business planning tools

15 Business Planning Tools and Strategic Planning Models That Can Help You Incorporate Your Vision

Elena Hudgens
By Elena Hudgens 18 Min Read

There are a lot of ways to plan your business. You can use spreadsheets, flowcharts, blueprints, and other tools to map out your next steps. The key is finding one that fits how you want to work. Find the right system for you by asking yourself these questions: Do I want business planning tools that help me find my way through the process or do I prefer a tool that lets me sit back and watch as my plans unfold? How much time do I have? What kind of work will I be doing with this tool? Is it something that can be done in just one sitting or should it take longer to complete? Does it allow for continuous updates as things change along the way?

This blog post will teach you how to plan your business with business planning tools. From brainstorming the first steps to understanding what steps you should take, to creating a game plan for your startup, read on to learn more about planning the business of your dreams. Read More.

The Importance of Business Planning 

Business planning is an important process for any business. It is the practice of creating a plan that outlines how you will achieve your goals and objectives in order to succeed as a company. The biggest benefit to having this type of plan, however, can be seen when it comes time for you to make changes or implement new ideas into your organization’s structure; without one, these tasks are much more difficult than they could have been with proper planning beforehand.

15 Business Planning Tools That Are Easy to Create Business Planning

Business plan software makes writing a business plan easy. You follow some prompts, answer some questions and insert your data, and voila! Your plan is perfectly formatted with exquisitely executed terms for lenders or investors to start writing those checks.

What is the best software for business plans? It depends on your needs, preferences, and budget.

We’re going to review 15 of the best business planning tools options. You can decide which is best for your startup, so let’s get into it!

7 Best Business Planning Tools

1. LivePlan

We love LivePlan overall because it offers great value at an affordable price. Aside from many other business planning tools on the market, it lets you create business plans quickly, from anywhere in the world. It does everything better than the competition and costs much less. Read More.

What’s more, the “cloud-based” online platform is easy to use and you are under no contract or obligation to continue paying for the service. Even better, if you decide to terminate the service for any reason, Palo Alto Software, the maker of LivePlan, will keep your account active and preserve your business plan data for at least a year in case you decide to reactivate your account later.

These features include:

  • You can create as many business plans as you like.
  • There is a forecasting function for those less inclined to mathematics. You can insert data and it will generate charts, graphs, figures, and even profit and loss statements, balance sheets, and cash flow documents. 
  • There are more than 500 business plan templates for all major industries.
  • Integration between Xero and QuickBooks.
  • Real-time tracking of financial data.
  • Create a Word or PDF file of your business plan.
  • Expert advice and step-by-step instructions are included.
  • Budgeting and revenue dashboards to track performance.
  • Prepare one-page presentation plans for investors. 
  • The milestone scheduling feature can be used to assign milestones to people when working with others on their plans.

2. Enloop

Are you searching for affordable business plan software with a free trial? In addition to many other business planning tools, Enloop deserves consideration. It offers a variety of features, including ideas generation and different estimations of costs. The company also offers target marketing tools for more personalized customer acquisition. Read More.

These features include:

  • The platform is user-friendly.
  • Compare your financial performance to that of your industry.
  • Bank-ready financial statements (Profit & Loss Statement, Balance Sheet, Cash Flow Statement).
  • Multi-member teams can work on Enloop’s business plan software.
  • Reports detailing 36-month financial performance.
  • Sync your business plan with the date and text.
  • Ratings based on real-time performance.
  • Projection of financial results.
  • Report on the business plan’s success/failure.
  • Charts in color.
  • Formatting multiple currencies.
  • The score for Enloop’s performance.
  • Plans samples that can be customized.
  • Write a business plan quickly with the auto-writing feature.

3. Bizplan

Bizplan rates are at the top of our list because they offer a lifetime plan that gets you “forever access” to their business plan software. You also get free access to Startup Courses and LaunchRock, a landing page builder! Read More.

