Is there such a thing as “Business Planning” for Federal Organizations?

“Business Planning” isn’t a term you often hear used within the Federal sector.

And yet, a Business Planning approach, especially one that balances private sector best practices with the realities of Federal operations, is essential to helping Federal entities plan, budget, execute, and manage more effectively.

Business Planning is not a replacement for strategic planning, financial management, project management, or budgeting.

Instead, Business Planning links key aspects of strategy, operations, and budget together in a unique and powerful way.

The opportunity to apply Business Planning solutions in the Federal sector has been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Federal entities must have methods and tools to rapidly answer questions such as:

  • How should operations be adjusted to respond to emerging priorities?
  • What is the best way to strategically apply funding from CARES?
  • How can you best plan to resume full operations?
  • How can Managers be empowered to efficiently track and project resources across funding sources?
  • What scenarios may need to be considered if FY21/FY22 operational budgets are flat or sharply reduced?

Even in more typical times, when Federal leaders are focused on a rhythm of planning and executing toward long-term goals, strategies, and priorities, a Business Planning approach can drive breakthroughs in performance and execution.

So, what is Business Planning?

This diagram illustrates constraints leaders must balance when planning.

Business Planning is a methodology through which strategic, operational, and budgetary elements are linked.  It works like this:

  1. Each year, leaders at the Office/Branch levels develop detailed operational proposals and budget requests.  These requests, which can also be thought of as draft Business Plans, are rolled-up to an executive view.
  2. Executives review and evaluate all draft Business Plans in the context of strategic priorities and budgetary constraints. 
  3. Executives approve elements of the Business Plans, to include specific initiatives, and allocate annual budgets back to the Office/Branches. 
  4. The result is an integrated Business Plan across the enterprise addressing operations and budget that can be tracked, monitored, and adjusted throughout the year.  

The Plan 4 Technology and Plan 4 Healthcare teams are experts at teaching Federal organizations how to adopt Business Planning methods. Our 4Cast solution is a SaaS tool already in use in the Federal sector with thousands of users.  It’s a modern Business Planning system that will impove planning, decision making, and financial performance while reducing manual effort.

4Cast can be rapidly deployed in Federal organizations to conduct detailed operational planning, to establish budget targets, and to track resource utilization at enterprise, regional, and unit levels.  When implemented in tandem with a true “Business Planning” methodology, 4Cast has the capability to transform Federal entities by instilling long-term strategic alignment, accountability, and financial stability.

Plan4 is trusted partner ready help Federal organizations sustain and thrive as they emerge from the COVID-19 crisis and look to the future. Contact us today at support@plan4.com or Request a Demo to discuss how we can use Business Planning and 4Cast to transform your planning and results.

In a Time of Crisis, Keep an Eye on the Horizon….

Many organizations are facing an unprecedented challenge as they plan and execute responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. A crisis of this magnitude can be overwhelming, taxing staff, increasing costs, displacing other priorities, and destabilizing aspects of operations.

Yet, even the most severe crisis is usually measured in months, not years, and organizations must sustain a basic rhythm of planning and executing toward long-term goals, strategies, and priorities.

When in the throes of a crisis, how can an organization balance a focused response with the need to look to the future and bigger picture?

  1. Retain basic management discipline: Crisis response often involves shifting day-to-day responsibilities, taking on many new meetings, and significantly increasing reporting and communication activities. Under these pressures, leaders may easily slip into “full-time” crisis mode.   As much as possible, strive to retain basic management processes and structures where leaders have an opportunity to step out of the crisis, come up for air, check on execution, adjust plans, and spend time thinking about the future.
  2. Identify team members who can step up: A crisis situation is an opportunity to tap into the organization’s emerging leaders. Ask, “who is ready and willing to step up and take on tasks that leaders need help with?” Identify strong candidates who are positioned to fill gaps around key tasks such as managing operations, tracking budgets, and monitoring execution. The experience will benefit the organization and its upcoming leaders both now and in the future.
  3. Get some help: Getting through a difficult time may come down to having an extra set of helping hands. Consider opportunities to retain expert support to temporarily take on crucial functions and tasks. Securing assistance from a trusted partner will give leaders piece of mind knowing that important management functions are preserved during turbulent times.

If the COVID-19 response is interfering with your Organization’s ability to stay on track with operations and budget while looking ahead to the coming year, the Plan4 team stands ready to assist with our expert team, leading Business Planning practices, and the 4Cast platform. Our team members are positioned to take a hands-on role with one or more of the following tasks:

  • Organizing your Business Planning cycle by defining each step, scheduling key activities, and communicating with your leaders and Managers
  • Training and coaching your Managers on building quality Business Plans addressing operational and budgetary needs
  • Facilitating planning reviews and Business Plan feedback sessions on behalf of leadership
  • Assisting your Finance team with budget analysis, projections, and detailed resource budgeting
  • Eliminating and streamlining manual processes related to annual planning and tracking to save time and energy

Plan4 is trusted partner ready help organizations sustain and thrive as they emerge from the COVID-19 crisis. Contact us today at support@plan4hc.com to discuss how we can lend a helping hand during this time of need.

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The Route to Planning Success: Learning and Adjusting Along the Way

Planning is essential for all effective organizations. However, the value of planning is greatly diminished without ongoing execution, tracking, and adjusting throughout each year.

