Business plan software: top four on the market

Create bulletproof plans for your business

Business planning is critical for an organisation to be successful. A business plan outlines a company's mission, goals and means of operation, as well as its financial, marketing, HR and operational needs. A good business plan should provide a clear and detailed description of the organisation, crystal clear enough so that someone unfamiliar with the company could quickly gain a comprehensive understanding.

Naturally, business planning can be a lot of work, requiring lots of information and data to be pulled together and presented. Business plan software is able to help with this process.

At its simplest, business plan software helps to take all of the information required for a business plan and put it into a suitable format. Good business plan software will also walk an individual through the process of writing a business plan, providing guidance throughout the process. It will help to calculate financial figures, make forecasts and do research. It should also help to educate an organisation's relevant staff members about good business planning.

Choosing which piece of business plan software is right for an organisation will depend very much upon the organisation's requirements. Some packages may be better suited to different sized business, or to organisations that are in specific industries. This article provides an overview of some of the most popular business plan software packages available.

Business Plan Pro

Web: http://www.paloalto.com/uk/business_plan_software

Price: From £79.99 (around US$130, AU$145)

Business Plan Pro is widely regarded as one of the leaders, if not the leader, in the business plan software market. Its manufacturer, Palo Alto Software, claims that it has been the highest selling business plan software package for the last ten years, and that over one million businesses have used the software since 1991.

Amongst its users are said to be Walt Disney, Microsoft, AT&T, Harvard and Yale, whilst Palo Alto says it is recommended by Inc., Entrepreneur, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg Businessweek.

The software itself includes over 500 sample plans for users to view to give them an idea of what should be included in any section of a business plan. The package's clear instructions are very helpful, and every step and piece of guidance is provided by business planning expert Tim Berry. Business plan figures are automatically calculated from business figures provided by the user, and a plan review feature checks for any errors. Charts and graphs are also automatically created.

A variety of tools and features to help with business funding are provided with Business Plan Pro. The software uses the preferred format of banks and investors, whilst it's also possible to export a presentation version of a plan for meetings with investors. Real-world financial data is provided as a means of comparing the user's business against competitors. There is also a plan dashboard that shows an overview of how your plan is living up to real-world results. Research resources include legal guidance, business planning literature and information about funding options.

There are two version of Business Plan Pro available. The Standard version is aimed at those looking to deliver a business plan quickly, put together financial projections for startups or deliver business planning for friends and family. The more expensive Premier version is aimed at helping individuals to find funding from investors, deliver ongoing business planning for an existing company with existing financial data, and manage their business using the business plan. Both versions are offered with a 60-day money-back guarantee.