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2020 Vision: planning teams as the beating heart of a business

Published on 27 April 2020

2020 Vision: planning teams as the beating heart of a business

Twenty years ago, the planning team was seen as just creating forecasts and shift patterns, then watching operational performance real-time. Now, the best teams play a central part in the success of the organisation, supporting delivery of strategic objectives, customer experience and colleague wellbeing. This can be seen in Standards Accreditation, the Innovation Awards, and the dazzling shortlist for our 2020 Planning Team of the Year. Here, we see a mix of industries and variety in the type, size and responsibility of the team. There’s something for everyone to learn from, and this year 15-minute online videos make these inspiring stories uniquely accessible to us all.  

Beyond the call centre
Digital transformation over the last 20 years has had many impacts, not just growth in digital contact channels, but also using newly available data in field, branch or back office operations. Take the work of Legal & General (pg 18) in transforming the back office and the speed with which Clarks (pg 36) could catchup on digital transformation. Planning teams need to engage with operations in a way that was unimagined back in 2000. Communicating across the business is vital, putting data and capacity plans at the heart of everyone, not just the contact centre. In the team awards, end-to-end planning at Yorkshire Ambulance and North East Ambulance is changing the operating model, with financial as well as service benefits. At YAS (pg 22), this has involved changing the type of response vehicle to despatch based on models and analysis, the kind of approach we’ve seen at a higher level in planning response to COVID-19. At Severn Trent Water a new, small team have had a powerful impact on the field operation, bringing analytical thinking and planning into the management of shrinkage. 

Shaping strategy 
Shaping and influencing is the key in creating a workforce strategy with which to implement an operating model that delivers key objectives. Moving beyond routine checks and governance, this is about engaging key stakeholders as the custodians of truth, proving insightful data with practical interactive models. The team at Sky (pg 30) have focussed on the strategic plan to ensure that the operational and planning team are set up to deliver key objectives. Likewise, LV= (pg 26) radically simplified ‘what-if’ modelling to create interactive scenarios for their key stakeholders. Both teams have a purpose aligned to the business strategy, helping everyone understand the part they play. And at RSA (pg 28), strategic planning is joining up the business, with the capability to analyse a wide range of budget scenarios at a remarkable speed. 

Strong relationships
Establishing effective relationships and networking across the business is another key component of a successful planning team. A core learning module from the original Professional Planning Forum Foundation course remains a staple tool — the Up-Side-Down model referring to how Planners need to engage with all levels of the organisational hierarchy. The success at Legal & General and Three Ireland has been built on this trust and understanding at all levels. An engaged planning team is able to keep improving and introducing effective change because of the trust they have created.

Readiness & effectiveness
Operational readiness and effectiveness remain a core role for the Planning team, to translate the operating model and long-term plan into on-the-day practice. Crucial to this role is the understanding of the strategy and original plan to the reality of the day. Understanding which levers to use to maximise performance, customer experience and colleague wellbeing. Both Virgin Media and RSA have demonstrated how to become the nerve centre of the operation. Crucially, continuous improvement is at the heart of the planning cycle, the ethos of a great planning team. Whether at the start of their journey or a mature planning function, it is critical to look for improvement, innovate and establish best practice principles. Welsh Water have demonstrated how to develop individuals to improve understanding of best practice and raise their standards of output. npower are continually improving, developing forecasting models and redefining how the team can support both tactical and strategic change.

2020 Vision 
Twenty years from now, the role of planning will still be evolving, but I’m certain the best teams will be shaping business and workforce strategy. Some of us will be working in ways we cannot yet imagine. So, I ask every planner, at every level, to lift your vision. Focus clearly on how you add value. Don’t stay stuck in task and process but develop your skills and capabilities. Engage across your business, to provide valued insight and shape the end-to-end customer journey. All the best teams have one thing in common, they have become an in-demand team.

2020 Vision for the Planning Team

  • Plan for the end-to-end customer journey; don’t just plan and consider one element
  • Understand the business strategy and build a plan that delivers this
  • Develop effective relationships in the business and an outside network
  • Understand the data journey from long-term plan to on-the-day
  • Capture learning and tag data to continually improve

Learn from brilliant 15-minute videos of the finalists at

This article was first published in the 2020 Best Practice Guide - 2020 Vision: Crystallising your knowledge

To download a full digital copy of the Best Practice Guide, click here

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Author: Leanne McNamee

Categories: Library, Planning & Resourcing


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