Imagine planning a long drive across the country.  If your goal is efficiency, you’ll plot out the shortest, safest course.  If your goal is leisure, you may plot a longer, more scenic trip. Either way, imagine being a quarter or halfway into your trip and finding that your planned route is unexpectedly blocked.  Your goal of completing the trip remains, so it’s time to adjust your plan, consider detours, and assess what else might need to change.  Will the trip take longer?  Will you need more gas or stops?  Do you need to reconsider your final destination?

This scenario illustrates something we all know about planning and executing – no plan is perfect and unanticipated challenges will inevitably arise.  This is especially true when the truly unexpected occurs, such as the unfortunate COVID-19 pandemic confronting society and organizations across the world.

What is your approach to evaluating your plans, identifying roadblocks, and making needed course corrections along the way?  One method is to instill planning discipline and tracking through a formal “mid-year” execution review process.  Goals of a mid-year process include:

  • Evaluating operational and financial performance.
  • Reviewing execution of planned tactics and actions.
  • When needed, designing corrective action and adjusting budgets.
  • Facilitating open and direct communication and feedback.
  • Refocusing activities on top organizational priorities.

Plan4 is here to help you implement an effective and simple structure for monitoring execution of Business Plans using the 4Cast platform.

Below are ideas for organizing and conducting “mid-year” progress reviews with each Department or key function within your Organization.

Best Practices and Tips for Holding Mid-Year Service-level Business Plan Progress Reviews

Summary: Mid-Year Progress Reviews are scheduled checkpoints with each Department in your Organization. The purpose of conducting reviews is to assess each Department’s year-to-date plan progress, budget performance, and any needed changes for the rest of the year.
When: Either Quarterly or Semi-Annually during the Fiscal Year
Who: Department Directors/Managers

Finance Team Members

Select Executive Team Members

HR Support

How: The organization’s POC for Business Planning schedules 30 – 60 minute meetings with each Department in the organization. The meeting room used for the review should provide a computer/screen where 4Cast and other pertinent data can be displayed.
Suggested Topics:
  1. Tactical Objective Performance – Has the Department completed planned Tactical Objectives in a timely manner?   What Objectives and Action items are still outstanding?
  2. General Performance – Is the Department meeting its overall performance targets and planned milestones? Are there any performance opportunities or challenges that have arisen during the year?
  3. Financial Performance – Has the Department utilized resources within its budget allocation? Are there any resources areas where they are projected to significantly over or under execute for the rest of the year?
  4. What’s changed? – Are there any new directives or priorities affecting the Department?   What aspects of plans or budgets may need to be re-evaluated or changed to help improve current performance?
Helpful Tips: Being Prepared will Save Time – Before sessions, Department leaders should review and update budget data in 4Cast, update Tactical Objective status, and attach supplemental performance data. Departments can use the “Comments” feature in 4Cast Monitoring to document updates and status notes.

Not Just a Budget Review – Mid-year reviews provide a great opportunity to look holistically at the Department’s overall performance. If your Organization is already conducting regular performance reviews, consider incorporating an analysis of budget performance into one integrated review.

Follow Through – Assign action items and ownership/dates for follow-up.   Ensure changes are captured in 4Cast, to include modifying Business Plans as well as budget targets for the rest of the year. When appropriate, significant resource requests should be referred to for formal review/approval.

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” – Pablo Picasso

How can the Plan4HC team help you with mid-year reviews? Contact us today at 4castsupport@plan4hc.com to discuss how we can support your process.

Using 4Cast to Assist With Your COVID-19 Response

4Cast Can Help You Plan and Respond to the Unexpected

The coronavirus is an important and serious matter across the United States, affecting nearly all facets of society and business.  At Plan4 Technologies and Plan4 Healthcare, we understand that affected organizations need to make rapid operational and budgetary adjustments to respond to the virus.  We also understand that planning and tracking actions related to your response is complex and requires coordination of activities across functions and personnel.  The capabilities of Plan4’s 4Cast platform are designed to help you manage this exact challenge.  4Cast can be utilized to:

  • Establish detailed response Action Plans at the Organization and Department-levels
  • Track and report completion of Plans and Action Items
  • Revise Department-level Business Plans to reflect current priorities
  • Budget and track Resources related to response planning
  • Update Organization and Department-level Budgets to reflect any needed adjustments

The Plan4 team stands ready to provide hands-on support to help you manage your response efficiently using 4Cast as best suited for your organization.  Contact us today at 4castsupport@plan4hc.com to discuss how we can be of service.

4Cast Tool Product Update

4Cast Tool Product Update as of March 2020

The Plan4HC Team is excited to share the following 4Cast product updates:

Recently Launched Features:

  • Ability to utilize Vacancy Data to assist in staffing budget scenario projections
  • Ability to document feedback and action items throughout the year as part of progress reviews
  • Increased flexibility in the “Supportable FTEE” Calculator, allowing for client-specific configurations
  • Ability to update and display Overtime Cost Transfers
  • Ability to view detailed historical resource data within 4Cast Monitoring

Coming with FY21 Business Planning:

  • Ability to directly link resource requests to tactical objectives within Business Plans
  • Enhanced features to budget/view FTEE in terms of both Cumulative FTEE and Salary
  • Simplifying and streamlining FTEE planning and budgeting
  • Enhanced user guidance across the tool using “Tool Tips”

Additionally, in 2020 we will be launching a user group to share best practices and process guides.

We are looking forward to working with each of our clients to kick off FY21 Business Planning in the next few months!

4Cast Product Development Team

Email: 4castsupport@plan4hc.com