Just curious as to opinions on business plan software that is available out there ?
Mark Sievers The Sievers Company LLC Member - Limestone M&A Alliance
We've found software to be excellent to put a business plan into a standard, formal format and order. However, if you don't actually have a plan for your business first, the software isn't very helpful in planning the business.
As Molly indicates, the software is just a tool. What you need to work on and refine are basic assumptions underlying the plan. You can put together a plan that looks nice and has nice pictures, but if the assumptions aren't reasonable (or can easily be defended under questioning, then the software makes no difference. The assumptions drive the model(s).
If you feed software garbage, you'll get regurgitated garbage which is normally more rotten than the original trash.
Software helps in organizing, computation and presentation. The ideas must be yours.
Before using business plan software, break down your business into revenue streams and expense streams. Time lines of maturity and percentages of growth amonst many other parameters and information must also be included.
When you feed this information to the software, it will help organize, compute and present the plan. You must also review the plan before using it for the intended purpose.
Persons without sound commercial or financial training are unlikely to prepare usable business plans. My advice is to use a business expert who can advise or help to prepare the plan.
More information is available through the link below.
The most valuable aspect of the software is the outline, which you can get just by googling business plans. The key to a business plan is understanding the various disciplines required to put one together - particularly, sales and marketing, accounting and finance.
The other thing I would ask is who is the business plan for? Is it an internal steering document or are you using it to secure investment capital or a loan? The structure of the plan will vary depending on its end use.
I have read dozens of business plans over the years and the weakest section of 99% of them is marketing. And that is the most critical challenge facing all businesses today. Getting the word out in noisey world requires time and a lot of creative thinking.
I hope I've answered your question at least in part. If you have any follow on questions or wish to dialog, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Caffe' Marketing Group
"Give Your Business A Jolt!"
A good trend to follow is that business plan software goes online. One of the advantages is that your project team can contribute online from day one. So there are no off-line files in circulation! Not to mention that there is nothing to download too.
Below is a product card of iPlanner.NET, my favorite tool.
Mike mentioned a almost universal weakness in the marketing area. I have found the business model evaluation process developed by Don Debelak - Business Models Made Easy to be an invaluable tool for optimizing the business idea with regards to its marketing approach early in the game i.e., pre-business plan. His 18 factor evaluation will point out weaknesses and point you in the direction for addressing them before you solidify your approach in a formal plan.