Strategic Planning in Business

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Strategic planning is key for success in business. By planning strategically for the future, a business can achieve its goals. It’s easier said than done, but the more you know about strategic planning, the better chance you have at succeeding.

What Is Business Strategic Planning?

Business strategic planning is the process of creating a business strategy and an accompanying business strategic plan to implement a company’s vision and achieve its goals over time. The main goal of strategic planning is to take a company from its current state to its desired state through a series of business actions.

The business strategic planning process usually consists of defining business goals, doing a SWOT analysis to assess the company’s business environment and developing a business strategy. The leadership team is in charge of business strategic planning, as it has a very important impact on the overall direction of a company.

To oversee the execution of a business strategic plan, managers need to manage time, costs and tasks. ProjectManager is a project planning tool that allows managers to plan, schedule and manage their team’s work. Plan your work with professional tools such as Gantt charts, kanban boards, task lists and calendars. Then track your progress in real time to stick to your strategic plan. Get started for free.

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The Strategic Planning Process in 3 Steps

Strategic planning is very important, but it doesn’t need to be overly complex. Let’s simplify this process by breaking it down into three simple steps.

1. Set Business Goals

A business goal is simply an accomplishment that a company wants to achieve in the short, medium or long term. Business goals can take many forms such as increasing sales, revenue, customer satisfaction levels and brand positioning, among many other things.

2. Conduct a SWOT Analysis

The goal of a business strategy is to leverage the strengths of a business and minimize the impact of its weaknesses. Those two things are internal factors. The strengths of a company can become competitive advantages that can lead to business growth. There are many types of business strengths and weaknesses such as scale, speed, or R&D, just to name a few.

Threats and opportunities refer to external factors such as competitors or an untapped market. A successful business strategy considers all of these factors to define how a product or service will be created, marketed and sold, and a SWOT analysis is a great starting point.

3. Develop a Business Strategy & Strategic Plan

Once you’ve completed your SWOT analysis, you can create a business strategy that’s designed to help position your company in the market. Your business strategy guides how you produce, market and sell your product or service based on internal and external analysis.

Then, you’ll need a strategic plan to explain how you plan to execute that business strategy.

What Is a Business Strategic Plan?

A business strategic plan is an implementation plan that’s meant to turn a business strategy into action items that can be executed over time. Business strategic plans are usually executed over the course of 3-5 years.

How to Develop a Strategic Plan

To develop a strategic plan, you should ask yourself the following three questions.

  1. Where Is the Business Now? Gather as much information on your business as possible including internal operations and what drives its profitability. Compare the business to competitors and note the similarities and differences in detail. This isn’t a day-to-day operational study, but a broader look at the business in context to itself and its environment. But don’t go crazy; stay realistic in terms of your business goals. Be detached and critical in your analysis.
  2. Where Do You Want to Go? Now it’s time to decide what your top-level objectives are for the future. Start with a vision statement, objectives, values, techniques and goals. Look forward to five years or more to forecast where you want the business to be at that time. This means figuring out what the focus of the business will be in the future. Will that focus differ from what it is now, and what competitive advantages do have you in the marketplace? This is where you build the foundation and initiate changes.
  3. How Can You Get There? Once you know where you are and where you want to go, it’s time to plan. What are the changes to the structure, financing, etc., necessary for the business to get there? Decide on the best way to implement those changes, the timeframe with deadlines and how to finance it. Remember, this is looking at the business at large, so consider major endeavors such as diversification, existing growth, acquisition and other functional matters. A gap analysis can be a big help here.

Once you’ve answered the above questions and have a way to achieve the long-term goals laid out in the strategic plan, the next step is making sure you have the right person to manage all of its moving parts. They must be analytical, a creative thinker and able to grasp operational detail.

That doesn’t mean the strategic plan is led by one person. It’s best to not do it alone; seek other opinions. The people in your organization, from bottom to top, are all great resources to offer perspectives from their standpoints. Don’t forget to take in the advice of stakeholders, including customers, clients, advisors and consultants.

