Fireside Chat: How Companies Navigate Annual Planning

Fireside Chat: How Companies Successfully Navigate the Annual Planning Process

Without a doubt, the end of the year is a stressful time. There are the holidays, you’re trying to finish the year strong, and annual planning is looming around the corner. For some, annual planning feels like the bane of their existence. After all, it requires a complete shift away from the day-to-day mindset and can seem like a distraction from the actual product development work that needs to get done.

But annual planning doesn’t have to be the overwhelming, laborious, and often fruitless exercise many of us have come to dread. Annual planning can provide valuable direction, set you up for success for the rest of the year.

In this webinar, our expert panelists discuss several ways to approach annual planning that they’ve seen work first-hand and for ProductPlan customers. Our panelists include ProductPlan’s own Zach Garfinkel, Customer Support Team Lead, and Rachel Wynn, Principal Product Manager.

During this 40-minute webinar, Rachel and Zach discuss the benefits of annual planning, approaches to planning, and best practices. They also take time for Q&A at the end. Here are a few of their insights:

Benefits of annual planning

Annual planning gets you to market faster and less expensively, improves your chances for success, and enhances your credibility and leadership. It’s an opportunity to drive alignment across the organization so everyone can get clarity around its vision and strategy and potentially provide feedback. This drives engagement and helps everyone feel invested in the plan.

Approaches to planning

There are many ways to plan for the year, but Rachel and Zach recommend allowing for a flexible plan. As priorities shift and you learn new things, plans must evolve and adapt. For most organizations, planning is not a one-and-done task.

Your approach to planning will also heavily depend on your organization – is there a strong top-down vision? How involved is product management in that vision? These things will inform how you and your team do annual planning.

For example, one webinar audience member asked what to do if the business strategy and goals weren’t ready.

Rachel advises, “Figure out what you do know…Start your product strategy and planning from the vision you do know and maybe don’t do a whole year, maybe do a shorter time period so you can get feedback from your leadership team as they’re developing their business strategy and objectives so you can course correct.”

Best practices

While there are many ways to go about annual planning, there are a few key ingredients that are crucial. Rachel points out that product teams that get the best results are very intentional about what they want to achieve, where they want to invest and how much they want to invest. They know what they do want to focus on and what they don’t.

Zach shares that his most successful customers do a form of “light planning.” They have goals for the entire year but maintain a flexible mindset and plan for the upcoming quarter with greater detail, while subsequent quarters will be less granular.

Zach also has a great roadmapping tip explaining, “Create a version at the beginning of the quarter, and then create a version at the end of the quarter and roll them together in the portfolio view to then see how things evolved…See where you’ve started and where you’ve ended.”

Zach goes on to say that this creates a visual you can share, embed, and review with the team so you can see progress and celebrate progress.

For more great tips and insight into successful webinar planning, watch the full webinar.

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