For many organizations, planning for 2015 is in full swing. If you are knee deep in annual objectives, budgeting, allocating resources and creating deliverable timelines, then this blog post is just for you! If you haven’t started yet, not to fear, give a read and kick your 2015 planning into high-gear.
Before you get into the nitty-gritties of goal setting, it’s important to have a clear idea of what worked in the year(s) preceding. Business tools such as CRM or ERP systems are great for digging deep into the information you need. Sales funnels to illustrate the time to close a sale, marketing campaign response rates, PLM (product life-cycle management) details or sale to shipment duration information are all key to evaluating the health of your business and where improvements can be made.
Here are a few questions to get your started:
- What went well in the past year?
- What did not go well?
- What are the key drivers?
- What are the key metrics?
- What are the risks?
- What are the opportunities?
- What are some of the specific factors you will be facing in 2015?
- What assumptions are you making about the market in 2015?
- What assumptions did you make about your product offerings in 2014? Still true?
- What assumptions did you make about your company capability in 2014? Still true?
Before you can break down into department goals and planning, you must have a clear vision of where the company is going. This can cover a variety of topics including
- Revenue targets (monthly, quarterly and annually)
- Product or service development. Will you launch a new product every month or add a new service offering each quarter, or remain status quo?
- Will the number of employees grow? If so, are internal promotions expected?
- Has your target market changed? If so, how?
- What is your Primary Strategic Differentiator(s)? this may already be documented, but it is a good idea to revisited this every 3-6 months.
- How is ‘company success’ defined?
Consider using the below diagram to help guide you through the process.
S.W.O.T Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats)
Starting with a S.W.O.T Analysis is always a good place to begin. Strengths are typically internal factors that are favorable to achieving the company’s desired outcome. Strengths may include product patents, trade secrets, exclusive access to resources and company recognition and reputation. Weaknesses are characteristics that place the organization at a disadvantage relative to competitors. Weaknesses are usually internal factors that interfere with achieving goals, including geographical location, financials, technology restrictions, business systems, processes and/or skills. Opportunities are external factors that may help the organization to reach the desired outcome, including new government laws loosened regulations and opened up a new market. Threats are external factors that may hinder the achievement of the company’s goal; these include changes to the competitor landscape, new technological advances or tighter governmental regulations.
These are issues that are core to the business and should a summary of key issues that are relevant and correlated to the success of the business for the next 12 months. There may be key issues at a corporate level and then there may be some issues that are specific to a function area or to several functional areas.
In any planning process there have to be assumptions as the future is unknown. As a result, assumptions, or educated guesses, about some factors that will impact the business will have to be made, this can include, market growth, product releases, the number of salespeople, product pricing, competition, etc. These assumptions need to be documented and visible for all to see. Impacts on the business are not static, therefore this list needs to be modifed as new information becomes available.
The strategies to achieve objectives need to have financial costs associated with them. It’s important to understand that the budgets are created within the context of the organization’s goals as opposed to what a functional area or department may want to deliver. Budgeting in this manner ensures that every item of expenditure is fully accounted for as part of a rational, objective approach.
Setting objectives is a mandatory step in the planning process. An objective will ensure that an organization knows what the strategies are expected to accomplish and when a particular strategy has delivered what it set out to do. Objectives should be quantifiable and measurable.
Strategy is the overall route to achieve objectives and should describe the way in which objectives are to be reached, the time commitment and allocation of resources. It does not describe the individual courses the activity will follow. There is a clear difference between strategy and tactics. Strategy reflects the organizations best opinions as to how it can most profitably apply its skills and resources to the marketplace.
The purpose of the financials is to summarize the financial implications of the plan. Ideally, there are simple diagrams, tables and commentary that speak to revenue, expenses, profitability, customer satisfaction and productivity. The whole point of corporate planning and analysis is to build a healthy organization that is financially stable. Therefore, the financial impact summarized will be the focal point for the management team and board.