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SOAR Analysis: A Comprehensive Guide for Successful Strategic Planning in 2024

Is your strategic planning bogged down by the limitations of traditional SWOT analyses? Get past dwelling on weaknesses and threats—it’s time to SOAR! 

A powerful alternative to SWOT, the SOAR framework builds on a future-focused, strength-based approach, propelling your organization towards ambitious goals. 📈

SOAR is a framework that harnesses an organization’s strengths, identifies opportunities, defines collective aspirations, and guides the entire organization toward achieving measurable results.

The mantra is simple: A positive, future-ready, and proactive outlook can unlock organizational growth.

Let’s find out how.

What is SOAR Analysis?

Soar Analysis, AKA the SOAR framework, is a strategic planning tool that identifies an organization’s strengths and potential to seize opportunities for growth in the future. 

The acronym expands to Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results.

  • Strengths are the internal factors that give your company a competitive edge, such as a strong brand reputation, a talented workforce, operational efficiency, and so on
  • Opportunities are the external factors that your organization can explore and leverage to your benefit, such as emerging markets, new technologies, and changing consumer trends
  • Aspirations define the organization’s long-term goals and vision, such as becoming a market leader in a specific product category with increased market share and greater customer satisfaction
  • Results are the measurable outcomes of your strategic efforts. This is where success is quantified. Examples of results include higher revenue collection and the building of a sustainable business model

How Does SOAR Analysis Work?

Business strategy professionals typically visualize their organization’s SOAR framework upon a 2×2 grid, much like a SWOT table. They list the characteristics that define the organization’s strengths and then list opportunities available to channel those strengths. 💪🏼

A unique feature of this framework is that it factors in collective organizational goals—the ‘big picture’—and breaks it down into tangible results that will drive decisions and actions. 

This forward-facing approach lets business strategists create a structured game plan for achieving their objectives. 

That’s where SOAR templates also come in. These pre-built, ready-to-launch grids help strategists create a roadmap for conducting SOAR analysis. SOAR templates are useful for businesses of all sizes and in all industries.

SOAR Analysis
Get a ready-made SOAR Analysis grid with ClickUp’s Soar Analysis Template

SWOT Analysis vs. SOAR Analysis

SWOT is a common strategic planning tool in large, structured organizations—especially those that want to take steps to retain their position and grow steadily and cautiously. On the other hand, the SOAR framework is particularly popular with smaller, more agile organizations that want to exploit opportunities for fast growth. 

There are similarities between the two approaches, just as there are differences.

Similarities between SWOT and SOAR

Both SWOT and SOAR are strategic thinking approaches to improve current processes for better future outcomes.  

Setting your bearings

SWOT and SOAR are your compass and map. Both approaches help organizations understand their current location (strengths, weaknesses) and chart a course toward their desired destination (opportunities, aspirations).

A unified goal

The ultimate aim of SWOT and SOAR is the same: to reveal the path for informed decision-making. The two analysis methods provide valuable insights that empower you to navigate challenges.

Internal strengths, different horizons

Both frameworks delve into the organization’s core capabilities (strengths), offering critical self-awareness. However, when venturing outside, their focus diverges. 

By harnessing the combined power of SWOT’s grounded realism and SOAR’s aspirational shared vision, organizations can get past obstacles and work toward their goals.

Differences between SWOT and SOAR

SWOT and SOAR both help you chart the path to organizational success, but the outlook and focus are different.

Focus

  • SWOT scrutinizes reality: Strengths and weaknesses come under the microscope, with threats lurking on the periphery
  • SOAR champions potential: Strengths and opportunities take center stage, creating an environment for achieving ambitious goals

Time travel

  • SWOT is rooted in the present: It analyzes strengths and weaknesses as they exist today, informing immediate decisions
  • SOAR leaps toward the future: It sets aspirational goals and makes strategies to achieve them, inspiring long-term vision

Approach

  • SWOT embraces flexibility: No one-size-fits-all approach, allowing for tailored analyses to specific situations
  • SOAR benefits from structure: Standardized templates often guide the analysis, streamlining the process and boosting efficiency

When to use SOAR vs. SWOT 

SOAR analysis use cases

  • Creating a new vision: SOAR can help craft an inspirational vision for a new startup, initiative, or organizational direction by focusing on strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results
  • Annual planning: Running an annual SOAR analysis helps define goals and a baseline to measure progress against when building out the next year’s plan
  • Change management: Leading people through change is smoother when they connect to a positive vision. SOAR builds buy-in and alignment around a change

SWOT analysis use cases

  • Market entry: Before launching a new product or entering a new market, SWOT helps assess strengths, weaknesses, competitors, regulatory risks, and other external factors
  • Mergers & acquisitions: SWOT provides an objective analysis when considering mergers, acquisitions, or divestitures to ensure it is strategically aligned
  • Strategic planning: An annual or quarterly SWOT analysis informs strategic priorities by revealing current internal and external realities the organization must respond to

In summary, SOAR takes a more aspirational approach while SWOT analyzes current circumstances. SWOT tends to come before SOAR in the planning process.

