Sage Planning For Business Review

by Paul Simister on June 17, 2011

After taking a look at Business Plan Writer as one option for business planning software, I thought I would review Sage Planning For Business which is again developed primarily for the UK market.

sage planning for business

Sage Planning For Business Review

Sage is a big company and provides the most popular small business accounting programs in the UK so I had high hopes for their business planning software although I’ve been disappointed in the past by the accounting software.

Sage Planning For Business is available from directly from Sage (£25 plus VAT at the time of writing) or you can pick it up from various retailers like Staples (£30) and Currys (£39.99).

What I Liked About Sage Planning For Business

  1. I got my copy for free from Lloyds TSB and this version has business plans in the standard Sage format and the preferred Lloyds TSB version. I haven’t spotted the subtle differences yet. Just because you can get Sage Planning For Business free of charge doesn’t mean it’s good value since you have to factor in the cost of your time to use it.
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  2. It allows you to build up financial projections over 3 years. I know this seems ridiculous when you don’t really have much of a clue what your business is going to do over the few months but it seems to make bank managers feel good.
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  3. You can predict sales per product per customer/customer type. This is useful if your margins are likely to be very different depending on the type of customer since it captures your underlying assumptions of what you expect to do when.
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    For example, I used to work for a company that sold cutlery and silverware and we’d get 40% margin on sales to independent shops, 25% to departments stores and 15% on mail order. You can also have different sales prices and margins for different months of the year, perhaps reflecting the retail sales in January.
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  4. You can vary payment assumptions on your sales by customer type and even by month and also factor in a payment discount for prompt settlement.
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  5. There are useful business tips throughout the program explaining how things work. For example there are explanations about PAYE and how to employ people.
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  6. The Sage Planning For Business software links into other Sage programs like Sage Start Up and Sage Instant Accounts. I haven’t tried it myself but if Sage says it does, it will.
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  7. It calculates summary reports by month for the Cash Flow, Profit & Loss Account and Balance Sheet. A little niggle but I’d have preferred that the numbers were formatted with the normal convention of negatives in brackets and with a comma to separate the thousands.
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  8. It has an executive summary which automatically brings in graphs and key number summaries from the financial forecasts which is neat.

What I Don’t Like About Sage Planning For Business

  1. It feels much more complicated and less intuitive to use than Business Plan Writer. If you’re nervous about preparing a business plan then I think you’ll find Sage Planning For Business scary.
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  2. I found the way Sage Planning For Business treated wages and salaries as very simplistic after the sophistication of Business Plan Writer. My preferred way in practice is to build up the costs based on position/person name since you’ve got full flexibility over what they get paid and you have an audit trail for the build up of costs. In Sage Planning For Business, there are the number of people and an average monthly cost for each.
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    That sounds simple until you start thinking about how you want to add people to your business. It starts with you, then you might want someone in the warehouse on minimum wage from month 3, then some part time administration help from month 6 and a sales person and another warehouse person in month 9. I think there’s going to be a lot of head scratching going on as you try to recalculate your average monthly cost per person. And it gets worse when you change your sales force and decide that you don’t need that second warehouse person for two more months.
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    I later found out that you could add extra categories of wages which gets around the problem but it shows what I mean by saying that Sage Planning For Business doesn’t seem that intuitive. Because I was only trying to do a one year plan, I also got myself confused when I added a cost of £1,500 for month 5 and the software shows that this is an average cost of £333 per month. I thought I’d made a mistake.
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  3. I can’t see any way to deal with the rent quarterly payment in advance problem without sacrificing the Profit & Loss account and forcing the payments into the quarterly months. For a big company like Sage I expected better for a predictable problem that has a significant impact on the numbers. The same problem happens in reverse for fees like accountancy where the charge for the year should be spread over the months but you may not receive and pay for the service until well into the second year.
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  4. I can’t see any way of dealing with stock in the business planning software. I don’t understand this since it is a major factor for many businesses.

Overall Thoughts On Sage Planning For Business

Sage Planning for Business does the majority of things that I’d expect done by business planning software.

It is more complicated that Business Plan Writer and it feels it when you are using it.

Since you can get a copy of Sage Planning For Business for free from Lloyds TSB, it has to be worth a look to see how you feel about the complexity. If Lloyds is your preferred bank, then it is worth persevering with since you can produce a business plan in their preferred format.

If you don’t feel comfortable using it and you feel it is inhibiting your creativity and thinking, then try one of the other business planning software programs. Your time matters because, as a small business owner, there will always be more things that you could do.

Promotional Video For Sage Planning For Business

Here is a video to promote Sage Planning For Business

Have You Tried Sage Planning For Business?

If you have used Sage Planning For Business, I’d like to hear your opinions.

Did you find it easy to prepare a business plan?

Was there anything you particularly liked or didn’t like?

Paul Simister is a business strategy coach who helps small business owners to profit from differentiating their businesses, by being distinctive in the eyes of their customers and standing out in a crowded marketplace…. in other words, by building a business to be proud of.

You too can move past your profit tipping point (free report) by answering the seven big questions of business success (mp3).

{ 2 comments }

Andy October 15, 2012 at 1:52 pm

For anyone writing a business plan, stay well away from this Sage product, it’s simply awful to use and you spend far too much time struggling how to work it all out. Written for accountants by accountants.
Incidentally there is a way of dealing with stock but you have to create you category then go to another area and attribute your product to the stock category for every product. It takes an age and I don;t think it works right!
If you do get stuck with this offering then expect delays from Sage support of about a week to get back to you – this is infuriating when all you want to do is get on with things.
What I do like is that you can add lots of commentary and it is structured well.
Best advice for this is to add in all the descriptions and products then export it to Word and do the financials in Excel or equivalent.

Paul Simister October 15, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Thanks for your feedback on Sage Planning For Business.

It sounds like you’ve had bitter experience Andy with this programme.

A problem I’ve seen with the business planning software is that it’s difficult to find the right balance between being easy to use and providing the functionality required to suit so many different business types.

There’s probably space in the market for some very highly niched business planning systems designed for particular industries that volume can support a low price.

The problem I believe many small business owners will have with working with spreadsheets is that of maintaining data integrity. The statistics that I’ve seen about the number of worksheets with substantial mistakes is horrifying. I believe that there are niche spreadsheet based planning systems.

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