A strategic plan is critical for a start-up business and a valuable management tool for an established business. However, the strategic plan is only the beginning. An implementation plan breaks down each strategy in the strategic plan into action plans with assigned responsibilities, costs, staffing and target date for completion. An implementation plan is also used with projects such as developing and introducing a product to market, upgrading computer systems or opening a new location. A poorly thought-out implementation plan is more of a disadvantage than an advantage to business.
An implementation plan is only as good as the research and decision-making behind the plan. If the plan was hastily put together based on guesses rather than facts, it won't be as successful as a plan carefully crafted. Rather than assuming that the market won't change because it hasn't in the past, or no new competitors will enter the space, document the assumptions based on research.
Small-business owners may focus on the details of the implementation plan rather than the overall picture, wasting time and effort. It doesn't matter whether the social networking sites get updated three times a week or four. The point is that the sites are updated on a regular basis so friends and followers see something new and interesting when they visit. Another example is forecasting the specific expenses down to the last dollar. A few dollars off one way or the other is immaterial. The idea is to know that $10,000 will be spent on an Internet advertising campaign. If the campaign actually costs $9,567 or $10,164, it's fine.
An implementation plan that doesn't fully cover the necessary expenses won't be successful. Those functions that are phased -- part A must be accomplished before part B can start -- often take longer than planned. Add in a contingency factor for both costs and times. Keep track of each task in the implementation plan. As soon as one has an unfavorable variance, research why and adjust the plan.
An implementation plan that doesn't assign responsibility of each phase and task to a specific person or department is on track to failure. The person responsible for the task should have the authority to complete the task and be given the appropriate resources. For example, if the public relations person handles customer service and is the receptionist for the business, she won't have the time to handle all three functions adequately. If there aren't funds set aside to build or purchase a database of media contacts, she can't complete her publicity responsibilities.
An implementation plan is not meant to be carved in stone. Both the strategic and implementation plans should be reviewed as the year progresses -- or the project progresses -- and adjusted if necessary. Business owners, and their staff, sometimes think if it's not in the implementation plan it doesn't get done. That inflexibility leads to missed opportunities. For example, a competitor may be going out of business. The business owner may recognize she can increase her sales by increasing the advertising budget but be unwilling to do so because it's not in the implementation plan.