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External Analysis Research

A guide to identifying secondary sources for conducting an analysis of the external environment as part of the strategic planning process.

External Factors: For-profit Organizations

A key step in the strategic planning process of any organization involves assessing the external operating environment. The following graphic from The Handbook of Market Intelligence (Wiley: 2011) illustrates the complexity of a for-profit organization's external environment which can include:

  • geographic factors (in what market region do they compete - locally, nationally, or globally?),
  • value chain factors (interest groups, suppliers, competitors, and customers),
  • vertical scale factors (companies, industries, macro environmental trends). 


External Factors: Public and Non-profit Organizations

The strategic planning process for public or non-profit organizations also includes an assessment of the external environment with a focus on macroenvironmental forces and trends, key resource controllers (clients, customers, funding sources, regulators), competitors and competitive forces, and collaborators and collaborative sources,   as indicated in the following graphic from John M. Bryson's guide to strategic planning. 

See also chapter 9, Strategic Planning and the Strategic Change Cycle (Pages 240-273), by John M. Bryson, in the Jossey-Bass Handbook of Nonprofit Leadership and Management.