These features include:

  • Create your own plans using our easy-to-use “fill-in-the-blank” tool.
  • You can publish your business plan online.
  • Business plans with unlimited resources.
  • Bizplan handles the finances.
  • Cloud-based (any browser can be used).
  • Tables with unlimited numbers.
  • The number of sections is unlimited.
  • Additional graphics and photos can be added.
  • Convert to PDF.
  • It is currently integrated with Xero accounting software.
  • Integration with QuickBooks is in the works.

4. IdeaBuddy

If you’re an entrepreneur and don’t know what to do next, IdeaBuddy might be the software for you. It’s a good place to start if your idea is broad or unclear. The focus on helping entrepreneurs develop their ideas first before sharing them will help take some of the guesswork out of business plan creation and shareability with the world!

These features include:

  • Pitch your business idea on a single page (idea plan).
  • Great financial tools combined with a clean and modern design.
  • A guide to doing business.
  • Developing a financial plan.
  • Developing a business plan.
  • Promoting and selling your products: a marketing plan.
  • Creating targeted customer profiles, identifying your competition, and calculating market potential are all part of a market overview plan.
  • You could create a financial plan to determine how much you need to start.
  • Creating a business plan that includes cash flow projections and performance forecasting.
  • When you complete the “Story Mode,” a proprietary algorithm calculates a final score for your idea and suggests ways to improve it.
  • You could use this journal to show potential investors your internal business plan.
  • No credit card is required for the 15-day free trial.

5. PlanGuru

Business planners who are looking for more robust software that offers a wide range of business planning tools should check out PlanGuru. The most notable feature we like about PlanGuru is the valuation tool which can be found only in the desktop version of their software, not available anywhere else. It calculates your business’s value using three different methods and does so accurately according to our experience. Read More.

Budgets are a way to plan for your future. They help you manage cash flow and make sure that you’re living within your means while also planning out how much debt or savings you can take on in the meantime. Most people use Excel, which is cheap, but PlanGuru’s software helps put together a customized business costing model with QuickBooks or Xero in minutes so that it will be easy to track projections over time! You are asked questions during the setup process of PlanGuru’s business plan writing software, such as:

  • Which month is the first of your fiscal year?
  • Would you like to import historical data for how many years?

Upon answering these questions, PlanGuru then generates a model for you, which you can then populate with historical data if you have it. Then you can choose from PlanGuru’s 20+ projection methods. Read More.

The following methods can be used to project financial data:

  • Earnings.
  • Payroll and other expenses.
  • Balance sheet items such as receivables, payables, crude expenses, prepaid expenses, loans, etc.

Those are just a few of the features available in business plan software. Below are a few more.

These features include:

  • Budgeting and forecasting software.
  • Analytics service for financial performance and KPIs.
  • Advanced Report Builder for Excel.
  • Platform with a user-friendly interface.
  • Analyze your financials against your industry’s performance.
  • Financial statements ready for banks (Profit and Loss, Balance Sheet, Cash flow).
  • PlanGuru’s business plan software allows multiple team members to collaborate.
  • Calculations of value (only for desktop software).
  • Projections financieres.
  • Graphs, charts, and tables that are colored.
  • Free updates and ongoing support.
  • A vast collection of resources.
  • There are desktop and cloud-based options.
  • Money-back guarantee of 30 days and a free trial of 14 days.

6. Wise Business Plans

Wise Business Plans is a little confusing to navigate and has pricing that requires you to request what you want, which can get frustrating. They do offer lots of options for different kinds of business plans, as well as other features like building businesses and keeping tabs on your account in case there are any changes or issues.

And if you wish to establish business credit with them, they offer net-30 accounts that report monthly information about the financial status of your company back through Equifax’s system so all major lenders know where the money is coming from! Read More.

These features include:

  • Business plans for customers start at $1,800.
  • Claims to be the only business plan company to write for Fortune 500 and 100 companies.
  • Services related to business formation.
  • License searches for businesses.
  • Services related to EINs.
  • Services related to digital marketing.
  • Designing and branding a business website.
  • Services related to business education.