Remember, neither tool exists in a silo. By harnessing the strengths of both SWOT and SOAR analyses, organizations can craft a comprehensive roadmap for sustained growth.

A 5-Step Guide to a Successful SOAR Analysis

Before diving into the five steps to a great SOAR analysis, keep in mind that it is a positive and forward-thinking framework. It lets you set the stage for your business to leverage its internal strengths, seize external opportunities, define ambitious aspirations, and ultimately move toward quantifiable, measurable, and sustainable results for all relevant stakeholders. 

Follow this 5-step method for  fruitful SOAR analysis:

1. Gather your squad and dig deep

The first step for successful SOAR analysis is to gather your organization’s thoughts. Understand the strengths you hold and the opportunities in front of you.

The best way to do so is to have an open brainstorming session with your colleagues. The idea is to objectively assess the current state of your capabilities. 

Identify capabilities that have borne results in the past and innovations that you are confident of. List those strengths, such as dependable or growing revenue from specific products or functions, high speed of production, wide reach and distribution, and strong influence, depending on your specific domain. Tap into data to validate your assumptions.

Next, fill out the first of the four quadrants—Strengths. 

Once you’ve identified the strengths, the next step is to identify opportunities that you can chase. Find out what your customers think and where the market is headed. Dig deeper into areas that you have not yet explored. 

For instance, if social media reach is a strength, check if there’s scope to improve engagement, referrals, and sharing. Or if a new market has opened up, check if your production speed and supply chain can serve that market as well as the one in which you operate.

These go into the second quadrant—Opportunities. Be realistic and seek validation at every stage.

Use ClickUp’s customizable SOAR template at this stage. SOAR strategies tend to evolve with time, and with this template, you can keep updating the chart and sharing relevant information without breaking a sweat. 

SOAR Analysis Template
Customize your SOAR Analysis grid the way you want on ClickUp’s Whiteboards

2. Set a SMART target

With your strengths and opportunities listed, you can go on to the third and fourth quadrants: Aspirations and Results. 🎯

Aspirations are at the core of this future-facing methodology. Ask yourself and your team members what the big picture is. 

Start with these questions:

  • Where do you want the organization to head?
  • What would make the organization truly successful?
  • What are the guardrails while on the path to realizing those goals?
  • What does the future look like for the organization?

Now, depending on the business, it could be exerting influence through reach, building a positive cashflow model, owning a seamless supply chain, hitting a specific revenue number, and so on. 

The aspirations can be ambitious without being unrealistic. Try to find the sweet spot where you can scale your business but maintain that position in the long run. 

Once you’ve noted down the aspirations, define what results will objectively signify success. You can use ClickUp’s SMART Goals Template to list key results, making sure they are specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. 

With the first two steps complete, the next three will follow naturally: Prepare a strategy, take action, and measure results.

ClickUp MindMap
Mind map your strategy and action your strategic plan with interactive boards in ClickUp

3. Prepare a strategy with the SOAR in sight

You can now start creating a strategic plan—a roadmap or action plan that addresses all the points in your SOAR matrix. Rely on your strengths to chase the best opportunities first, and ensure the opportunities contribute to the results. The results, in turn, must be steps in the direction of your organization’s aspirations.

Brainstorming is one thing; translating ideas into action is another. 

Mind Maps in ClickUp bridge the gap. Each branch of the mind maps you create can be transformed into a project, complete with deadlines, assignees, and dependencies.

By breaking down the strategy into projects with single objectives, you can work backward to figure out actionable tasks. A project management tool like ClickUp will help you and the project teams keep track of their progress. 

ClickUp Automation
Use ClickUp Automation to automate the task list for your projects when setting the strategy in place

4. Execute the projects and set timelines

A SOAR analysis does not stop at drawing out insights from your team. With the action plan in place, start initiating the projects and set timelines for completion. 

Executing the strategy will require a meticulous approach and precise project planning. Make use of your strategic planning tools and solutions as you do so.

Effective communication is paramount during this phase. Make sure all individuals involved in those projects have a clear understanding of their responsibilities and take ownership of the results. 

You must keep a close eye on progress and make adjustments to stay on track. Being agile and adaptable is important, too, especially if unexpected challenges and changes show up. 

As those projects progress, you can keep updating the SOAR chart. Find new opportunities, address challenges, and optimize processes as you go along. 

5. Measure results and make adjustments as you execute

Throughout the execution phase, you must keep an eye on performance numbers.

With the SOAR framework, measuring precise results becomes easier. With the goals set and its strategy in place, start collecting data right through the execution phase.

With SOAR, you would usually track metrics based on the results that achieve the goals you’ve set: Reach and market penetration, ROI, profit, gross margins, revenue growth, and so on.

Evaluating performance through the execution stage lets you assess the SOAR strategy’s effectiveness. More so, you can quickly get to see potential areas for improvement. 

This analytical approach is a fundamental aspect of SOAR strategy planning and decision-making within businesses. 

