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Strategic analysis

Use visuals to improve your strategic analysis

Reading time: about 4 min

Think back to the last time you visited the dentist. If you had a cavity, there’s a good chance the dentist showed you the x-ray of your teeth, pointed to the white circle marking your tooth’s decay, and then gently suggested you floss more often. There’s a reason the dentist showed you the x-ray: it’s much faster and easier for you to understand a picture than to grasp dental jargon. 

Why does this matter? Because not using visuals in strategic analysis is much more painful than a mouth full of cavities.

Visuals are absolutely crucial in strategic analysis. In this blog, we’ll explain the basics of strategic analysis, why visuals are imperative, and which visuals are best to incorporate into your own strategic analysis. 

The basics of strategic analysis

Strategic analysis sounds about as fun as, well, visiting the dentist. But that’s only if you take its very uninteresting name at face value: behind the sterile name is a world of insights, possibilities, risk mitigation, and potential. 

Strategic analysis is an approach that helps organizations explore opportunities for growth, tackle challenges within your industry, and make better business decisions. Strategic analysis aims to help organizations plan for the future by looking at the organization’s processes, technology, and current capabilities. It’s a holistic look at the whole business from the inside out, and it’s an approach that can help make the organization healthier overall. 

Strategic analysis is the “reals before feels.” In other words, it helps businesses look at the facts instead of relying on assumptions about everything from technology to market position. Strategic analysis is a valuable tool that can help businesses get to where they want to be based on where they currently are. It’s a reality check that can help ground everyone in the business.

Why visuals are helpful for strategic analysis

If your dentist began talking to you about quadrants and occlusion, you’d have no idea what they were talking about. That’s where the x-ray comes in. Visuals are helpful for providing clarity. When your audience can see a visual representation of your work, it’s much easier for them to understand what you’re saying. 

Here are some of the benefits of incorporating visuals into your strategic analysis:

Make numbers interesting—Numbers on their own aren’t interesting; it’s what they represent that can be fascinating. By adding visuals about what numbers mean, your audience can first understand and then care. 

For instance, if you’re giving an Operating Income Before Depreciation and Amortization (OBIDA) presentation, your audience will likely zone out before you get to the most thrilling parts of financial analysis. Instead, show them graphs that put the numbers in context or projections of what could happen. When you tell stakeholders that 70% of the operating budget is going to pizza parties, that has less of an impact than showing a pie chart that demonstrates how big a chunk is going to...well, pizza pie. Visuals help people invest in what you’re saying and understand what the numbers actually mean.

Put it in context—It’s one thing to talk about a hurricane and quite another thing to show the damage caused by a hurricane. When you use visuals with your strategic analysis, your audience can better understand why the analysis matters to your company. Line graphs are especially effective for this which is why stockholders rely on them to understand their market position. 

They make you look good—Quality matters. If you’re in charge of strategic analysis, it’s not just about how good your analysis is, but how well you present that analysis to others. Your work will be seen more favorably if it’s presented in an accessible way that appeals to your audience and makes your work easily understood. 

Common diagrams for strategic analysis

There’s another way usually visuals can help you perform strategic analysis: there are common diagrams that act as guideposts showing you the best ways to present your findings. By using these common diagrams, you don’t need to come up with a great new way to display your data: you simply need to plug in the information into diagrams that have already been proven useful.

1. SWOT analysis—SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This diagram distills findings into the most important high-level summaries for each of those four areas. At a glance, the audience can immediately know important areas to focus on.

Great for: Developing a long-term business strategy based on what your company does or doesn’t do well.

SWOT analysis
SWOT analysis example (Click on image to modify online)

2. PEST analysis—PEST stands for political, economic, social, and technological. This diagram displays your business through the lens of four important impacts of business. A PEST diagram helps organizations understand outside forces that can grow or hinder the business, and it’s helpful for showing the potential of the business from the outside in.

Great for: Examining the potential of your business or understanding what could lead to a business’s growth or decline.

pestel analysis
Roadmap example (Click on image to modify online)

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