Key Components of a Business Strategic Plan

To create a strong strategic plan, one must first have a strong understanding of the business that is to expand. How does the business work? Where does the business stand in relation to competitors in the marketplace? A strategic plan is built on the bones of the following foundational elements:

  1. Mission Statement: The mission statement describes what your company does.
  2. Vision Statement: The vision statement explains where your company expects to be in the future.
  3. Core Values: Guiding principles that shape your company’s organizational culture.
  4. Business Objectives: Consider using the SMART goal-setting technique. This simply means setting up specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound objectives that your company wants to achieve.
  5. SWOT Analysis: External and internal factors that make up your company’s business competitive environment.
  6. Action Plan: A plan outlining steps that will be taken to achieve the business objectives of your organization.
  7. Financials: A section that shows the financial performance expectations and the resources that will be required to implement the action plan.
  8. Performance Measurements: Performance indicators that will be used to measure the effectiveness of the action plan.

Never forget to check your strategic plan against reality. In addition to being achievable, it must be practical for your business environment, resources and marketplace.

Business Strategic Plan Example

Now let’s look at a simple business strategic plan example. This is a strategic plan for a small construction company.

1. Mission, Vision & Core Values

  • Mission Statement: To build residential spaces that provide wellbeing for our clients.
  • Vision Statement: To offer the best construction experience for our clients and expand our brand throughout the globe.
  • Core Values: Sustainable innovation and respect for the environment.

2. Business Objectives

  • Business Objective 1: Grow operating margin from 15% to 20% over the next year.
  • Business Objective 2: Reduce operating costs by 5% over the next quarter
  • Business Objective 3: Increase the number of new contracts generated by 10% over the next year

3. SWOT Analysis

  • Strengths: Available financing, brand visibility and know-how.
  • Weaknesses: Lack of PPE, human capital and expertise in construction areas such as plumbing, electrical work and masonry, which requires subcontractors.
  • Opportunities: Lack of environmentally-friendly construction companies in the market.
  • Threats: Larger construction companies compete for contracts in the area.

4. Action Plan

  • Business Objective 1: To grow operating margin, new employees with plumbing, electrical work and masonry experience will be hired to cut down subcontractor costs. This must be done by the end of the first quarter.
  • Business Objective 2: To reduce operating costs, the company will acquire property, plant and equipment. By doing this, the company will no longer rent equipment from third parties, which will reduce operating costs significantly in the medium and long term.
  • Business Objective 3: To increase the number of new contracts generated, the leadership team will invest more in the PR, marketing and advertising departments. The company will also invest in key positions for the construction bidding process such as contract estimators.
  • Financials: This section will explain in detail what are the costs associated with the work items in the action plan as well as the expected financial benefits for the company.

Strategic Plan vs. Business Plan

A strategic plan is a type of business plan, but there are distinctions between the two. Whereas a strategic plan is for implementing and managing the strategic direction of a business, a business plan is more often the document that starts a business.

A business plan is used primarily to get funding for the venture or direct the operation, and the two plans target different timeframes in business history. A strategic plan is used to investigate a future period, usually between three-to-five years. A business plan is more routinely a year out.

A Different Intent

A strategic plan offers a business focus, direction and action to help the business grow from the point it presently resides to a greater market share in the future. A business plan, on the other hand, is more focused on offering a structure to capture and implement ideas that initially define a business.

With a strategic plan, existing resources are prioritized to increase revenue and return on investment. The business plan is different in that it’s seeking funding for a venture that doesn’t yet exist. Where a strategic plan is building a sustainable competitive advantage in the future, a business plan is designed to take advantage of a current business opportunity.

So, a strategic plan is communicating direction to teams and stakeholders in order to achieve future goals. A business plan isn’t talking to staff, which is likely nonexistent or minimal at this point. It’s speaking to banks and other financial supporters.

Strategic planning, like any planning, requires keeping a lot of balls in the air. That means having the right tool to plan, monitor and report on all the various tasks and resources. ProjectManager is online project management software that gives you control over every aspect of creating and implementing a strategic plan. Try it today with this free 30-day trial.

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