Seven key considerations for strategic planning in these uncertain times

November 17, 2020 12:00 pm Published by

Well, there is one thing all business leaders can currently agree on: 2020 has most certainly not been a boring year! With COVID continuing to make its presence felt in both our personal and business lives and a deal or a no deal Brexit looming on the horizon, many businesses are currently in the midst of a period of great uncertainty and confusion. As a result, business leaders are turning their thoughts to resetting their business strategies in preparation for 2021 and the new financial year. With this in mind, we have put together seven key things you need to consider when strategic planning in these uncertain times.

strategic planning

1. Make sure you stay true to your mission and your vision

Your mission and vision are statements of the long-term purpose of your organisation. Your mission states the reason why your organisation exists, and your values set out how you will achieve this mission. Change is constant in both business and life and therefore, even though you will need to adapt your strategies and tactics to cope with these changes, it is vital that you stay focussed on the long-term mission and vision you have set out for your business.

2. Be realistic about the timeframe of your plan

Strategic plans are traditionally set for 3-5 years with annual reviews to check how things are going. However, the current business environment is changing so rapidly and dramatically that it may be necessary right now for your business to focus on a much shorter timeframe.

3. Focus on the “knowns”

The business environment is currently a minefield of unknowns. We don’t know how long this global pandemic will last. We don’t know whether there will be a deal or no deal Brexit at the end of this year. It is very easy to focus on these unknowns when what we really should be doing when planning strategically is to focus on the knowns. There ARE many things that are unlikely to change in the next 12 months. As businesses, we will continue to be faced with the ongoing imperative to cut costs while still delivering value and reliable products or quality services to our customers. We will continue to face competition in our markets, whether that be from legacy competitors or new entrants to our markets. And we will continue to need to adapt and innovate in order to keep up with technological advancements. Once we, take stock of the things that are not changing, creating a strategic plan to help us move forward shouldn’t seem so daunting.

4. Do an honest review of your current position

As important as it is to focus on the knowns in the world around us, it is even more important to find out the knowns within our own organisation. Before you go any further forward, it is vital that you do an honest review of your business’s current position. This review could focus on these four key areas of your business:

  • Finances – Many businesses have seen a dramatic change in their financial position during 2020. If you want to plan ahead into 2021 you will need to take an objective view of your current position (Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central boasts a planning system that factors all supply and demand data into consideration in order to create suggestions for future planning making). This review will give you the hard truths about your business’s financial health and you will need this before you move on to the next stage – scenario planning.
  • Team members – Remote working has become the norm for most businesses. While many employees have thrived in these new ways of working, others have struggled. It is important to get a real sense of how your team have adapted to these changes and what needs to be done in future to embed the successes whilst mitigating any problems going forward. Your strategic plan will also need to consider staffing levels within your business and whether they are the right ones for both your correct financial status and your future business aspirations.
  • Processes – As with people, remote working has tested many traditional business processes. How the business has always dealt with its regular processes in the various departments such as finance, HR and warehousing may have been challenged by the new ways of working during 2020. It is vital that you have an honest look at how your processes are coping in these challenging times and decide whether there is something you need to do to improve them.
  • Technology – It is hard to imagine how many businesses would have continued to operate without our current levels of technology. Cloud computing, software-as-a-service and video conferencing solutions such as Microsoft Teams have allowed organisations to carry on doing business when all their employees are working from home and their customers are miles away working in their own homes. However, while some businesses have found that their IT solutions have hit the mark, others have discovered that their legacy systems have struggled to adapt. It is important that you have a clear understanding of whether your IT and ERP system is fit for purpose and, if it is not, whether you have the resources, time and capabilities to make a change.

5. Conduct rigorous scenario planning

Once you have a clear understanding of the current position of your organisation, it is important to test out various different ways you could move your business forward. These different scenarios will allow you to evaluate the impact of different financial, marketplace, and global variables on your business and come up with action plans on how to deal with them. The scenarios will also allow you to explore any potential changes to your financial plan, staffing levels, processes and technology, and evaluate whether your business has the resources available to make these changes.

6. Create a clear, effective and measurable plan

Once you have completed your reviewing process and done some scenario testing, you are ready to put your strategic plan together. Volumes have been written about the best way to create a strategic plan and you may have a tried and tested way to do it. It may, however, be time to try something new. Gartner have recently produced a guide, How to Streamline Strategic Planning for Your Function which recommends the quick production of a clear, effective, measurable, communicable plan. It focusses exclusively on the following key components:

  • A few metrics that define your current and target end state
  • The most critical assumptions underpinning the plan
  • The key initiatives required to achieve the end state
  • A concise statement that distils and communicates the strategy.

7. Communicate your plan

In uncertain times like these, it is even more important than ever to ensure that your strategic plan is understood throughout your business. A plan that is well-articulated and communicated will go a long way in building confidence in the plan and a commitment to its success. Along with this, you need to ensure that the strategic plan is effectively activated. The strategic goals and aspirations within it need to be translated into management goals, including accountabilities, timeframes and accompanying budgets, if necessary.

Why can TVision help you?

In these unsettled times, a clear and effective strategic plan which is communicated and implemented successfully will allow you to be a resilient and agile organisation that thrives. In order to do this, you need an ERP solution that meets both your current and your future business needs. TVision is the UK’s go-to partner for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central and can help you implement the right ERP solution for your business. Contact us to find out more.

Sources

Top 10 Considerations for Strategic Planning in Uncertain Times – Laura P. Jacobs, MPH, President, GE Healthcare Camden Group (Jan 2017)
How to Streamline Strategic Planning for Your Function – Gartner