Traditionally business plans have been highly confidential and quite limited in audience. The business plan itself is generally regarded as secret. An open business plan is a business plan with unlimited audience. The business plan is typically web published and made available to all. In the free software and open source business model, trade secrets, copyright and patents can no longer be used as effective locking mechanisms to provide sustainable advantages to a particular business and therefore a secret business plan is less relevant in those models.
The business goals may be defined both for non-profit or for-profit organizations. For-profit business plans typically focus on financial goals, such as profit or creation of wealth. Non-profit, as well as government agency business plans tend to focus on the "organizational mission" which is the basis for their governmental status or their non-profit, tax-exempt status, respectively—although non-profits may also focus on optimizing revenue.
Strategic planning is an organization's process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy, including its capital and people. Business plans can help decision makers see how specific projects relate to the organization's strategic plan.
Business plans are decision-making tools. The content and format of the business plan is determined by the goals and audience. For example, a business plan for a non-profit might discuss the fit between the business plan and the organization’s mission. Banks are quite concerned about defaults, so a business plan for a bank loan will build a convincing case for the organization’s ability to repay the loan. Venture capitalists are primarily concerned about initial investment, feasibility, and exit valuation. A business plan for a project requiring equity financing will need to explain why current resources, upcoming growth opportunities, and sustainable competitive advantage will lead to a high exit valuation.