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e-Business Planning: Part-1: Introduction
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  • 08 December 2010 03:48
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e-Business Planning: Part-1: Introduction

Business plans, and business planning, are an essential part of doing business. As defined in your textbook, a business plan is a written document that identifies a company's goals and outlines how the company intends to achieve the goals. Just as important as the plan itself, the process of writing a business plan forces a businessperson to think ahead, to set achievable goals, to anticipate problems, and to be prepared for competition. The process, not the plan itself, increases the likelihood that the business will be a success.

We assume you are at the beginning of the e-Business Plan Tutorial for a variety of reasons:

  • We assume you are enrolled in an electronic commerce / e-business course that is usingIntroduction to Electronic CommerceorElectronic Commerce 2004: A Managerial Perspectiveas your textbook. These textbooks provide background reading on business plans, e-commerce strategy, business models, and other planning topics -- background knowledge that is assumed in this tutorial.

     

  • We assume one of the assignments in the course is to create a business plan for an on-line company. This assignment may be for a start-up company or an existing business. It may be for a real business or a fictitious firm. It may be for a small business or a large company. The assignment may be for a company that is entirely on-line or one that has a bricks-and-mortar presence too. It may even be a business case -- a business plan for an electronic commerce initiative within a company. You may be writing the plan as an individual or as a member of a group.

    The specifics of the assignment really don't matter.The purpose of this tutorial is to provide you with a step-by-step guide to creating a business plan, and in doing so the tutorial helps you complete the requirements of your course assignment.

     

  • We assume you are writing an e-commerce or e-business (e-biz) plan. We mention this because the emphasis of the tutorial is on the strategic elements of setting up a business that will have a major or entire presence on the Internet.

    The lessons in the tutorial emphasize strategy-setting activities such as writing the firm's mission statement, determining a value proposition, defining the business model, identifying target markets, and conducting a competitor analysis. The lessons cover only lightly topics such as e-marketing, operations, and financial statements, which would be the focus in other courses such as marketing, logistics, and accounting.

    Similarly, the focus of the tutorial is on the "e" in e-business plan. Aspects of e-business planning such as Web site development and reaching target markets electronically are included, while topics unique to brick-and-mortar businesses are not.

    We recommend that you treat this assignment as a realistic business exercise (we will help you do this, particularly in the Writing a "Read Right" Plan lesson). Just because you are a student does not mean that you should not be approaching this as a professional businessperson would. As much as possible, the finished business plan should not look, read, or act like a student assignment, but as a professionally-prepared business plan.

     

  • We assume you have never written a business plan before. The tutorial provides specific, step-by-step procedures to write an e-business plan with assignments within each lesson. Unlike many of the how-to-write-a-business-plan books or on-line guides (some of which are listed in ourTop Ten Resources for Writing an e-Business Plan), this tutorial has been written for students with little or no background in writing a business plan and who are keen to acquire the practical skills business planning requires.

    The tutorial is based on our practical experience in writing and reviewing real business plans, what others have recommended in the numerous guides and books we have seen, and several semesters of teaching e-business courses in New Zealand and Hong Kong universities.

     

  • We assume you are writing a small or medium-sized business plan that can be completed within a semester. We mention this because researching, collaborating, and writing a comprehensive business plan for a realistic business can be a full-time effort that extends over many weeks. Your instructor will provide guidance in terms of what sections should be in your plan and the depth required in each section (e.g., a group assignment is likely to have more in-depth coverage than an individual assignment).

     

  • We assume you are motivated to work hard and do what it takes to complete a superior e-business plan. There is no cookbook recipe or perfect plan-writing guide. While the general standards of what should be in a business plan are well known, the specific content and presentation differs. In writing your plan, you should be guided by these lessons, instructions from your course instructor, what you read in other books or guides, and your own judgement about what is important to include and how to say it. We can offer guidance and advice, but the creative and sometimes difficult work of conceiving and writing the plan is up to you.


Overview of the Tutorial

The e-Business Plan Tutorial is a set of lessons that guide you through the process of writing the various sections of your business plan. Typically, each lesson begins with a description of what you will learn and do in the lesson. Most lessons contain one or more assignments that produce a part of your e-business plan (e.g., write a mission statement, identify three target markets). A compilation ofall 20 tutorial assignmentsis included in an appendix to this tutorial. After the tutorial is concluded, it is up to you to put all assignment outputs together into a coherent e-business plan.

Frequently key points or activities in the lessons are illustrated by reference to Purma Top Gifts. Purma is a fictitious country and Purma Top Gifts is a fictitious on-line gift shop that proposes to sell fairly expensive, high quality products that are made in Purma. This is reflected in Purma Top Gifts' mission statement: "the world's premier retailer of top quality Purma-made gifts and souvenirs".

Most business plans have a similar structure that matches the structure of this tutorial, as outlined in the following table. The table also includes questions that are answered in each lesson.



Lesson

Title / e-Biz Plan Section

Relevant Questions

1

Introduction to the e-Business Plan Tutorial

What is the purpose of this tutorial?

What is assumed about the tutorial's target audience?

What is Purma Top Gifts?

What is the structure of the tutorial / business plan?

2

Fundamentals of e-Business Planning

What is a business plan?

What is a business case?

Why write a business plan?

When do a business plan?

What makes an e-business plan different from a traditional business plan?

3

Writing a "Read Right" Plan

Why is how a plan looks as important as what it says?

What is the content of the introductory sections of the plan?

What professional formatting standards apply to a business plan?

4

Executive Summary

What is an executive summary?

When should you write an executive summary?

5

Business Description

What does your industry look like?

What is your mission statement? Goals? Objectives? Business model?

What customer needs does your product/service fulfill?

What products and services will you offer?

6

Market Analysis

Who are your customers?

How many customers are in your target markets? Are these markets growing? steady? declining?

7

Competitor Analysis

Who are your competitors?

What are their strengths and weaknesses?

What specific attributes does your product or service have that your competitors' don't?

What are your sources of competitive advantage?

8

Operations

How will the product be produced or the service delivered?

How will customer service be delivered?

Who is on the management team and what do they contribute to the business?

How will Web site hosting and development be managed?

9

Financial Statements

What financing is required to implement the business plan?

Who will provide the financing?

How profitable will the business be?

10

Making an Effective Business Plan Presentation

What are the fundamentals of making an effective presentation?

What makes an average presentation great?

 

So, once again, welcome to the e-Business Plan Tutorial. We hope it is a useful and productive learning exercise for you.

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