Essential Planning for Business Automation

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Essential Planning for Business Automation
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Why Strategic Business Planning is Essential

Bejamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin, Courtesy David Martin, Wikimedia Commons

Benjamin Franklin is credited with the time-tested adage "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."

A business plan is the cornerstone of a business's foundation, on which everything else is dependent, including the technology that supports the business and its stakeholders.

When it comes to business leadership and planning, planning is a characteristic that successful business leaders share.

This characteristic differentiates them and the businesses that they lead. Rather than being reactionary tactical leaders of businesses that fall victim to events and circumstances, their strategic perspective enables their businesses to profit from foresight and planning for changes they perceive on the horizon.

Strategic Business Planning: An Ongoing Initiative

Successful strategic business leaders treat periodic reviews and updates of their venture's business plan as an ongoing initiative.

Business initiatives are ongoing strategic activities that may encompass multiple programs and projects. An initiative typically:

▪ is a comprehensive. ongoing activity that is focused on achieving long-term strategic goals and objectives.

▪ outlines how business leaders want to achieve a company's objectives.

▪ are transformative and lead to positive change in an organization.

▪ has well-defined scopes and address a company's performance issues.

▪ is a broad idea or goal that requires multiple projects to achieve.

▪ is driven by a sense of purpose and a desire to make a difference.

Initiatives typically have no defined scope, timeline, or budget; they are broad-based programs that are a key part of sustaining a viable business enterprise.

A strategic management perspective results in ongoing development and maintenance of key business plan documents, like lean business plans, workflow diagrams, process descriptions and supporting technology specification documents.

Business assets drive changes to IT technologies that serve and support the needs of all business stakeholders.

A Business is as Good as the Foundation on Which it's Built

Aspects of business and technology planning that are unaddressed or poorly addressed, become part of a business organization's foundation.

Leaning tower of Pisa, Italy courtesy of Flávio Henrique Da Costa

Ineffective planning represents ongoing weaknesses in an organization's foundation.

These weaknesses are the root causes of significant challenges that require substantial resources to resolve. Left unaddressed, foundational weaknesses can result in a complete business collapse.

St. Pete 400 Central Condo Complex, courtesy of Jim Intriglia

Whether a multi-story building or a high-rise complex, everything rests on the integrity and quality of the planning, design, and construction of the structure's foundation.

An organization's business plan is the cornerstone of the business ventures foundation, on which everything else is dependent.

Maintaining Business Planning Assets

Business and Information Technology (IT) planning assets require periodic review and updating.

Critical changes in the business environment and technologies that support the business and its stakeholders need to be periodically reviewed and addressed by business leaders and stakeholders.

Business leaders who value a strategic approach to business management evaluate the performance of their business with key stakeholders on an ongoing basis.

From Dinner Napkin to Business Plan Outline

History has told the story of successful business enterprises being born from conceptual sketches on the back of dinner napkins.

Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx, presented the concept for an integrated air-to-ground system in a college paper, which he later expanded upon during a presentation on a napkin to potential investors.

Nick Swinmurn, the founder of Zappos, sketched out the idea for an online shoe store on a napkin during dinner with a friend.

The idea for Skype, a peer-to-peer voice and video communication platform, was first discussed on a napkin during a dinner meeting.

Remote collaboration platforms like Lucidchart, and lean business planning frameworks pioneered by business planning expert Tim Berry, make it easy to conceptual dinner napkin ideas into conceptual plans.

Over time, these conceptual plans can be iteratively developed and improved based on feedback from employees, partners and customers.

The Power of Visual Workflow Diagrams

Business Process Diagram, courtesy Lucidchart

The real world is a multimodal experience, with our ability to process and interpret vast amounts of visual data that our brain translates to useful information that we use to manage a myriad of activities.

Visual representations of information are far more effective for understanding the context of complex business processes. How and when business processes interact with data sources and entities, like organizations and people who engage processes and information, are visually depicted using business process diagrams.

Workflow diagrams are often used as a starting point when conceptualizing a complex process or information data flow between entities.

Visual business process workflow diagrams are invaluable tools for mapping out business processes and dataflows, from conceptual design through production go-live.

Over time, as these diagrams are updated to reflect current practices, gaps and inefficiencies will become evident, that often remain hidden when represented solely as process detailed descriptions, policies and practices.

Business Plan Review and Vetting

A lean business plan can be created by one or several entrepreneurs that have a shared mission and vision for the business venture.

Developing a business plan using a collaborative team approach leverages the knowledge, experience and perspective of team members who are focused on a shared vison for the business.

When the team has completed a first plan draft, inviting trusted prospective customers, partners and colleagues to provide feedback on the plan can identify gaps and weaknesses that can be addressed prior to launch.

Prospective customers and partners can be a source of additional ideas that can result in the development of new products and service offerings.

The Learn, Reflect, Plan and Network (LRPN) online entrepreneurs group meets weekly to collaborate on business planning and solve challenges related to workflow integration of innovative technologies like Generative AI and Virtual Reality.


The Imperative of Strategic Planning in Business Automation

In the ever-evolving landscape of business and technology, the importance of having a current documented lean business plan cannot be overstated.

From the foundational elements of a business plan to the intricate details of workflow diagrams and detailed process descriptions, each component serves as a building block for your organization's success.

Strategic planning is not a one-time event but an ongoing process that requires regular updates and revisions. It's a dynamic blueprint that adapts to market changes technological advancements, and stakeholder feedback.

Tools like Lucidchart and methodologies like Tim Berry's lean planning framework offer valuable resources for the journey. They not only facilitate the planning process but also make it more effective and adaptable to change.

Whether you're an entrepreneur or part of a larger enterprise team, remember that business plans and technical specifications are living documents, subject to change.

These essential documents are the cornerstone upon which your entire operation rests, and it's the lens through which potential investors, partners, and employees  view your venture.