The phrase strategic planning describes jobs that can vary considerably in their responsibilities, duration,
and career path within an organization. Strategic planners explore, design, analyze, or evaluate specific
business plans. This work may involve:
identifying and evaluating merger or acquisition proposals
analyzing the feasibility of a new product or service
designing or evaluating new service-delivery processes, distribution processes, vendor
relationships, or business alliances.
Many people use the phrase business development synonymous with strategic planning. But, business development professionals typically have more of an external focus on:
potential mergers and acquisitions
negotiating deals (mergers, distribution deals, spin offs)
new market opportunities
Some strategic planners work as internal consultants within their companies. They may work on temporary
assignments within a business unit while that unit is planning or evaluating new projects. Or, they may have
a long-term position within a central strategic planning unit of a large corporation, where they evaluate the
strategy of the corporation as a whole. Either type of work can eventually lead to general management
roles within a company.
Unlike other functional responsibilities -- such as sales, marketing, finance, or manufacturing -- the strategic
planning role does not have a sharply defined identity. It is defined uniquely in each organization. For
example, in many companies, strategic planning constitutes an entry-level position, particularly for newly
minted MBA graduates.
In such cases, the organization benefits from the new employee's analytic abilities, and the employee gets
a chance to learn about the organization from the vantage point of a relatively high-level staff role. After
one to two years, the employee may advance to a line-management position in an operating unit of the
company, which can lead to a career in line management.
By contrast, many larger companies have a separate strategic-planning or business-development function
that is staffed by professionals who develop their careers specifically within the strategic-planning area.
When considering a career in strategic planning or business development, find out how a potential
employer defines the strategic-management role, and whether that definition fits with your own career