The return of annual planning?
Given the year (and a half) we’ve just experienced, companies have had to come to terms with a huge amount of adversity. We closed, we reopened, we reclosed, we cancelled, we backed off, and sometimes we even went ahead too quickly (shout-out to my restaurateur friends!). In short, what we just went through was, without a doubt, for many companies (and people), the most difficult experience we’ve had in the past 30 years.
A period of uncertainty and loss
In my last article, I mentioned that my clients seem to have traded in their long-term plans for short-term initiatives that produce immediate results. Obviously, in many cases, this is the right thing to do to ensure their survival. But now that many seem to have been able to get their heads above water, it’s time to start moving ahead with the projects that they put off for a time.
The post-lockdown recovery has brought a new challenge to be faced by employers: a labour shortage. The BDC estimates that 40 percent of Canadian entrepreneurs are having difficulties finding the workers they need. This directly affects the potential growth of companies.
If you add the possibility of a recession and an increase in the cost of raw materials and labour into the mix, you get all the ingredients for an explosive cocktail that threatens business profitability. Often, less profitability is synonymous with lower growth potential for businesses.
So now what do we do?
Like many companies, Adviso put aside its annual planning for the 2020–2021 fiscal year. We kept an eye on our annual objectives, of course, but we allowed ourselves a lot of flexibility and tightened up on our follow-ups, which we performed on a monthly instead of quarterly basis. This way we could make frequent, fast, efficient adjustments that gave us better reactivity.
So what’s wrong with that? It takes time! A lot of time.
This year, we made a decision to reinstate our annual planning. The decision wasn’t reached unanimously, but it was important to us to make it as a company. Our objectives might not be as aggressive as they were in the past, but at least we’ll have an idea of what we need to accomplish to generate growth, one small step at a time.
So what was the main reason we made such a decision? Annual planning enables you to align all your team members towards achieving a common goal, and thereby avoid trying to progress on all fronts simultaneously. Our growth objective is divided into sub-objectives related to specific KPIs, which are shared with all company members. Every person knows what they need to do and has something to aim at. This provides a much greater sense of freedom than a monthly plan, a context that causes our more liberty-loving colleagues to feel cramped.
With this more long-term planning, our key players feel free to be more creative and, above all, make mistakes. Are the numbers not quite up to snuff this month? Okay. What can we do to make up the difference next month?
It was Roger Kamena, our VP of Analytics and Data Science, that introduced me to the idea of relative pacing. When we put together our first media dashboards, he added a calculation to the idea of pacing that would clearly indicate to media planners and campaign managers what the goal was for the following day, instead of showing them only the overall objective for the campaign, which might seem unattainable if we experienced any setbacks.
This technique allows us to recontextualize setbacks and make concrete plans to achieve, for example, six conversions the following day, instead of 500 conversions in four months.
In short, it’s important to maintain annual objectives and continue to balance higher risk and lower risk projects that have proven their worth in the past. And don’t forget about innovation! It’s always motivating to do something you’ve never done before.
What strategy will you plan to adopt for your company? Can you afford a more long-term view into the future?