Analysing Your Work Environment with PEST

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Vesa Purho
Development Manager, Nokia

Many of us are familiar with SWOT analysis used in strategic planning to chart the Strengths and Weaknesses of an organisation and the Opportunities and Threats coming from outside the organisation. Another often used tool for charting the environment of an organisation is PEST, or STEP, or sometimes even PESTLE. Although originally intended for describing the macro environment of an organisation, PEST can also be used in a smaller scale to analyse the environment of a documentation group inside a company. Here is a short introduction to the model and how it can be used.

As you might have already guessed, like SWOT, PEST is an cronym for describing the Political, Economical, Sociocultural, and Technological factors in your work environment. In the longer form, PESTLE, the “L” stands for Legal and the “E” for Ecological. In the shorter form, the legal and ecological factors can be included in the sociocultural analysis. So an organisation, in this case a documentation department, can analyse its operating environment based on the four PEST factors.

When thinking about the political situation, you should analyse the position of the documentation department in relation to other departments. Is the documentation department recognised as an important function and given the needed responsibility and authority, or does it need to fight for its existence? Who are the major stakeholders that can influence the responsibility and authority of the department, and how can you affect those stakeholders? What is the political atmosphere in the company? Is there a lot of power-play and elbow tactics going on, or is there open communication and respect?

The economical situation is naturally about money. Do you have money to spend on development activities, or should you just concentrate on getting documents done? What is the economical situation in the company, and how can that affect your department? Who controls the budget and how; what are your possibilities in influencing the budget? Are there some places where you could save money by improving your processes and interfaces?

Sociocultural aspects involve the people and the working conditions. How do the people work together in the documentation team and with others involved in creating documentation, like SMEs? What are the personality types in your team, and how do they work together and complement each other; do their personality types match the job requirements? Do you work in a multicultural team, and how has that affected communication; do the team members understand the differences between the cultures? If you are using contractors or have outsourced part of your documentation, how effective is the relationship between the people in-house and those outside the company? If you work in a multinational company, what are the legal aspects related to your work that you should be aware of when making global decisions?

Last, the technological factors relate to the tools you use in your work. What tools are you using, and what are the problems with them? What kind of development needs do you have, and do you have the resources to implement them? Do you have multiple tools used by different teams, and what does that mean for the overall efficiency? How do the writers and project managers feel about the tools?

After doing the current-state analysis, hopefully with the help of your team members and representatives from the stakeholders, you need to describe where you would like to be in each area and make an action plan for getting there. You can also combine the PEST analysis with SWOT so that you analyse each part of the SWOT with PEST. What are your political, economical, sociocultural, and technological strengths?


This article is the personal opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion or practice of Nokia.