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History of PEST analysis

The term PESTLE has been used regularly in the last 10 years and its true history is difficult to establish.

The earliest know reference to tools and techniques for ‘scanning the business environment’ is by Francis J. Aguilar1 who discusses ‘ETPS’ - a mnemonic for the four sectors of his taxonomy of the environment: Economic, Technical, Political, and Social.

Shortly after its publication, Arnold Brown for the Institute of Life Insurance (in the US) reorganized it as ‘STEP’ (Strategic Trend Evaluation Process) as a way to organise the results of his environmental scanning.

Thereafter, this ‘macro external environment analysis’, or ‘environmental scanning for change’, was modified yet again to become a so-called STEPE analysis (the Social, Technical, Economic, Political, and Ecological taxonomies).

In the 1980s, several other authors including Fahey, Narayanan, Morrison, Renfro, Boucher, Mecca and Porter included variations of the taxonomy classifications in a variety of orders: PEST, PESTLE, STEEPLE etc. Why the slightly negative connotations of PEST have proven to be more popular than STEP is not known. Some purists claim that STEP or PEST still contain headings which are appropriate for all situations, other claim that the additional breakdown of some factors to help individuals and teams undertaking an environmental scan.


Polls
Quite who and when added what elements to the mnemonic is a mystery, but what we do know is that the actual order and words contained are common to certain parts of the world and streams of academic study. The term PESTLE is particularly popular on HR and introductory marketing courses in the UK. Others favour PEST, STEP or STEEPLE.

What is PEST analysis?

PEST analysis is concerned with the environmental influences on a business. This is also known as: STEP, PESTEL, PESTLE, PESTE, PESTLIED, SLEPT, STEEPLE, STEEPLED, LE PEST C and LEPEST analysis.

PEST analysis stands for "Political, Economic, Social, and Technological analysis" and describes a framework of macro-environmental factors used in the environmental scanning component of strategic management. Some analysts added Legal and rearranged the mnemonic to SLEPT; inserting Environmental factors expanded it to PESTEL or PESTLE, which is popular in the UK. The model has recently been further extended to STEEPLE and STEEPLED, adding education and demographic factors. It is a part of the external analysis when conducting a strategic analysis or doing market research, and gives an overview of the different macroenvironmental factors that the company has to take into consideration. It is a useful strategic tool for understanding market growth or decline, business position, potential and direction for operations.

In analyzing the macro-environment, it is important to identify the factors that might in turn affect a number of vital variables that are likely to influence the organization’s supply and demand levels and its costs (Kotter and Schlesinger, 1991; Johnson and Scholes, 1993). The "radical and ongoing changes occurring in society create an uncertain environment and have an impact on the function of the whole organization" (Tsiakkiros, 2002). A number of checklists have been developed as ways of cataloguing the vast number of possible issues that might affect an industry. A PEST analysis is one of them that is merely a framework that categorizes environmental influences as political, economic, social and technological forces. Sometimes two additional factors, environmental and legal, will be added to make a PESTEL analysis, but these themes can easily be subsumed in the others. The analysis examines the impact of each of these factors (and their interplay with each other) on the business. The results can then be used to take advantage of opportunities and to make contingency plans for threats when preparing business and strategic plans (Byars, 1991; Cooper, 2000).

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