I honestly can't believe it's July and that we have to start 2021 annual planning here at HubSpot. I mean...with all the uncertainty from COVID it feels like we still havent't finished the 2020 plan!
While the rest of my peers are enjoying the summer and taking time off, I'm enjoying spreadsheets and spending time on demand forecasts. But hey, that's @#OpsLife.
Recently I've been thinking about what it takes to build an amazing annual plan. What do you think the most important inputs are? I’ll start with three big revelations that have transformed how we think about planning at HubSpot.
Strategy is a choice. And alignment eats strategy for lunch. If you’re like me, you want it all. You want to invest in all the great ideas your team has, not to mention you want to help all your business partners achieve their goals. But this is not a strategy and no way to plan.
Our new Chief Customer Officer Yamini Rangan has approached planning through the lens of choice. She said, “Strategy is a choice. And alignment eats strategy for lunch.”
She helped us realize that our investments were too spread out, and that we needed to focus far more on our top priorities. She created a forum for debate, challenged us to bring data to the table, and forced us to choose where we wanted to win.
In some cases, we didn’t agree. She was ok with this, but once a choice was made asked us to commit. She stressed that this alignment is the most important thing. We are already off to a stronger start in our 2021 planning because of it.
Stop supporting Silos and start spinning the Flywheel. Many years ago we grew passionate about the (admittedly cheesy-sounding) concept of “smarketing” at HubSpot to break down the silo between sales and marketing. We aligned goals, communicated regularly, and focused on shared success. It was magical.
Last year, we took it a step further and added Customer Success to the flywheel. We aligned segmentation, eliminated conflicting incentives, and asked for the system improvements that would benefit the whole rather than the parts. It was transformative to how we plan.
Bad systems? Bad strategy. Speaking of system improvements, we had a real breakthrough in our thinking this year. For years we have compiled lists of system priorities from every department. And for years, we have been disappointed in the outcome. Turns out activity doesn’t equal impact, and when it comes to systems, lists don’t equal a strategy. We realized that the all system investments needed to be driven by a clear, long-term go-to-market strategy. We started there, and are already seeing high impact, cross-team improvements taking shape.
Do you agree with these? What other strategies can you offer for improving the annual planning process?