A strategic planner works to provide a framework that will help an organization to plan for future growth and operations. The position requires a deep knowledge of the organization and the ability to understand and work within several disciplines, including finance, marketing, and research. With a mixture of research and careful projections, a typical strategic planner will attempt to find the best balance between fact and speculation.
One of the primary duties of a strategic planner is to gather and interpret knowledge about his or her organization. An individual in this position will usually know about every facet of an organization’s history, from the financial and operational, to public perception and marketing efforts. It is also important to keep abreast of current and future financial projections and to understand the budget and its impact on future operations.
A strategic planner will also analyze elements outside of the organization, such as competitors, customers, and the general economic climate. The planner will compare this information to internal data in order to determine where the organization stands in relation to the rest of the world. With this data, the planner can make recommendations as to how the organization should handle current and future operations.
Depending on the needs of a company, a strategic planner can look forward anywhere from a few years to a couple of decades. A plan can be centered on a single issue, or provide an organization-wide vision. The planner must be able to reconcile information that generally stays the same, such as the organizational vision, values, and history with constantly changing elements, including finances, customer behavior, marketing trends, and the overall climate in the outside world.
A typical strategic planner works closely with upper management, though it is often necessary to touch base with all levels of employees in order to have a clear understanding of how the organization runs. As planners spend so much time with senior executives, they tend to have a greater understanding of how to succeed in such a position. For this reason, many strategic planners are eventually promoted to the top ranks of an organization, and even as high up as chief executive officer (CEO).
Due to the depth of organizational knowledge required by the position, many strategic planners are promoted from within. They tend to be mid-career professionals, though some masters of business administration graduates do occasionally enter the job market in such a position. It is also possible for an entry level professional to get into the field by first working as an assistant strategic planner in a larger organization.