A good year-long plan for your upcoming work gives you and your team a focus to work towards. This is your big picture — a journey to success at the end of the coming year. Your plan is not aimed at selling your company to potential investors, it is logical, data-driven and flexible.
By creating a smart annual project plan, you can avoid falling into the traps of losing control of deadlines and budgets, and streamline your processes over an extended period of time.
1. Analyze your performance from the past year
The place to start your annual project plan is in the analysis of your current year. Some decisions are super simple: if your telephone sales efforts led to zero new leads, it’s probably not worth investing more time and money into in the next year. Other areas may be more complex. If, for example, your customer service workflows weren’t performing quite as well as you would have wanted them to, you could dedicate a portion of next year’s budget to revising your approach in that area.
Analyzing past performance helps you to identify where things went well and contrast them with weaker areas you need to improve. Businesses that use Bitrix24’s project management software have all the visualizations and breakdowns they could need for a proper in-depth analysis.
2. Agree on a vision of where you want to be in one year’s time
In order to create a route, you first need to know where you want to go. With an idea of what your company should look like within 12 months, you prepare yourself for the following stages. Gather all the relevant decision makers to decide what position you would like to be in as a company next year.
Each interested party will have their own biases, of course, but to overlook this step or undermine key decision-makers could easily create resentment throughout the year. This will act as your guiding vision and should be consulted whenever decisions have to be made throughout the year.
3. Decide on expectations for the coming year
Now you know where you want to be one year from now, you can set out the expectations that will define your success. For this, you need to define what success means for your company. Perhaps it is opening up new international markets, maybe it is increasing your number of subscribers by a certain amount, but it could also be to improve customer success metrics.
Separate your expectations by department. As well as giving more shape to your annual project plan, you also provide a great deal of motivation to the workers in every department. They are able to see the importance of their own work and how it fits into the bigger picture for the company.
4. Use standardized proposals to choose your projects
Head of department know that a bit of hype and enhancement of the truth will help their projects rise up the priority lists. They may even do a bit of negotiation with other managers to both back a project they want to undertake. But just because it’s good for them, it doesn’t mean it’s good for the company. By standardizing your proposal process, you can cut out the “sales pitch” aspect that so many projects come with.
You can create and share a template document asking for the facts: goal, estimated costs, estimated time frame, team members needed, and more. To double down on your approach, set the finance department to work verifying that the facts and figures are correct. This way, you are less likely to be swayed by a flashy presentation, and more likely to choose the projects that benefit your company as a whole.
5. Set SMART goals
SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) goals are the best way of creating a realistic plan. By using the SMART mentality, you significantly reduce the risk of overlooking potential pitfalls and fully prepare yourself for any awkward questions from stakeholders.
Rather than creating overarching ideas with a vague plan of how to get there, your SMART goals focus on more tangible, short-term targets that you can create a detailed strategy for. Make sure to bear your company values in mind at this stage. It is very easy to get bogged down in the details when setting your goals, so it is important to focus on your overall mission as you plan.
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6. Include projects that aren’t directly related to your objective
When writing an annual project plan, it’s all too easy to focus entirely on the building blocks that come together to help you achieve your goals.
However, you shouldn’t lose sight of the bigger picture. Activities such as training, staff development, and team building are all crucial to your team’s skills and motivation, and therefore, your plan’s success. Refer back to your vision when deciding how to allocate resources throughout the year. If it is superfluous to your goals, it is unlikely to be a wise investment.
7. Set timeframes for every element of your annual project plan
Deadlines for each task are an essential part of good planning as they allow you to structure your year and have the satisfaction of checking off each stage as you complete it. An annual project calendar is a great way of keeping control of your yearly deadlines. Use Gantt charts as a way of identifying gaps in your schedule or times when teams are overloaded.
With powerful software like Bitrix24, you can also connect tasks to each other through dependencies. Put simply, dependencies trigger when one task is finished, automatically activating a subsequent task to save you time and effort.
