Records and information management programs are at the heart of every organization. Records contain information that staff need to continue operations, complete daily tasks, and provide reasoning for an organization’s actions. Good records and information management ensures that stakeholders are satisfied that they have proper access to the information they need. Additionally, protecting records ensures that information can be relied upon to help those in the organization make decisions and meet demands. One way to ensure that these vital programs thrive is to conduct a SWOT analysis.
A SWOT analysis is a strategic management tool that can be used solo or prior to conducting a TOWS metric (which we will discuss briefly in this article). A SWOT analysis analyzes the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of a program. The main point of a SWOT analysis is to understand what is working and not working for a program internally, take advantage of external resources, and prevent external risk from affecting the program.
Who can conduct a SWOT analysis or TOWS metric?
Anyone willing to do research, has access to the program, and is willing to reach out to contacts for guidance and information.
What does each SWOT term mean?
- S – Strength – Internal attribute that your program has majority of control over and results in a benefit.
- W – Weakness – Internal flaw that your program has majority of control over and results in an undesirable outcome.
- O – Opportunity – External advantage that your program has little to no control over and results in a benefit.
- T – Threat – External risk that your program has little to no control over and results in an undesirable outcome.
When to conduct a SWOT analysis?
During a strategic planning project, a SWOT analysis is generally conducted in between the information gathering stage and the TOWS metric.
The information gathering stage is about obtaining information about the program’s overall health – the information you use to determine the program’s internal SWOT elements (strengths and weaknesses). This is including, but not limited to, the program’s and your entity’s….
- Location of records, information and data,
- Organizational chart as well as the chart narrowed to the program’s staff and supporters, and
- General issues and achievements related to records, information, and data.
During the information gathering stage, it is helpful to conduct an inventory and risk assessment and reach out to all departments to learn anything you can about the program or your entity’s risk but through the perspective of your program. This stage should have a set deadline to ensure the SWOT analysis is conducted in a timely manner, because there will always be more information to gather.
The main point of a TOWS metric is to mitigate the threats and weaknesses by attacking them with a program’s strengths and opportunities and by lessening the impact of threats by knowing a program’s weaknesses. The TOWS metric ranks the information you found in the SWOT analysis to narrow down to a few feasible action plans based on the highest priority projects. Highest priority being the most impactful, likely to occur, and valuable projects to prevent a risk from occurring. Narrowing down to just a few feasible action plans helps you know where to start and obtain buy-in because your requests are well researched, realistic, and pressing to be addressed. Ranking the SWOT elements and creating a TOWS metric can be approached in various ways, so we highly encourage you to research and brainstorm within your organization the best approach for your program.
How do you find each SWOT element?
Within the information you gathered or via research (especially for opportunities and threats), look for…
- Staff/departments with whom your program has obtained buy-in.
- Strategies and methods the program has implemented that meet the program and entity’s goals and mission statement.
- Strategies and methods could include, policies, procedures, training, communication channels, storage conditions, informal guidance, etc.
- Your upper management should be able to provide you with your entity’s goals and mission statement. If your program does not have goals or a mission statement, now is a better time than ever to create them because they will provide you with a criteria to benchmark to and make sure your program is headed in the right and consistent direction.
- Staff/departments with whom your program does not have buy-in.
- Strategies and methods the program currently has implemented that do not align with the program and entity’s goals and mission statement.
- Strategies and methods the program has not implemented that prevent you from achieving your program and organization’s goals and mission statement. As an organization, ask yourself, what are the software, tools, strategies, and methods on your wish list for your program?
- External support for the needs, mission statement, and goals of the program. Including, but not limited to, legal requirements, the mindset of professionals or organizations, external training, or funding (e.g., grants).
- Lack of support or ability to provide for the needs, mission statement, or goals of the program.
- Natural, human-caused, or technological disasters that can affect your program.
Note: Since you are doing this through the perspective of your specific program, each program’s findings will look different because some programs will have more control over factors then others.
E.g., No management buy-in may be an internal flaw (weakness) for some programs because they are unable to influence management’s mindset by showing value in their program. For other programs it may be an external risk (threat) because management has decided to downsize the records management department.
How do you document the SWOT analysis’ findings?
We recommend organizing the SWOT findings into a table or spreadsheet. Make a column to brainstorm the outcome of each SWOT element.
If you plan on conducting a TOWS metric, then create another column to list what SWOT element each are linked to. It can also help to separate the SWOT elements by the internal and external elements.
|E.g., Strength||Program’s goal is to make staff more aware of their records management responsibilities and our program conducts an annual records management training that points to the program team’s contact information.||Since implementing this training, we have seen a 46% increase in internal emails related to properly managing records.|
Liaison A has reported a 62% rate of proper file names.
Liaison B… (so on and so on)
|E.g., Weakness||Program’s mission statement values protection of permanent records. However, a current strategy is to keep only one version of a permanent record in an electronic format. #yikes.||If we no longer have access to the electronic management system, then we cannot access the permanent record. 24% of our permanent records are transcripts and those make up 42% of our Public Information Request.|
|E.g., Weakness||Entity values information that has not been wrongfully altered but has not yet implemented 2-step verification for our confidential and sensitive records.||According to fake stat, this puts our records at a 32% higher chance of getting hacked.|
|E.g., Opportunity||Program’s goal is to make staff more aware of their records management responsibilities. The Records Management Assistance team at TSLAC states in their training that they support this goal and provide guidance for how to meet this goal via training and articles.||We can watch the training and read the articles to see if there is any valuable information within them. E.g., Obtaining buy-in: Records creators and users. |
We can use TSLAC’s trainings as a starting place and customize them to our staff’s needs.
|E.g., Threat||Department A has a large project every March-July, so Department A cannot share their liaison with us during this time.||We won’t have any communication with the liaison. During our monthly liaison meetings, this will prevent us from hearing about any struggles or achievements going on within the department related to our program. The liaison’s review of the department’s disposition log may be put on hold.|
TSLAC’s articles to help you find SWOT elements…
- Information Disaster Plan – Strengths, weaknesses, and threats.
- Emergency Preparedness – Threats
- Guest Blog: Preparedness Awareness – Weakness and threats.
- Auditing Your Records Management Program
TSLAC’s articles to help you consider related factors…
- How to Approach an Office Records Management Overhaul
- Data and Disposition: How Disposition Protects Loss of Privacy in a Data Driven World
- Creating Records at Home series
- Filing Crash Course: Classification Schemes
Our last tip is to reach out to other records and information leaders to hear about the risk they have experienced and how they overcame the risk. A great place to find those leaders is National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA), ARMA International or local chapters, entity’s related to your organization, and your records friends!