What Is Operational Planning?


About the Author

sara gardner

true Sara Gardner, CFP®

Vice President/Wealth Advisor
Littleton, Colorado


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As a small business owner, you have likely already gotten into the habit of wearing many hats. You’ve gained new skills along the way and could probably run the whole show. But would it be efficient? It's common to want to keep a hands-on approach and manage everything, but no one can. Operational planning allows you to focus on what you do best while outsourcing other roles to competent persons. It also keeps your business in an optimal sale-ready position.

So, what exactly is operational planning? It creates a detailed roadmap based on a strategic plan. The operational plan aligns timelines and action items with crucial milestones. The management team uses this information to complete and execute an effective strategy for business success.

Successful teams begin by agreeing to key performance indicators and creating an overall structure while planning for the role of human capital.


How to Establish Key Performance Indicators

Business owners typically focus on a broader definition of success than individual department heads. They want fewer KPIs on their dashboard so that they can measure the performance of their operational plans at the birds’-eye-view level. With so many KPIs to choose from, owners must ask themselves these questions to narrow their options: 

  • What is the mission?
  • What are the stakes?
  • What factors reflect the overarching goal?

Individual departments, meanwhile, may want to go deeper on the KPIs they’re using to measure their own productivity and how it contributes to the overall goals. For example, the accounts receivable team may choose KPIs focusing on collections efficiency.

This multi-level approach to business planning ensures that you cover both the macro and micro levels while keeping all engines firing optimally. 


How to Leverage Technology to Optimize Business Operations

Technology can improve any business, but that depends on how well it solves the problems identified. That, in turn, depends on the implementation process and the follow-up. Here are some critical steps managers should take to get the best return on investment:

  • Start with the system's building blocks. If you code human error into the system, technology will only automate the creation of more errors. Define the end goal, and then choose tech solutions that will get you there.
  • Provide training. When you introduce technology, training is a vital component. The tech and the people behind them need to be on point. Monday is a very popular SAAS that streamlines this process.
  • Plan for a learning curve. After paying for new infrastructure, machines, or software, it's normal to want to see immediate results. However, learning takes time and practice, so plan for a learning curve.

The Critical Role of Feedback in Operational Planning

Organizations can only progress with critical analysis, but focusing on the positive is essential. That doesn't mean overlooking failures and shedding light only on what the company does right. Instead, companies should dedicate adequate time to collect data that can create positive outcomes from negative feedback.

Consider meeting quarterly with department heads. Identify what's working and what's not, review strengths and weaknesses. While beta testing new technology or processes, more frequent meetings are a good idea. Managers must also encourage a problem-solving mindset and empower workers to develop creative solutions.

When you identify and solve the problem at the source, you eliminate the additional issues it creates. However, managers should not treat solutions as absolute. Always consider how each solution affects the rest of the operational plan.


Why Partner with Professionals for Operational Planning

Business owners aren’t successful by accident. They get there with hard-earned industry knowledge and experience. For some, an MBA program helps to hone strategies and build leadership skills. So, why bring in outside voices when it comes to a core business function like operational planning?

The answer is that regardless of your career and educational background, partnering with a professional can deliver clear benefits for your operational planning process:

  • Objective Feedback: A consultant has the experience, resources, and technical knowledge to provide a fresh perspective. They can analyze data from an independent viewpoint and provide unbiased solutions.
  • Access to Resources: Consultants have access to software and industry-specific best practices that streamline the process. That can significantly reduce time spent on planning and boost time spent executing.
  • Legal and Tax Considerations: Business owners must stay current on ever-changing regulations and tax laws. Working with a consultant can help you understand compliance requirements while also creating effective succession and estate plans.

Are you ready to see how financial advisors can meet your operational planning needs? Contact our experts at EP Wealth Advisors for more information.




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