What is your company going to do in the next 3, 5 , 7 years? Will you focus on your current products and market positioning or will you seek new ways to enlarge your business (or may be to defend it from your competitors)? What changes are you expecting in your market, and what are you planning to do to take advantage of it? Or may be you are considering entering a new market or not: If so, do you have the resources and capability to do it alone, or should you rather look for a local partner? Or may be an acquisition?
These are just some of the many questions that a strategic plan has to provide. More correctly, it has to define the guidelines to help the management take these decisions, setting at the same time a vision for the future and the objectives to reach.
In many occasions I helped develop strategic plans for my customers. First of all, it has to reflect the CEO's vision about the future of its company, since he is the one that has to make it happen. But it also has to incorporate the many facts about where the market is going, what the competitors will be expected to do, what new technologies will enter the arena and how this will change the competitive scenario, whether there will be disrupting regulatory or legal issues, what social, economic or demographic changes are expected, and last but not least how the customer will change in terms of habits and tastes.
This exercise requires careful analysis, but also a large number of "educated guesses", assumptions based on proxies, and, why not, a bit of luck.
Every strategic plan and every investment decision should be evaluated quantitatively to make sure that the company will eventually have a positive financial outcome, and this forecast is captured in a Business Plan.
You are of course already familiar with business plans, and therefore you know how complex it can be if you want to take all variables into consideration. Of course you can make it simpler, usually by increasing the number of assumptions, reducing the number of variables to simulate, restricting it to one competitive scenario only. But a fully fledged business plan has to incorporate them all, to provide its users a comprehensive view of expected benefits and risks.
When I develop a business plan, it will include all critical factors, from market dynamics to demand price elasticity, typically offering different simulation scenarios. The key input parameters will be based on realistic assumptions, calculated either by looking at past historical data, or from competitors' figures, or from primary and secondary research. The output will show your expected financial outcome in different simulations, along with the cash requirements, working capital, NPV. It will include both a mathematical model and an executive presentation with management highlights.
And, more importantly, it will remain for you as a tool for subsequent updates and revisions, which you will be able to reuse during your future strategic planning cycles.