Strategic Planning – What is it?

Strategic Planning is the end to end process, usually spanning a number of years, whereby a business identifies its longer term strategic objectives and then puts in place the plans, actions and resources to help it achieve those objectives.


Each element will have a series of sub-processes and inter-dependencies, involving a diverse section of an organisation's functional areas.  It is most certainly not a finance process! Whilst the finance teams may already own governance and system-related processes and controls that can they can use to help co-ordinate and support the strategic planning process, businesses need full engagement from all areas of the operations if it is to remain agile, focused and use it's resources in the most efficient way possible.


A misconception: Many small business owners feel that strategic business planning is for large companies, whereas in fact a strategic business plan can benefit businesses of all sizes. It may not necessarily be done to the same level as larger more complex organisations, but developing the strategies to attract and retain customers using all available resources as effectively and efficiently as possible is what how smaller businesses grow and become bigger businesses.


The interesting area to focus on from the perspective of the finance team is on how it raises its profile above being process owners and aggregators of data, to become value-adding business partners alongside their operational counterparts. Having shared ownership in the both the processes and outcome of the entire process between finance and non-finance staff is key to ensuring a successful outcome for the businesses as a whole.

Key ingredients included within each sub-process:


Strategic Business Plan - A documented summary of the actions, targets and timeline required in order to achieve its longer term strategic objectives:

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Mission Statement
  • SWOT (internal and external)
  • Goals
  • Key Performance Indicators (financial and non-financial)
  • Target Customers
  • Industry Analysis
  • Competitive Analysis and Advantage
  • Marketing Plan
  • Team (Management and resources)
  • Operations Plan (Allocation of resources)
  • Financial Projections, including Targets

Budget - The medium term allocation of resources to achieve the strategic business plan, usually done on an annual basis:

  • An outline of any changes to the business vs the strategic business plan
  • Potential changes to your market, customers and competition
  • Objectives and goals for the year
  • Key Performance Indicators
  • Updated SWOT
  • Any operational changes
  • Team update
  • (Re)confirm Operations Plan
  • Review of financial performance and (re)forecasts

(Re)Forecast - Real-time remodeling of the Budget, based on current performance and expected changes to the businesses and market:

  • An outline of any changes to the business vs the budget
  • Changes to your market, customers and competition
  • Key Performance Indicators
  • Any operational changes
  • Team update
  • (Re)confirm Operations Plan
  • Review of financial performance and (re)forecasts