Review: Business Plan Pro 2008

By Wayne Kawamoto
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Got a budding business concept that’s ripe for financing and incubation? If so, you’ll need a business plan to form a guiding light pitch and to pitch to potential investors. And short of paying for consultants who will gladly to do the job at a significant price, there’s probably no better way to create a plan than to use Palo Alto Software’s Business Plan Pro.

Business Plan Pro (BPP), which is now available in a new version 11, doesn’t face much competition and pretty much holds a monopoly in its genre. But far from letting it ride on past success, Palo Alto Software continues to update the program, improving performance and adding value.

Business Plan Pro screen shot
A new chart-editing tool lets you create impressive 3D color charts and incorporate them into your business plan.
(Click for larger image)

BPP comes in both Standard ($99.95) and Premium ($199.95) editions, and this latest iteration is well worth the admission price.

New in Version 11
While there was nothing wrong with BPP's previous interfaces, the latest version has undergone fine-tuning. The program now allows you to quickly switch between financial tables and underlying spreadsheets. And a new progress-tracking feature makes it easier to see where you are in the overall planning process and how much further you have to go.

An improved outline tool provides an overview of your plan and summarizes topics, tables and charts, and it’s easier to customize the tool to your liking. A new chart-editing tool lets you create impressive 3D color charts that may be incorporated into plans and printed out. The new plan setup asks questions to get you started, and if you’re in a hurry, the new "Keep it Simple" outline option allows you to create a plan in mere hours.

There are more options for printing with newfound controls over color palettes, headers and footers and more. Support for Spanish now allows you to convert a plan outline into Spanish and back again.

To distribute plans to those who need to see them, you can rely on the new SecurePlan.com feature that lets you publish a plan to the Internet where it may be viewed by investors, partners, colleagues, family and more. Of course, the feature lets you control who views your plans. One last thing, the program has been optimized to work in Windows Vista.

Business Plan Pro screen shot
Premier’s management dashboard displays an overview of your plan, and it lets you compare real world results against your plan.
(Click for larger image)

Unveiled in Premier
The higher-end Premier comes with a new management dashboard that displays an overview of your business plan and allows you to compare real world results against your plan. Premier accepts data for sales, expenses, cost of sales and milestones and highlights variances between your current results and plan, as well as checks that your spending is in line with projected budgets.

Premier’s “What if” features allows you to enter different scenarios and view their impact on cash flow. Some of the options include: net-60 versus net-30 for customers, working with inventory and more. For the first time, Premier offers the means to update a business plan for a new fiscal year without losing your original data. The archive and roll-forward feature copies your current plan, archives it for safekeeping and then prepares it for the following year.

A new “save as template” feature lets you customize and distribute business plan templates to other people, which can be useful for franchisers and consultants and other businesses with seperate divisions and departments.

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This article was originally published on February 12, 2008
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