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situation analysis
10 min read

How to conduct a situation analysis

When things get busy, it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees. While getting stuck in and maintaining momentum is important for eager entrepreneurs, so is stopping to get that crucial bird’s eye view of your business. And it’s not just the wood you’re looking to take stock on, but the surrounding landscape. Your competitors, your industry, your market… What’s the situation? Has it changed since you last took a look?

This article serves up everything you need to know about situation analysis: What it is, why it’s important, the different methods and most importantly – how you can leverage it successfully for your business.

What is a situation analysis?

It’s a methodical assessment of the internal and external factors affecting your business, project or situation. It involves gathering and evaluating information to understand the current state of affairs, identify challenges and opportunities, and crucially – inform decision-making. Internally, it examines factors such as resources, capabilities and performance, while externally, it considers market trends, competitors, regulatory changes and socio-economic factors.

A solid situation analysis provides valuable insights that steer your strategic planning, helping you effectively adapt your business to changing environments. It’s the process that will help you sleep better at night, knowing you’ve got your eye on the ball, as well as the wider playing field. It reduces the risk of being blindsided by market shifts or competitor curve balls, because you’ve done the work to either prepare for them, or avoid them altogether. (A nice feeling, right?)

Why is situation analysis crucial?

As well as peace of mind, it serves as a foundational tool for informed decision-making. No more hesitant guesswork – just confident, data-backed strides in the right direction.

It works by thoroughly examining internal strengths and weaknesses alongside external opportunities and threats – giving you a clearer understanding of your position in the market. You can then use this analysis to identify potential risks, capitalise on emerging trends and align your strategies with the ever-changing business landscape.

So, whether you’re entering new markets, launching products or refining existing processes, a robust situation analysis will provide the data you need to make strategic decisions that will enhance your competitiveness and drive sustainable growth.

What are different types of situation analysis?

A situation analysis can be conducted using a variety of methods. The four most common types of situation analysis are:

  • 5C analysis
  • SWOT
  • Porter’s Five Forces

We’re going to look at the methodology for each of these and how they can help you get the answers you’re looking for. 

5C analysis

The 5C situation analysis method evaluates the internal and external factors that influence a business. It examines five key areas:


This aspect focuses on internal strengths and weaknesses. It involves analysing factors such as your company’s resources, capabilities, financial health, management structure and overall performance. Understanding these internal dynamics helps identify areas where your company excels and where improvements are needed.


Customer analysis delves into understanding the needs, preferences, behaviours and demographics of your target market or customer segments. It involves researching consumer trends, purchasing patterns, satisfaction levels and any emerging needs or desires. By getting to grips with your customer base, you can tailor your products, services and marketing strategies to better meet their demands.


This aspect explores the relationships and partnerships that your company has with suppliers, distributors, vendors and other external stakeholders. Analysing the strengths and weaknesses of these collaborations is crucial for ensuring smooth operations, efficient supply chains and mutually beneficial partnerships. It also involves assessing the reliability, quality and cost-effectiveness of your collaborators’ contributions to your business.


Competitor analysis involves identifying and evaluating the (you guessed it) strengths and weaknesses of direct and indirect competitors in your marketplace. This includes assessing competitors’ products, pricing strategies, distribution channels, marketing tactics and market share. Understanding your competitive landscape helps to identify opportunities for differentiation, anticipate competitive threats and formulate strategies to gain a competitive advantage. (Keep your friends close, but your competitors closer!)


Context analysis considers the broader external environment in which your company operates, including economic, political, social, technological and legal factors. This involves analysing industry trends, regulatory changes, cultural shifts, technological advancements and other macro-environmental factors that could impact your business. By keeping ahead of these external influences, you can adapt your strategies and operations to reduce risks and capitalise on emerging opportunities.

SWOT analysis

This method evaluates the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats facing a business or project. Each area of your SWOT analysis will provide unique insights into different aspects of your business and its external environment.


Strengths are internal attributes and resources that give your business a competitive advantage and contribute to its success. This includes factors such as strong brand reputation, unique products or services, skilled workforce, efficient processes, financial stability and proprietary technology. Identifying strengths helps your business leverage its core competencies and capitalise on opportunities in the marketplace.


These are internal factors that hinder business performance and competitiveness. They can include areas such as limited resources, outdated technology, inadequate infrastructure, poor management practices, lack of market presence or low brand awareness. Recognising weaknesses is essential for addressing internal challenges and improving organisational efficiency and effectiveness.


