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5 Future Trends in Business Planning

5 Future Trends in Business Planning

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: August 23, 2010 Updated: March 2, 2012

Question: As the pace of change quickens and the business landscape moves steadily more online, what do you think happens to the business plan? Do organizations need business plans? Do they want them? How do you think the business plan looks now, next year, and three years from now?

It seems to me that business planning has taken a PR hit lately, not because it is;t more vital than ever, but rather because: 1.) its sibling, the presentation, is getting a lot of favorable mentions, and 2.) i-s other sibling, the old-fashioned formal business plan document, is reminding people of how much they did-t like doing high school term papers.

In the meantime, real business planning is changing and adapting itself to real business needs as fast as any other business process or technique. Her's what we can look forward to in this area:

1. More planning, less plan

With the quicker pace of change, a new business landscape with smaller companies and entrepreneurs popping up everywhere, especially on the web, w're going to need business planning more than ever. That planning, however, is less and less the formal document we think of as a business plan, and more and more a quicker, more fluid and more flexible planning process that assumes rapid change.

What we need for the future is a lot like dribbling, keeping the eyes up to watch wha's changing, while also managing the hand-foot-eye coordination going on where you are. I's steering towards the horizon.

2. Online, reviewed, refreshed

In keeping with the'planning not pla' theme w're going to see in the future, we can expect business plans to live mostly online, in smaller, manageable pieces, where they can be shared by teams and reviewed and refreshed regularly. The old-fashioned plan document does't work, because it's too static. It's hard to go find the plan and write on it, while it's easy to get the plan off of the network or the cloud, bring it down, add, revise, and put it back.

That's the future: online, modular, easy access. Have it available whenever and wherever you need it. Get it, review it, revise it, and put it back.

3. Collaborative

Collaborative has always been the better way for planning as soon as a second person is involved in the results, the implementation, and the creative process. The new business landscape is spoiling us on collaboration, building it into our work process in so many ways so much easier than ever before. Sure, we'll still have the one-person business, the one-person creativity, and the one-person business planning; but teams will be collaborating on plans like never before.

4. Metrics and Accountability

Changes in the business landscape -- like the trend towards virtual workplaces,remote work and telecommuting -- make metrics the key to accountability. Accountability is the key to the future of management, bute planning for this accountability is essential. The planning sets the priorities, the specific tasks, and the metrics that become the critical points of accountability. It's not just blue-sky strategy, it's concrete measurable steps. And then it's tracking results against expectations, and managing.

5. Quicker, easier, more practical

The planning that every organization needs is a matter of strategy, priorities, milestones, activities, metrics, and basic numbers. It doesn't require the additional work of summarizing for readers who don't have time, describing people,background and history that everybody already knows, or editing, formatting, or document creation. It's practical, focused on the business need, and the business use.

For the future, what we'll be seeing more of is the planning process that becomes the steering or management of the organization. The document, for outsiders to read, will be just a small subset, used for special cases.

Additional Resources:

5 Dangerous Business Planning Myths

6 Steps to a Simple, Practical Business Plan


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About the Author:

Tim Berry
Tim Berry

Guest Blogger

Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software and bplans.com, on twitter as Timberry, blogging at timberry.bplans.com. His collected posts are at blog.timberry.com. Stanford MBA. Married 46 years, father of 5. Author of business plan software Business Plan Pro and www.liveplan.com and books including his latest, 'Lean Business Planning,' 2015, Motivational Press. Contents of that book are available for web browsing free at leanplan.com .