Annual Planning: Why Is It So Important?

On a personal level, planning is an essential aspect of everyday life. And when it comes to companies, whether small or large, planning is equally essential. Annual planning is one of the most important activities that companies do every year because it provides an opportunity to set the overall direction of a company by discussing goals, metrics, budget, and performance.  

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What Is Annual Planning?

Annual planning can be defined as the process of defining a business roadmap for your company and your employees. It can also be seen as an organization's financial plan for the year, and it is comprised of a series of milestones that help to carry the plan forward through several tasks that lead to a broader vision of where the company aims to be by the end of the year. 

Companies must hold planning sessions to review last year’s performance, as well as specific goals and achievements. These sessions will help to analyze expectations and results from the previous year in order to create an annual plan that gives everyone in the organization a sense of where they’re headed, and where they want to be twelve months from now. 

Is Annual Planning the Same as Strategic Planning?

Strategic planning is about establishing goals to sustain the company’s vision. Is about creating a strategy where the end product is a long-term plan that includes identifying goals, as well as mapping out how exactly those goals will be met. The process of strategic planning involves choosing a methodology, assessing resources, and receiving feedback from both external and internal stakeholders. A strategic plan can also be implemented during the course of years, and not necessarily within one business year. 

To put it simply, the strategic plan will identify the framework for a company to advance on its mission. The annual plan can include goals directly related to the strategic plan but it is largely connected to the budgetary approval process for the next business year, and as such, annual planning is usually conducted by leadership or directors. 

Why Is Annual Planning Important?

A well-formulated annual plan is an opportunity to set the overall direction for your company. It can also help to empower the team by providing a sense of direction. Let’s take a look at the most relevant benefits of annual planning:

  • Annual planning generates efficiency because it circles around performance.
  • It helps to define what is critical to achieving over the year.
  • It delivers clear leadership to employees and it helps to keep the workforce united.
  • Employees gain a clear sense of direction in their departments and roles. 
  • An annual plan can rally an entire organization around goals. It can also provide a stronger connection to the company’s strategic plan.

What Is Included in an Annual Plan?

Generally, an annual plan will contain the following elements:

Goals. Before you can look forward it’s important to look back. For this, it’s a great idea to review your SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound) goals, they can help to clarify ideas, focus efforts and ensure resources are being used in the most productive manner. Remember, your annual plan should also hold a strong connection to your company’s strategic goals.

Budget. Financial elements are key to annual planning, so it’s important to take into consideration projections for the upcoming 12 months. These projections will help you plan resources, cash flow, and decide the best course of action and timing for individual projects. 

Expectations, responsibilities, and clear OKRs. Goals need to be clearly specified, indicating which teams, individuals, or departments will be responsible for carrying out tasks. Expectations must be exceptionally clear for collaborators. Also, working with well-defined OKRs can help to keep teams on track because they help to provide visibility into what other teams and individuals are working on. It’s all about maintaining the workforce motivated and crystal clear regarding who’s in charge of what. 

Timelines. When measuring performance it’s important to understand how successful your company has been in terms of achieving goals within their deadlines. Split your goals into tasks and set deadlines. 

Contingency plans. A well-formulated annual plan will also consider emergencies. It’s always a good idea to think of alternate scenarios, such as what would happen if suddenly your cash flow would become compromised? 

Values and mission. It’s also instrumental to keep your company’s aspirational future vision in mind when working on your annual plan. 

Annual Planning: 

When it comes to managing annual plans and strategic plans, you need to be on top of everything. A strong annual planning strategy can help to build a company’s broader strategic vision and to set the overall direction of a business roadmap for the next 12 months. However, as you may already know, this process entails keeping track of critical information. This can be an exhausting and difficult process, but it gets easier when you use the right tools. 

Project management software can be a powerful ally for project managers. Instagantt, for instance, allows you to keep information centralized. You can quickly store, update, share, access, and review important company-related information, all in one single place. With gantt charts, you can keep track of your budget and streamline your business plan, making sure you and your team stay on track. Moreover, you can use the same tool to keep track of your strategic and your annual plans, which will help to increase transparency across the organization, keeping track of the key results you’re trying to achieve, and visualizing progress and performance at all times. With the right tools and processes, you can create and execute a strong annual strategy.

Annual Planning Example

Template: Annual Planning Example

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