These are external factors or trends that your business could potentially exploit to its advantage. These may arise from changes in the market, industry innovations, emerging consumer needs, technological advancements or shifts in regulatory policies. By identifying and seizing opportunities, you can expand your market reach, diversify your product offering/s, enter new markets or gain a competitive edge over rivals.


These are external factors that pose risks or challenges to business success. These may include factors such as intense competition, economic downturns, regulatory hurdles, changing consumer preferences, technological disruptions or supply chain disruptions. Recognising threats will help you to proactively mitigate risks, develop contingency plans and strengthen your competitive position in the market.

Porter’s Five Forces

Porter’s Five Forces analysis is a framework developed by Michael Porter, a renowned strategy expert, to assess the competitive forces within an industry. It helps businesses understand the attractiveness and profitability of a market by examining five key factors:

1. Threat of new entrants

This force assesses how easy or difficult it is for new competitors to enter the industry. Factors such as barriers to entry, including high capital requirements, brand loyalty, economies of scale and regulatory hurdles, can deter new entrants. A high threat of new entrants can intensify competition and reduce profitability for existing firms.

2. Bargaining power of buyers

This force evaluates the power that buyers wield in the market. Factors such as the number of buyers, their purchasing volume, price sensitivity and availability of substitute products influence their bargaining power. When buyers have strong bargaining power, they can demand lower prices, higher quality, or better terms, squeezing profit margins for suppliers.

3. Bargaining power of suppliers

This force examines the power that suppliers hold over firms in the industry. Factors such as the concentration of suppliers, uniqueness of their products or services, switching costs, and availability of alternative suppliers affect their bargaining power. When suppliers have significant power, they can dictate prices, terms and product availability, impacting the profitability of businesses reliant on their inputs.

4. Threat of substitutes

This force analyses the availability of substitute products or services that could meet similar customer needs. Factors such as price-performance trade-offs, switching costs and brand loyalty influence the threat of substitutes. Industries with readily available substitutes face higher competition and price pressures, reducing profit potential for incumbent firms.

5. Intensity of competitive rivalry

This force assesses the level of competition among existing firms in the industry. Factors such as the number of competitors, industry growth rate, differentiation strategies and exit barriers influence competitive rivalry. High competition often leads to price wars, reduced profitability and intense efforts to differentiate products or services to gain market share.

By systematically evaluating these five forces, you can identify key dynamics shaping your industry’s competitive landscape and develop strategies to enhance your competitive position. Understanding the interplay of these forces helps you to make informed decisions regarding pricing, product development, market entry and overall industry positioning. You’ll be a strategic Jedi before you know it.


The PESTLE analysis method is used to assess the external macro-environmental factors that could impact your business. It examines six key areas:

1. Political factors

This aspect considers the influence of government policies, regulations and political stability on your business environment. Factors such as taxation policies, trade regulations, government stability and political ideology can affect your business operations, market entry and overall profitability.

2. Economic factors

Economic factors encompass the broader economic conditions and trends that impact businesses. This includes factors such as economic growth rates, inflation, interest rates, exchange rates, unemployment rates and consumer confidence levels. Understanding economic trends helps businesses anticipate market demand, adjust pricing strategies and manage financial risks effectively.

3. Social factors

Social factors explore the cultural, demographic and societal trends that influence consumer behaviour and market demand. This includes factors such as population demographics, lifestyle changes, cultural norms, attitudes towards sustainability and social values. Recognising social trends will help you to tailor your products, marketing messages and customer experiences to align with evolving societal preferences.

4. Technological factors

Technological factors analyse the impact of technological advancements and innovations on the industry and market. This includes factors such as disruptive technologies, automation, digitisation, research and development activities and intellectual property rights. Businesses can then identify opportunities for innovation, streamline operations and stay competitive in a rapidly evolving technological landscape.

5. Legal factors

Legal factors refer to the laws, regulations and legal frameworks that businesses must comply with in their operations. This includes factors such as labour laws, health and safety regulations, environmental regulations, intellectual property laws and consumer protection laws. Understanding legal requirements and compliance obligations helps businesses mitigate legal risks and avoid potential liabilities.

6. Environmental factors

Environmental factors are the ecological and environmental considerations that impact business operations and sustainability. This includes factors such as climate change, environmental regulations, sustainability initiatives, natural disasters and resource scarcity. Recognising environmental trends will help you to develop sustainable practices throughout your business, reduce environmental impacts and respond to growing consumer demands for eco-friendly products and services.

