I’m delighted that the latest version of LivePlan now includes what we’re calling the Dashboard, meaning the best-yet positive step on the way to what business planning is really supposed to be, today, which is a tool for managing a company.

This step is classically simple: two visuals only, one for sales and the other for expenses, comparing planned results to actual results. Which means it’s also very easy to use. For sales, you already have your plan in place, and as the months roll by you type in a single number, just one, once a month. For expenses, you have your detailed plan in place, and you type in a single number, just one, once a month.

The result, however, is not so simple. In fact it’s a powerful tool. The scorecard lights the way to a monthly management meeting in which each of these two line charts is the focus for discussion. Simple plan vs. actual analysis is the best possible way to make planning a management function. You look at the difference between what you did and what you planned, and you discuss the implications. Have assumptions changed? Did we execute properly? Should we focus our priorities differently? These are not just numbers. These are the keys to executing better, month by month, and then year by year. Steering is a matter of long-term direction with constant course correction. So is planning. And so is management.

This is the essence of my latest book on business planning, The Plan as you Go Business Plan, which is all about planning as management.

This is just a beginning. There’s a lot more we can do with LivePlan to enhance the management features. And that’s going to happen, soon enough. For now, however, this is a good step forward.

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.