8. Risk management: Play it safe
A year is a long time and it is quite unlikely that everything will go 100 percent to plan. Therefore, it’s best to factor in risks from the beginning and avoid finding yourself with unwanted surprises that can eat into the money and time you’ve set aside for your projects. Common risks could include events being canceled, your team not winning expected contracts, or staff turnover.
Create contingency tasks for these eventualities, such as alternative venues for events, a variety of investment plans, and a robust, efficient onboarding process. Risk management planning can be quite costly, however, it is a simple fact of project plans that you cannot afford to neglect.
9. Write up your budget
A budget is one of the most important features of an annual project plan as it is a clear indicator of how feasible your ideas are. A budget gives stakeholders confidence that your plans have been carefully considered, and your team will be able to start planning their activities for the year. As part of your budget, you’ll have to plan how to allocate resources and use your analysis of the past year to predict your revenue for the year ahead.
If you find you cannot afford to implement the plans you’d ideally like to, you can take action in advance, rather than running into problems during the year. A lack of cash isn’t necessarily the end of the world — you can factor in securing extra funding for the coming year, and your project plan will help to convince investors to back you.
10. Create your projects and tasks
As a project manager, you have the heavy responsibility of creating the actual projects within your yearly project planner. Cover all your bases by assigning all relevant people to each task and include all necessary instructions and resources within your software. With every update, all the relevant parties will receive a notification so you can all stay on top of your game. As we mentioned earlier, deadlines are incredibly important to any project, but especially to annual project plans.
With so much to do, failure to set realistic deadlines will lead work to pile up into a backlog that will stop you from achieving your goals. Most project and task management software gives you the option of sending reminders to keep your team on track, as well as notifications when a task is approaching its deadline so you can nip any potential delays in the bud.
11. Set aside time to monitor your progress
Make sure you don’t fill up every available second you have with tasks. Your annual project plan will need constant analysis and adjustments to keep things on the right track. If, for example, one of your key targets is to improve the number of users you have on record, you’ll need to track your team’s progress within their CRM. Bitrix24 gives you in-depth analytics where you can segregate your database to see what approaches are working.
Similarly, you can look at success on both a team and an individual level, and find out which part of your workflow is stopping you from reaching your goals. With this information, you can adjust your focus where necessary in order to reach your targets. Of course, it’s unwise to make major adjustments to your annual plan and simply announce changes with no prior warning. Try scheduling meetings for your departmental managers into your annual project calendar where you can discuss potential solutions and opportunities.
12. Start working on next year’s plan ASAP
Making a plan for an entire year is no easy task and if you leave it until the last minute, you’re going to suffer. By the third quarter, you should already have made serious headway with your next yearly project planner.
Another reason why looking to the future will help you in the long run is that you can make changes while they’re fresh in your mind. If you see that you’re not following industry best practices but it’s not having a detrimental effect on your work, you can let your projects run their course and make changes to next year’s approach.
Bitrix24 offers a full suite of business tools that works as an annual project planner and makes every process you come up against that much smoother. Shared documents can help you inspire your team with your vision and goals, and our project management tool is a beast when it comes to organizing big jobs with a laser focus. The best thing is, you can start for free, so sign up to Bitrix24 today and see how you can take your yearly performance to the next level.
What is an annual plan?
An annual plan is a set of goals and objectives that map out a company’s vision over the coming year. It analyzes the previous year to inform decisions and covers budgeting, projects, SMART goals, and contingency plans.
Business leaders include information for both shareholders and workers on an annual project planner to keep everybody aware of short-term goals as well as the overall aims.
What tools can you use for an annual project plan?
Cloud-based project management tools are the best way to lay out your annual plan. You can use them to assign tasks, set deadlines, and communicate across your company.
Team calendars help to outline progress over the 12 months on a departmental, individual, and company-wide scale. Kanban boards and Gantt charts allow you to turn your plan into visualizations that shareholders and staff can easily understand. .