Planning From the Ridge
In February of this year, I was in the middle of the third grueling 2,000-foot ascent up a mountain on the second day of a three-night backcountry yurt trip when I conceptualized the power of Anaplan’s Connected Planning solution. “Strategize and collaborate with agility amid constant change"—the words on Anaplan’s homepage—describes Anaplan, as well as splitboarding. Splitboarding is a form of snowboarding where the snowboard splits in half to form two skis and your bindings rotate to mimic cross country skis. It's done in the backcountry across unmarked and un-patrolled areas in the Pacific Northwest. These areas are hazardous due to avalanches, severe winter weather, and navigation difficulties in the snowy landscape. On this trip, the yurt itself was a four-mile hike from our car and had no electricity, cell service, or running water. It was equipped with wood fire pits, minimal kitchen supplies, and thin canvas walls.
In other words, our team was entirely reliant on the equipment we carried, decisions we made, and preparation we had been doing all season. Collaboration, scenario planning, adjustments, attention to detail, and forecasting are used in the backcountry. The connection of the opposite worlds—Anaplan and backcountry splitboarding—became apparent. Business decisions can result in bankruptcy versus 200-percent growth or layoffs versus a hiring spree. Decisions in backcountry yurt trips could result in life-or-death survival situations. On the yurt trip, we had to rely on planning and instinct but in the business world, a fully built-out Anaplan solution involving multiple business functions helps us out.
The Minimum Essential Equipment is Your Base Forecast
Just like in business planning, attention to detail is critical for backcountry skiing. Before I went into the backcountry, I spent around 16 hours in the comfort of my home combing over each piece of equipment by ensuring everything was dry, screws were tightened, gear wasn’t ripped or broken, and electronics had new batteries. A loose **** has the potential to ruin your weekend if it falls out and causes something else to break. On the business side, Anaplan helps mitigate the potential for “loose screws” by ensuring data integrity with exception reports and alerts. Exception reports alert users when their forecast has an error, values are outside of agreed-upon parameters, contracts are late, inventory is stocked out, or inventory is expiring. These early alerts help you mitigate future catastrophes the earlier the problems are addressed.
Scenario Planning While Packing
As I continued packing, I was scenario planning in my head and making plans to mitigate risks. I packed everything I could need—universal fixing supplies like tape and zip ties, extra hardware for my bindings, food rations, survival equipment, and a satellite phone with an SOS feature. I was continually playing the "what if" game. In Anaplan, scenario planning is an extremely effective and common use case—snapshotting different forecasts and comparing them, making aggressive forecasts or worst-case forecasts. You can see how this will affect your finance, sales, and supply chain models. Additionally, using the Anaplan Optimizer to assist you is hugely beneficial—you can model what-if plans for when supply routes close, plants getting shut down, or to see how changing shipping methods will affect your company’s bottom line. With Anaplan and backcountry splitboarding, you can plan ahead of risks and delays with scenario planning.
Collaboration and teamwork are essential in the backcountry and in business planning. In fact, 1/8th of the classroom time in the AIRE 1 certification (a three-day avalanche safety course) was spent talking about human psychology and team formation. A backcountry team is a democracy where everyone has an equal voice in each decision. Observations and feelings are openly communicated to everyone in the group. A union is formed with the common goal to arrive back at home having the most fun possible with everyone’s risk tolerance. Our team communicated verbally via shouting, radios, and at dinners when we celebrated the day by sharing opinions on what went well, what we could do better, and what we would like to do tomorrow. While in the thick of things on the mountain, we constantly talked about conditions, route navigation, energy levels, and if it was clear to “drop-in.” This communication mitigated risks and ensured success in achieving our goal.
Rudimentary communication like I used on the backcountry ski trips works with small groups, but it does not work in a large organization with many moving parts. Anaplan makes teamwork and collaboration easy.
- Each planner uses the same pages as one another, with the same underlying data and calculations, preventing one-off spreadsheets that constantly need to be reconciled.
- Anaplan can generate emails and users can leave notes to each other, and even tag users in comments on pages.
- Conditional formatting and filtered alerts programmed into Anaplan can nudge users to look at numbers in more detail.
- Every planner and business function uses the data sets and assumptions for modeling.
- Business functions share forecasts and findings across platforms.
As a supply planner, automatically seeing the most recent assumptions from finance and forecasts from sales is a tremendous time-saver before making an urgent production decision. Auxiliary teams in an Anaplan model include the data team, whose integration work cannot go unrecognized. Their knowledge is valuable in every implementation.
Equipment Failure, Teamwork, and Communication
As the team is skinning (ascending the mountain) up the track on the first day, the team gets separated. Ripper Ron is in the back of the pack and his binding comes loose, falls off, and he needs help. Solution Sally is there, and she begins to troubleshoot with Ripper Ron. She tells Ripper Ron to stop aggressively yanking on the binding. Ripper Ron calms down and radios the group: “Solution Sally and I will be roughly 15 minutes behind because of a binding problem.” Leader Larry responds, saying he will come down to help collaborate because he previously had the same snowboard bindings. Solution Sally brought a toolkit with extra hardware and a multitool in her bag and started talking to Ripper Ron and Leader Larry about the fix. The team’s collaboration and collective knowledge prevented further damage to the binding, and they are successfully able to fix the binding. The small group radios the rest of the team to let them know they were successful and are on their way to join them.
