Forward Planning: Anticipating the Future for Success


Success in an ever-changing business world rests on our ability to forecast potential risks and triumphs. Modern businesses must define and determine how to stay ahead of the curve and remain competitive. It all comes down to a significant shift in mindset, from analysing past performances with hindsight vision to unlocking creative potential through forward planning.

Many of us put great effort and thought into planning personal milestones. But why do so many small businesses overlook the importance of crafting a business plan?

By setting specific goals and objectives today, businesses can pave the way for an even brighter future tomorrow.

Forward planning is an essential component of any successful strategy; ensuring you can be prepared for unpredictable future events.

With a proactive approach to forward planning, it’s possible to stay one step ahead – no crystal ball required.



Understanding forward planning

Forward planning is the process of making plans while considering potential future needs or events.

Every organisation needs a forward planning strategy. A solid forward plan takes into account both opportunities for growth and development as well as uncertainties and other potential setbacks.

One of the objectives of forward planning is to keep future uncertainties to a minimum. These typically include avoiding significant revenue losses and a high employee turnover.

Resting and recharging is a relatable example of forward planning. Taking breaks, getting enough sleep, and engaging in physical activity can help to reduce stress and fatigue, improve focus and concentration, and boost overall energy levels.

A business plan vs. a forward plan

Business planning

A business plan is a comprehensive document that outlines a company’s overall strategy, goals and operational plans for a specific period, often covering several years.

The primary purpose of a business plan is to guide the company’s long-term decision-making, secure funding from investors, and provide a roadmap for achieving its goals. It covers a broad range of areas, including marketing, sales, operations, management and finances.

Project planning

A project plan outlines the specific tasks, timelines, resources and responsibilities needed to complete a particular project. It is often created for a short-term initiative and includes specific objectives, milestones and deliverables.

The primary purpose of project planning is to provide a clear framework for the projects team to ensure that the project stays on track. It’s also a way to measure progress and success.

Brainstorming and planning are integral parts of projects. The project’s success depends on the quality of brainstorming and planning feasibility. Only well-planned projects can reach the heights of success.

Forward planning

A forward plan is tactical planning that helps identify, schedule and prioritise actions to achieve specific objectives over a defined period. It is more focused than a business plan and typically covers a shorter time frame, often one year or less.

The primary purpose of such a plan is to ensure that the organisation stays on track in meeting its goals and objectives. It often includes specific goals, timelines, action items, resource allocation and accountability.


The benefits of forward planning

How does forward planning work?

Setting a vision and achieving goals doesn’t happen in isolation. It takes collaboration and engagement to come together on shared aims.

Forward planning brings stakeholders, management, staff members, service users and funders around the same table for an open dialogue about where your organisation is heading.

This crucial first step mobilises people with diverse backgrounds to develop strategies to reach future ambitions – leading up to proposal formulation, which seeks feedback from all stakeholders.

When preparing for a forward plan, there are several factors to take into mind:

Time scale: When setting project timelines, be realistic and allow sufficient time to deliver the project. This includes factoring in unexpected delays that may arise during the project.

Budget: Proper budget planning is crucial to the success of any project. Ensure that quotes and supply prices are locked in and that any potential cost overruns are anticipated and accounted for.

Workforce: Adequate staffing levels and contingency planning should be considered, especially during high employee absenteeism, such as holidays or peak work periods. With TimeTrack Auto Scheduling, tasks are assigned to available resources based on their availability, skills, and other relevant factors. This can help minimise overbooking or underutilising resources.

Time management: It’s important to properly allocate resources to ensure that workloads are managed effectively and employees are not waiting for resources while on the job.

External personnel: When working with external partners, such as contractors or councils, it’s essential to ensure that they are available and coordinated effectively to keep the project on schedule.

Unforeseeable adverse circumstances: Contingency planning addresses unforeseen events that could disrupt the project timeline. Identifying critical aspects of the project and adding additional time or resources as needed can help mitigate these risks.


TimeTrack Auto Scheduling

Which business benefits from forward planning?

Forward planning is the key to reaching your goals and staying ahead of the competition. Regardless of size or industry, every business benefits from a strategic approach to its success.

Here are some specific types of businesses that should employ forward planning:

  1. Start-ups can use forward planning to develop a roadmap for their business, define their target market and set specific goals and timelines for achieving those goals.
  2. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can create a strategic plan that outlines their business objectives and how they will achieve them. This can help them to stay competitive, grow their market share and expand their customer base.
  3. Large corporations can develop a comprehensive business plan that includes a long-term vision and specific strategies for achieving their goals. This can help them to innovate, respond to changing market conditions, and maintain their position as market leaders.
  4. Non-profit organisations should use forward planning to develop a strategic plan that outlines their mission, goals and objectives. This can help better serve stakeholders, attract donors and volunteers, and achieve social and environmental impact.

An example of a five-year forward plan

Let’s take an example of a retail store that’s on a mission to create an online presence which prioritises sustainability in the next five years.

Setting specific goals

  1. Research and identify eco-friendly products and suppliers within the first year.
  2. Prepare a business plan and secure financing within the first two years.
  3. Launch the website and begin selling products within the third year.
  4. Achieve a profit margin of 15% within the fourth year.
  5. Expand the product line and reach a wider customer base within the fifth year.

Developing a plan of action

Year One

  • Research and identify eco-friendly products and suppliers.
  • Create a website and social media presence to begin building brand awareness.
  • Attend relevant industry conferences and events to network and gain insights.

Year Two

  • Create a detailed business plan with financial projections and secure financing.
  • Finalise contracts with suppliers and order initial inventory.
  • Hire employees as needed.

Year Three

  • Launch the website and start selling products.
  • Implement marketing campaigns to increase traffic and sales.
  • Monitor inventory and sales performance to make necessary adjustments.

Year Four

  • Analyse financial performance and adjust the business plan as needed.
  • Expand the product line and offer more variety to customers.
  • Seek partnerships with complementary businesses to expand the customer base.

Year Five

  • Evaluate progress and determine the next steps.
  • Increase marketing efforts to expand customer base and drive sales.
  • Explore options for brick-and-mortar retail locations.

Allocating resources

  • Financial resources: Secure financing and track revenue and expenses.
  • Human resources: Hire employees and build a team to support the business.
  • Technology: Develop and maintain a website, social media presence and other software.
  • Equipment and inventory: Order and manage eco-friendly products and supplies.

Timesheets by Timetrack can provide valuable insights into productivity and resource allocation, allowing for more effective planning and schedule resource management in the future.


TimeTrack Timesheet

Implementing the plan

  • Delegate tasks to team members.
  • Monitor progress and make adjustments as needed.
  • Ensure all necessary resources are available and effectively utilised.

Evaluating progress

  • Monitor KPIs such as sales revenue, profit margin, customer acquisition and website traffic.
  • Analyse financial performance regularly and make necessary adjustments.
  • Regularly assess the business plan and adapt goals and strategies as needed.

In a nutshell

The art of forward planning is vital when it comes to setting yourself up for success. Having a plan on paper will ensure that you and your team have a roadmap in place to guide everyone towards an agreed-upon destination.

This blueprint may evolve over time, so remain flexible to changes as they come, but it will certainly help to have a framework in place.