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If you think a business plan is something that only commercial printers need, think again.

The in-house print room, just like any other business, has to evolve to survive; change, whether driven by internal or external factors, is needed to ensure that the services offered meet demand and that the cost of those services remains competitive. And like any other business, you can choose to proactively manage this change, or simply react, in which case you surrender control of your destiny.

Significant changes need buy-in from the organisation’s senior management, who will only invest if they’re confident the print room has a clear strategic direction, arrived at after careful thought and rigorous analysis, and which it can articulate effectively. This is what a business plan does: it provides the context for proposed changes, sets out the costs and benefits, the risks and opportunities, and communicates them to the relevant stakeholders.

It is the logical culmination of activities such as benchmarking and customer market research, which tell you how valuable you are to the organisation and whether or not you’re meeting your customers’ requirements. Building on that information, the business plan demonstrates how you will take the print room from where it is now to where it wants, and needs, to be. It identifies how the print room adds value to the organisation, and articulates and promotes its future plans to the organisation. Think of it as a road map that brings together all aspects of the print room operation in one place to show how you will achieve your goals.

To do this, the business plan needs four core components:

  1. a review of things as they are now, to establish the context for stakeholders;
  2. evidence that you have looked to the future and reviewed the feasible options for change;
  3. analysis of the risks and opportunities those options bring, with recommendations as to which to pursue;
  4. and, finally, a clear action plan for implementing your decisions.

The first of these – the review of existing operations – is especially important, because if stakeholders don’t understand where the print room is now they won’t grasp where you want to get to.

It has other major benefits, too. The very act of analysing the current situation encourages the print room team to step back from day-to-day minutiae and consider broader, long-term strategic issues. It also places the print room in the context of the organisation’s document strategy, and forces stakeholders to acknowledge how the two are interrelated. And it substitutes fact-based analysis for hearsay, reputation and myth.

Add in the other core components and you have a submission from a department that stakeholders need to take seriously, as a strategic resource rather than just a convenience. As such, it enables the print room to obtain stakeholder buy-in to changes needed to ensure it continues to add value to the organisation, and provides a document against which progress can be measured. And don’t underestimate the considerable value the business plan has for the print room team, providing a long-term plan they can easily refer to when day-to-day issues threaten to get in the way of strategic thinking.

A business plan along the lines described here is probably the most complex document the print room has had to originate.

If you need help putting it together, or want to discuss where to start, request a copy of The Fundamentals of Business Planning – a step-by-step guide, which provides detailed information about the business planning process.