how organizations operate.
Porter’s Five Forces Analysis
Porter identified the five forces model of competitive strategy. He identified the five forces as:
The threat of new entrants and the appearance of new competitors
The degree of rivalry among existing competitors in the market
The bargaining power of buyers
The bargaining power of suppliers
The threat of substitute products or services which could shrink the market
The strength of each of these forces varies from industry to industry, but
taken together they determine long-term profitability. They help shape the process firms can charge, the costs they must pay for resources and the level of investment that will be needed to compete. The threat of new entrants limits market share and profit; powerful buyers or suppliers, using their superior bargaining power, can drive down prices or push costs up, eroding margins and so on (Witzel 2003). The five factors affect the strategy of the organization. It is important to analyze and study these five forces to be able to craft a successful strategy. To be successful, the organization must respond effectively to the pressures of these five forces.
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