Business Planning at Its Best

Business Planning at Its BestThe past 18 months have tested companies in a way most organizations could never have planned for. The COVID-19 pandemic, in combination with changing demographics and the new realities of remote work, highlighted the importance of business planning. An ideal business plan involves all parts of the organization, articulating a focused set of business goals and strategies to achieve them.

Recently, I hosted the latest meeting of the Aite-Novarica Women’s Network on the topic of business planning. Panelists Teresa Magruder, EVP of Shelter Insurance; Kimberly Koury, CIO of Electric Insurance; and Susan Boyd, Managing Director of Emergent Holdings discussed how their organizations approach and optimize business planning.

Tradition and Innovation in Business Plans

Many insurers have traditional business planning practices in place that begin during late summer and are completed in November. Effective business plans often include a 3-5-year strategic plan, plus an annual business plan and budget. They address enterprise and departmental business and consider internal and external factors that could affect the organization’s ability to meet these strategic goals. Best practice is to involve all levels of the organization, although many insurers focus on feedback from executive stakeholders.

One panelist mentioned that remote work has allowed for greater collaboration and incorporating more perspectives. Traditional metrics have emerged as a potential challenge in business planning as organizations move from manual toward systemic capabilities and efficiencies.

Some insurers are incorporating nontraditional strategies into business planning, such as block funding for divisions, departments, or functions and separating development of business strategy from annual budgeting. Hoshin Kanri planning emerged in the discussion, an approach that ensures that strategic goals and business are progressing together. Hoshin emphasizes formal planning processes, describes tools to outline business goals and strategies to attain them, and facilitates prioritization and collaboration.

Bringing IT to the Table

Panelists agreed on the importance of IT both having a seat at the table and enabling the larger business strategy. IT is a critical piece of a strong business strategy, and friction could indicate a need for IT to create more business value and trust. To this end, relationship building with business units is crucial. One insurer holds monthly one-on-ones with business stakeholders, and business planning is an inherent part of the relationship with IT. Others have created dedicated positions to address collaboration between business and IT.

The Impact of Agile on Business Planning

Many IT shops are shifting to Agile or a hybrid Agile/Waterfall approach, which has implications for strategic planning and delivery of technology-enabled capabilities. Yet real Agile delivery methodology and traditional business planning processes are not always a perfect pairing. Part of adapting to Agile methodology may involve educating business units like finance, which will often be concerned with capitalizing on Agile or aligning specific costs to discrete deliverables. Whether an organization is Agile, Waterfall, or hybrid, agility and adaptability are key in responding to evolving business needs.

The next Aite-Novarica Women’s Network Virtual Meeting will take place on October 27, 2021 at 11 AM ET on the topic of “Making the Most of a Mentorship.” Speakers will include Aite-Novarica Senior Principal Deb Zawisza. More information is available at https://aite-novarica.com/womens-network.

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