This true story can be related to a common business situation for which Anaplan can significantly assist in planning. In this example, the executive team wants to split out a category—snowboards—into two categories: snowboards and splitboards. This big decision will require each business function to update their reporting and planning processes and reconcile previous years' reports.
In a spreadsheet program like Excel, you will have to add new rows to numerous spreadsheets and add new sheets to different models. Each time you do this, formulas will need to be updated or will stop working altogether. You’ll have to deal with mixed or incompatible formatting, different detail levels and missing data, untraceable data entries, and hardcoded values—all of which make data integrity a complex challenge. It might cause data integrity issues, especially when comparing reports from different periods because spreadsheet programs do not have functionality like Application Lifecycle Management (ALM). The army of analysts who made these reports would individually go and update their current and past versions. Teams of analysts would sit in silos doing similar work. The changes would not be uniform, and scoping the right level of effort would be nearly impossible.
In Anaplan, the Center of Excellence (CoE) would be able to handle the change efficiently. Utilizing the development environment first, the SKU metadata in the DataHub is updated in collaboration with the data team. Modeler Makesh confirms that the saved views include the new categories: 'snowboards' and 'splitboards.' An overnight process runs. Modeler Makesh sees the new categories in the lists in the downstream models on every page. When Modeler Makesh looks at the old category 'winter jackets,' no data appears anywhere, and he deletes the list member. He pushes the UAT change through ALM and has the CoE test and validate the update before moving the change to the production model.
Reaping the Rewards
On backcountry ski trips, the rewards are extraordinary times with friends, not to mention the bottomless powder. The preparation, hard work, analysis, and collaboration lead you to the top of a mountain on a blue-bird, powder day. The team has stress-tested the slope and made its final assessment to descend. Everyone’s gear is in downhill mode, and Ripper Ron is getting fueled up on a delicious and slightly-frozen PB&J sandwich. The first team member descends a couple of hundred feet and radios up to the group, “It’s amazing! Feels stable. Work your way down!” The team takes turns spraying snow and carving deep lines into the unscathed snow. No one has descended that slope beside you this winter. It’s the perfect playground.
This is a real-life example of the power of Connected Planning. As a supply planner, you receive information that the sales team is suddenly going to heavily discount your company’s No. 1 splitboard—the Clownfish—for a Mother’s Day deal in a few months. They are anticipating an 80 percent increase in unit sales from the previous month's forecast in the same period. The executive team tasked you with making it happen, which includes:
- Procuring raw materials;
- Deciding what factories will produce what;
- How much it would cost.
Thankfully, your company implemented a multiple-function Connected Planning solution with Anaplan a few months earlier.
- First, you log in and see the new version from the sales team, plug the forecast in your planning model, and see suggested orders on your MRP update.
- Next, you see that two factories can produce Clownfish and have capacity if you stop submitted and planned orders production on C-ranked splitboards. Canceling production orders has a penalty, but you check a box on each order to cancel them.
- Finally, you look at Clownfish’s bill of materials (BoM) and discover you need to overnight certain raw materials to Factory 1 and can truck ship raw materials to Factory 2. They will arrive on time but will add cost. Thanks to the lead time assumptions in Anaplan, you see the Clownfish splitboards will be completed a week before Mother’s Day. This is enough time for standard shipping to different retailers across the country!
- In Anaplan, you click a button to email the finance team with a hyperlink to Anaplan. They look over the numbers and assumptions you made. Ultimately, the finance team approves the plan.
- A draft of a cancellation email generates a summary of the cancellation results and new production schedule to email to the plant manager saying they will see the changes in their system after the overnight process is run.
- A notification is sent to the sales team, which starts marketing the promotion.
The importance of teamwork and decision-making is as crucial in the success of a business as it is in backcountry ski trips. Anaplan connects the business together to have seamless interactions, automation, and scenario planning across many different business functions. Additionally, Anaplan itself is always innovating with new technologies, making itself stand out even more, including a new user experience, a machine-learning partnership with Amazon Forecasting, and automation with Cloudworks. In the backcountry, companies are innovating with better safety gear and better forecasts. The improvements in Anaplan and backcountry technology make the experiences safer, more fun, and ultimately result in more moments of happiness and cohesion with your team.
About Spaulding Ridge
An award-winning provider of Cloud solutions and advisory services, Spaulding Ridge helps leading companies deploy Best-in-Cloud™ solutions on a global scale. Spaulding Ridge enables organizations to accelerate operational efficiency, drive digital transformation, and increase competitive advantage.
Spaulding Ridge partners with digitally savvy companies to help:
- Finance gain control: Increase top-line revenue, gross margins, and profits through better insight. Connect financial planning to strategy and automate financial close processes.
- Sales increase productivity: Manage quota and territories more consistently and effectively, automate customer contracts and onboarding.
- Operations drive efficiency: Improve supply chain agility, automate strategic sourcing and purchasing, deliver superior customer service experiences.
To learn more, visit spauldingridge.com.
@KBeltz Great analogy. I can't decide which adventure I liked more the mountain ascent or the Anaplan use-case. I guess they're one and the same. Congratulations on your adventure, and thank you for this great blog post.2