ClickUp Dashboard
Keep an eye on critical metrics with the unified ClickUp Dashboard. Assess your strategy and make changes on the fly

Advantages and Limitations of SOAR Analysis

SOAR empowers businesses to identify and harness both internal and external stakeholders’ strengths effectively. The top five advantages of using SOAR Analysis are

  1. While SWOT analyses are great for acknowledging weaknesses, SOAR flips the script, asking, “What makes us shine?” It’s like a treasure hunt for your hidden strengths, unrealized capabilities, and untapped opportunities
  2. SOAR enables cross-team collaboration, tearing down silos in your organization. Imagine engineers brainstorming with marketing, sales, and finance, each contributing their unique perspective and fortifying the overall strategy and risk assessment
  3. SOAR embraces teamwork, fostering a dynamic conversation around your aspirations and opportunities. Team interactions become a vibrant forum where everyone’s voice is heard and taking ownership becomes a collective act
  4. SOAR is a dynamic framework that updates your analysis as you learn and grow. Think of it as a living document, evolving with every new insight, every market shift, and evolving customer trends. No more scrambling to catch up with change
  5. It is better than navigating by gut feeling or hunches—SOAR guides you with the wisdom of data, ensuring your decisions resonate with impactful results. Track progress towards your goals, identify tweaking needs, and adapt your strategy

SOAR analysis also has a few limitations. But ClickUp’s arsenal of tools can address them:

  1. A brilliant SOAR analysis deserves seamless execution. While SOAR offers insights, putting them into action may require considerable effort. You can streamline this process with ClickUp’s task management features
  2. The market is dynamic, and your SOAR analysis needs real-time updates to remain relevant. ClickUp’s intuitive platform allows you to easily update your strategy as circumstances change 
  3. SOAR focuses on the future, which is important for strategic vision. However, valuable insights lie hidden in your past performance. ClickUp’s comprehensive data analysis tools empower you to leverage historical data and identify patterns
  4. SOAR highlights your internal strengths, which is fantastic! However, the external landscape can present unforeseen challenges too
  5. Translating SOAR’s ambitious goals into actionable steps can be a hurdle. ClickUp Goals bridge this gap, allowing you to break down aspirations into smaller, achievable objectives with laser-sharp precision

Best Practices for SOAR Analysis

ClickUp’s SMART templates
Set goals for every critical function in your organization through ClickUp’s SMART templates

SOAR analysis and the strategy that results from it will impact your entire organizational structure. With this in mind, you must analyze in a manner that minimizes errors and blind spots. 

Here are five best practices to keep in mind. 

1. Brainstorm with every team and function in your organization

Identifying opportunities is a critical step toward realizing growth potential. For instance, as a small business in a competitive market, your field sales team can figure out niches that have not been exploited or have seen an upsurge in demand. Those are your opportunities.

You can expect unexpected insights from teams once they’re in the same room with you. 

2. Set SMART goals for your teams

Just like your target, adopt the SMART framework to set goals for your organization’s functional units. SMART goals provide clarity, which helps team members understand exactly how to go about chasing those goals. 

In addition to this, you will have a benchmark to help you assess the progress of their projects and measure the impact of your strategy.

  • Transform your goals into actionable steps with ClickUp’s Goals. Align your goals with your SOAR analysis, ensuring progress toward the outcomes you want to see

3. Shift from a problem-focused to an opportunity-driven mindset

Mindset is as important as strategy in an organization. Switch from looking at problems to focusing on opportunities. 

Instead of continuous firefighting, this mindset encourages your project teams to find and use untapped potential and turn those issues into opportunities. 

4. Integrate SWOT into your SOAR analysis

Fuse your SOAR strategy with SWOT analysis to take advantage of potential opportunities while mitigating risks. By combining the two, you can gain a holistic understanding of internal and external factors influencing your organization’s strategy. 

Eventually, a combined analysis will help you make informed and intelligent decisions.

5. Review and revise and let your strategy evolve

SOAR is not a one-time exercise. Schedule regular reviews to revisit your analysis, adjust the course as needed, and adapt to changing dynamics. 

The flexibility to easily create and update strategies helps you gain new insights and ensures your SOAR strategy remains relevant and impactful.

  • ClickUp offers several templates for strategizing and creating roadmaps for your entire organization. Connect these roadmaps to project plans and documentation, which will help you perform a holistic analysis of how your strategy needs to evolve 

Use ClickUp for SOAR Analyses

While SWOT emphasizes a cautious, contingency-ready approach to organizational strategy, SOAR focuses on doubling down on an organization’s inherent strengths—to seize opportunities and achieve meaningful results. 

As the business landscape evolves to be more complex and competitive, it’s clear that relying solely on traditional SWOT analysis may not suffice. SOAR’s emphasis on using your strengths to seize opportunities is a refreshing alternative. 

A SOAR analysis not only acknowledges the present but thrusts organizations toward ambitious goals with a positive, agile mindset.

Make ClickUp your strategic partner for SOAR analysis. 

Its intuitive interface and powerful features let you conduct effective SOAR analyses and translate insights into meaningful actions. Try ClickUp today!

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