7. iPlanner

Easily the least expensive of all business planning tools, iPlanner allows you to build your own professional business plan for just a few dollars per month. They still have some quality features too:

These features include:

  • Collaboration with an unlimited number of teammates.
  • Comparing the A La Carte and Package Pricing models.
  • Business coaches and serial entrepreneurs receive discounts.

Models of Strategic Planning

Objectives and Key Results

This model is intended to assist a company in translating broader organizational goals into objectives and tracking the key results that stem from each of them. Before you can determine what your specific initiatives will be, you need to identify three to five attainable objectives and three or more results that should stem from each one. Once you have those in place, plan your initiatives around these outcomes. Read More.

The Balanced Scorecard

The Balanced Scorecard is a strategic planning model that considers both financial and operational metrics to provide valuable context about how your business has performed in the past, how it’s currently performing, and what its future performance might look like. Read More.

Objectives and Key Results Example

Theory of Change (TOC)

The Theory of Change (TOC) model revolves around organizations establishing long-term goals and essentially “working backward” to accomplish them. When trying to achieve a goal, you start by setting up a larger, big-picture goal first. Read More.

First, you identify the intermediate-term adjustments and plans you need to make to achieve your desired outcome. Next, work down a level and plan the various short-term changes that are needed to realize these intermediate ones. More specifically, you need to take these strides:

  1. Decide what your long-term goals are.
  2. Outline the preconditions necessary for your goal, and explain why they are necessary.
  3. Determine your basic assumptions about the situation.
  4. Determine the interventions your initiative will implement to achieve your goals.
  5. Establish performance indicators for your initiative.
  6. Describe the rationale behind your initiative.

Hoshin Planning

The Hoshin Planning model is a process that aims to reduce friction and inefficiency by promoting open communication throughout an organization. This process requires everyone with any level of involvement-regardless of department or seniority-to be made aware of the company’s goals. It also necessitates that results from every level, including the leadership team, are shared with management from the shop floor up.

Tools for Strategic Planning

1. SWOT Analysis

SWOT analysis is a strategic planning tool and acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It allows you to identify each of these elements in relation to your business. Using this method will help you determine new opportunities as well as which areas need improvement or risk negatively impacting your business’s success. Read More.

2. PESTLE Analysis

You can use the PESTLE analysis as part of your strategic planning process. PESTLE stands for:

P: Political

E: Economic

S: Social

T: Technological

L: Legal

E: Environmental

Each of these elements allows an organization to take stock of the business environment they’re operating in. This helps them develop a strategy for success, which can be achieved through carefully evaluating their own situation. Read More.

3. VRIO Framework

4. VRIO Diagram

VRIO is a strategic planning tool that helps organizations identify their competitive advantage, which can be done by taking into consideration the market, product, or service. The tool consists of four components:

Value: Does it provide value to customers?

Rarity: Do you have control over a rare resource or piece of technology?

Imitability: Can it easily be copied by competitors?

Organization: Does your business have the operations and systems in place to capitalize on its resources?

If you analyze each of these areas in your business, you will be able to come up with a strategic plan that will help you meet your customers’ needs.

5. Visioning

Visioning Design

Visioning is a strategy used in strategic planning. It helps you develop a vision for the future and the outcomes you want to achieve. Once your goals have been set, it’s time to figure out what steps will be needed in order for them to come about. From there, an actionable plan can usually be created that has all of the necessary components down on paper (e.g., sales goal amounts).

Conclusion

Business planning tools go hand-in-hand with business planning. Not only are they used in order to develop a plan, but also for day-to-day decision-making. Business planning is the foundation of any good negotiation strategy and goes beyond just compiling numbers on paper because it adds context to those numbers. Read More.

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Posted by Elena Hudgens
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Elena Hudgens is an entrepreneur with 10+ years of experience. She started her journey by building her own e-commerce website on Shopify and turned her $1000 savings to millions in just 2 years. Soon she started different ventures in which she failed and succeeded. And now, she's on a mission to help other entrepreneurs with her life and business lessons.
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