You’re probably familiar with timelines because they are often used in history classes to show what happened when, but did you know that they are crucial for business planning? Although there are many uses for timelines, below are our top 10 reasons why every company should have one.
Here are 10 ways a business timeline plays a critical role in your business planning:
1. As a project tracker.
Putting together a timeline for your next big project keeps everyone on the same page. Project managers may create individual timelines for each team member so that everyone knows their role and remains accountable for meeting deadlines. This is especially helpful if you have remote employees scattered across different time zones who need to work at specific times to coordinate tasks efficiently.
2 . To keep customers in the loop.
If you run an online store or business-to-business (B2B) company, updating customers on the progress of their order in real-time can go a long way in building loyalty. If you’ve ever had to wait for days before receiving an update about your package’s whereabouts via USPS or UPS, then you know what it feels like to be left out of the loop. By including customers in on where their order is at any given moment along with expected shipping times, you are providing peace of mind that goes a long way toward customer retention.
3. To assign tasks.
You may have heard of the project management app Wrike, which enables users to create custom timelines for different projects so team members can see who is responsible for which tasks and when they are due. According to the company’s CEO and founder, Andrew Filev, Wrike is used by more than 60 percent of the Fortune 500—including companies like Zendesk, Dell, and Home Depot. A timeline feature enables teams to assign tasks to each other right on the shared calendar so everyone has an idea of what needs to get done every single day/week/month. This gives you a bird’s-eye view of your entire project while keeping team members accountable for meeting deadlines.
4 . To plan product releases.
Many companies today are adopting Agile or Scrum software development methodologies that require new products to be released in stages based on customer feedback. By breaking down the larger completion date into smaller intervals (or sprints), you can stay on track and give customers access to new features as you go.
5 . To explain why a delay occurred.
There may come a time when something gets in your way that causes a project or product release date to shift. If this happens, be sure to include the reason for the change on the timeline so employees understand how it happened and can avoid repeating it. For example, if you were expecting information from a supplier but didn’t receive it in time, make note of it so everyone is aware of what steps need to take place in order to prevent it from occurring again in the future. If you plan on making an announcement about your timeline update publicly, be transparent about what happened without placing blame. Customers will appreciate knowing exactly why there was a change in plan.
6 . To give investors the facts.
If you are hoping to attract investors to your business, you’ll want to be sure to provide them with accurate information about where things stand along with some insightful analysis on what’s next. Investors respect transparency and appreciate knowing if there were any hiccups that caused problems along the way. They also like hearing projections for where sales could go in the future based on demand/interest, which gives them a sense of how their investment will pay off.
7 . To inspire teamwork.
Timelines can be very motivating because it’s easy to get excited about reaching smaller milestones (e.g., “We’ve hit 20% of our sales target!”). If you share your timelines across all communication channels, you can encourage teamwork among your employees while also inspiring them to work faster/harder.
8 . To manage expectations.
“No plan survives contact with the enemy.” That’s an often-quoted mantra that rings true in business as well as combat because there are so many factors beyond your control. By including relevant details on your timeline, you can provide some insight into what might happen if unforeseen circumstances come up while also giving yourself some wiggle room to solve problems without stalling or disappointing everyone. For example, if sales are going more slowly than expected but there is a big conference happening next month that could cause a spike, you can make note of the possible shift in sales on both your and email signature line so all relevant parties are aware of what’s happening in the near future.
9 . To demonstrate your expertise.
If you want people to work with you, you need to let them know why they should pick you over someone else in your industry. When you update timelines for projects/products/services in a way that shows how hard you’ve been working and what obstacles have arisen along the way, it can inspire confidence because it demonstrates how prepared you are to handle whatever comes next. It also gives customers/clients an idea of when things are forecasted to get done without having to ask repeatedly.
10 . To reduce customer inquiries.
It’s common for salespeople today to receive questions from interested buyers about when certain parts of their process will take place (e.g., “When will you send me a demo?” or “When can I expect to receive the first draft?”). Asking these questions over and over again can be time-consuming, which is why it’s helpful to include specific details about your timeline within your email signature so all potential customers have access to them when they need them.
With a little effort, you can make a huge difference in helping everyone — from business contacts to clients — stay informed with the latest company news by including relevant information on your email signature line. Since different people may care about different kinds of updates, always ask how/when/why someone needs information before providing it. That way, you’ll establish yourself as a go-to contact who knows what’s going on and how to make things happen.
Also, if you are having a hard time making timelines as part of your business planning process, use an online timeline maker like Venngage. They offer a wide range of timeline templates to choose from. You can also browse their page to get guides and timeline examples. Lead your business to success and create a timeline with a free timeline maker today!