How do I choose the right situation analysis method?

While choice is great, it can make things tricky. Choosing the right method for your business depends on several factors, including your specific goals of the analysis, the nature of your business or project, available resources and the complexity of the situation.

Here are some steps to help you choose the most appropriate method:

  1. Define the purpose: Clarify your objectives of the situation analysis. Are you looking to assess internal capabilities, understand market dynamics, identify growth opportunities, mitigate risks or evaluate competitive threats? Different situation analysis methods are better suited to address specific goals.
  2. Consider scope and depth: Assess the scope and depth of analysis required. Some methods, like SWOT analysis or PESTLE analysis, provide a broad overview of both internal and external factors affecting your organisation. Others, like Porter’s Five Forces analysis, focus specifically on competitive dynamics within the industry. Choose a method that aligns with the level of detail needed for your analysis.
  3. Evaluate resources: Consider your available resources, including time, expertise and data. Some situation analysis methods may require extensive data collection, market research or specialised knowledge. Assess whether you have the necessary resources to conduct a comprehensive analysis using certain methods, or if a more streamlined approach is preferable.
  4. Tailor to context: Take into account the specific context of your business or project. Factors such as industry type, market maturity, organisational structure and strategic objectives can influence your choice of analysis method. Consider which method best fits the unique circumstances and challenges faced by your business.
  5. Combine methods: In some cases, it may be beneficial to use a combination of situation analysis methods to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the situation. For example, you might start with a PESTLE analysis to assess external factors, followed by a SWOT analysis to evaluate internal strengths and weaknesses relative to external opportunities and threats.
  6. Flexibility and iteration: Keep in mind that situation analysis is not a one-time exercise but an ongoing process. Choose a method that allows for flexibility and iteration as new information becomes available or circumstances change over time. Regularly revisit and update your analysis to ensure it remains relevant and useful for decision-making.

Step by step: Conducting a situation analysis

This comprehensive process involves several steps to gather and analyse relevant information systematically.

  • 1. Define objectives

    Clearly define the objectives of your situation analysis, including your specific goals, scope and desired outcomes. Determine what aspects of your business or situation you want to assess and what insights you aim to gain from the analysis.

  • 2. Gather data

    Collect relevant data from internal and external sources to inform your analysis. This may include financial reports, performance metrics, customer surveys, market research, industry reports, competitor analysis and any other relevant information.

  • 3. Identify key factors

    Identify the key factors or variables that are relevant to the situation being analysed. This may include internal factors such as resources, capabilities and your organisational culture, as well as external factors such as market trends, industry dynamics and regulatory changes.

  • 4. Choose analysis methods

    Identify the key factors or variables that are relevant to the situation being analysed. This may include internal factors such as resources, capabilities and your organisational culture, as well as external factors such as market trends, industry dynamics and regulatory changes.

  • 5. Analyse findings

    Analyse the collected data and information to identify patterns, trends, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Interpret the findings in relation to your business’s strategic objectives and competitive position in the marketplace.

  • 6. Draw conclusions

    Draw conclusions based on the analysis of the findings. Identify strategic insights, areas of improvement, potential risks and opportunities for growth or innovation. Consider how the findings align with your business goals and priorities.

  • 7. Develop action plans

    Develop action plans based on your conclusions drawn from the situation analysis. Define specific strategies, initiatives and tactics to address identified weaknesses, capitalise on opportunities, reduce risks and enhance your competitive position.

  • 8. Implement and monitor

    Implement your action plans and monitor their progress over time. Continuously track performance metrics, market trends and external developments to ensure that your business remains responsive to changes in the business environment.

Situation analysis: final thoughts

As you can see, situation analysis is extremely valuable. It helps you strategise by detecting problems and providing solutions, supports you in reaching your goals and summarises your business’s growth.

But it takes time to conduct it comprehensively and it needs to be a long-term commitment if it’s going to deliver ongoing value. If your business is in its early stages and you simply don’t have the time, resources or in-house skills to run a situation analysis just yet, consider seeking support from external consulting firms or professional advisors. While it’s an extra cost, it will help you avoid costly mistakes, shine a light on new opportunities or tell you when to hunker down before an unavoidable storm hits.

Today’s markets are complex – small businesses must remain vigilant in their situation analysis. Not just to adapt, but to thrive. Foresight and agility will ensure sustained success. Successfully implement long-term situation analysis into the bones of your business – and you’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

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