Tools for Planning
Engineering managers utilize a number of tools to prepare strategic plans. Some of these tools produce hard data, whereas others offer qualitative insights into specific subject areas (ASQ Quality Press 2011). The following are examples of some useful planning tools:
Market research applies a number of tools to discover the preference of customers with respect to the company's products, services, marketing strategy, product prices, competitive strengths, and brand reputation in the marketplace. Examples of such tools include polling by questionnaires, product concept testing, focus groups, and pilot testing. The outputs of market research help assess the company's current marketing position and future growth opportunities in the marketplace (Burns and Bush 2013; Malhotra 2014).
SWOT is the abbreviation for strength, weakness, opportunities, and threats. Each company has strengths and weaknesses in comparison to its competitors (Mcguire 2014). Because of the company's strengths or core competencies, there may be opportunities offered in the marketplace that the company ought to exploit aggressively. On the other hand, because of the strengths of its competitors and the conditions in the marketplace, the company may be subjected to certain future threats. Such potential threats could be the result of technology advancement, business alliances, marketing partnerships, and other such step changes accomplished by the competition. New governmental regulations and policies may also affect the company's business in the future.
A systematic monitoring of publications—patents, technical articles, news releases, and financial reports—represents an initial step in conducting a competitive analysis. A well- performed SWOT analysis will bring to the fore an assessment of the company's current position. As such, the SWOT analysis procreates a road map by which a company can make informed decisions about improving its core competencies to meet its current and future business and operational needs. The analysis answers questions such as (a) What does the company have in place today? (b) In which direction is the company headed in the next three to five years, and (c) What is the company's process of managing changes?