Previously, I highlighted how a business plan can give product managers valuable insights into key organization objectives. This week we’ll take a deeper dive into the remaining seven sections of the business plan. By doing so you’ll have a better understanding of the kinds of useful information you can extract from each. Consider it business plan 101 for product managers.
Business Plan 101 for Product Managers: Breaking Down the Business Plan
Following the Executive Summary, product managers can expect a business plan to include a section that is an overview of the company and its primary industry. This section often covers a history of the company and where it stands in relation to the industry. Your products and services – the lifeblood of the product manager’s daily life – are also put forward along with what senior management believes gives the company an edge in the marketplace.
Market Dynamics – Rich Value for the Product Manager
The Market Dynamics section reveals how your company views its market in terms of size, make up, growth potential and market share. Product managers will find this section useful because it gives insights into the company’s marketing strategy and how the organization plans to leverage opportunities. There’s often also a discussion of product pricing and the logic behind it. It may also describe competitors and their tactics. You’ll also gain insights into your company’s distribution channels and how they impact your product. Projected sales revenues over a 3-5 year period are often divulged in this section of the plan too.
The Technology/ Manufacturing/Operations Section and the Product Manager
The Technology/Manufacturing and Operations section discloses your company’s product designs and the budget in place to help ensure financial goals are met. Company manufacturing processes and specialized employee skills are also covered. This section will also detail many other aspects of the internal workings. For instance, manufacturing target dates for product delivery and resources committed to product development.
The Business Plan’s Discussion of Administration, Organization and Human Resources
In the Administration section you will learn how your business is organized. This section describes how management plans to retain people who are vital to the company’s success. Policies, control, organizational structure and management philosophy are all covered in this portion of the business plan.
The Key Milestones Section Can Help Focus a Product Manager’s Work
The key milestones section will provide the key dates of profound achievement in your company’s history. It will also outline anticipated future milestones – assuming the organization stays on course with its marketing goals.
Risks Section: Where the Threats Lie
If the leadership knows there are areas of the business that could potentially derail plans, they will be disclosed in the Risks section. Regulatory gray areas, perceived market changes, legal pitfalls and new competitors will all be disclosed in this section. The Risks section should also outline the steps the company’s taking to address each.
The Grand Finale: Financial Data and Analysis
Last, but certainly not least important, is the financial data that the business plan presents. Product managers can expect to find a cash flow statement, income statement and balance sheet among these pages. Each statement presents a different perspective on your company’s health.
Through the Eyes of Your Company Leader
After reviewing the basics of what you’ll find in the business plan, it’s easy to see why it is such a valuable tool for the product manager. It will also become clear why the business plan is a good place to start understanding your company’s objectives. The business plan is a true 360-degree look at your company as seen through your CEO’s or general manager’s eyes. Collecting this information on your own would take weeks of conversation with senior leadership to gain the insights at your disposal in the business plan. If you are fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to study the business plan, treat the document with the confidentiality warranted.
There is no question that access to the business plan can help jump start a product manager down the path to success. Assuming your company is willing and able to share the business plan our crash course in business plan 101 for product managers should come in handy.