Adopting and Expanding in a Connected World
The vast benefits of Anaplan are both widely known and constantly evolving. The ability to impact a business plan at the click of a button, understand a decision's downstream effects, quickly navigate between detailed planning and elegant visualizations are all attributes that make Anaplan offerings second-to-none.
How can this solution expand beyond a standalone? Most often, companies have a specific use case in mind when first implementing Anaplan. Maybe it's a corporate finance group that needs to expedite consolidating financials from across the organization. Maybe it’s a supply chain plan that needs to become more efficient. Or it could be a team that has been burdened by a maintaining an excel model that limits valuable analysis efforts elsewhere.
Regardless of the business need, a key metric of success is to implement Anaplan with a long-term adoption and expansion plan already residing in the minds of the project sponsors. All too often, this type of Connected Planning roadmap emerges much later in the process. How can adoption be streamlined to ensure its continuously effective? There are many ways on the surface to simply just expand Anaplan use. But to effectively and sustainably do so takes a much more targeted and connected approach: developing a center of excellence with accompanying standards, procedures, structure, and, most importantly, vision. This center of excellent must then dedicate itself to future organizational outlooks, as opposed to just the current day-to-day pain points a business may face. This is the key to ensuring that planning becomes not only connected but scalable.
No matter what the use case, there are many factors that initially drive customers towards Anaplan's capability. It could be Excel spreadsheets requiring strenuous maintenance, or it could be the desire to translate a detailed budget into a multi-year view at an aggregated level of detail. It also could stem from a wish to visually complement a rigorous planning process for end users to stop relying on an outdated software system or even to account for a new business unit because of an organizational shift.
No matter the specifics behind these factors, they all have one major theme in common: they likely all relate to immediate issues that an organization is facing. Now, this is not to diminish the importance of these issues. Day-to-day operation is a vital part of how a company operates. Making existing processes more efficient is invaluable and using Anaplan can help analysts spend more time providing contextual analysis as opposed to performing manual "grunt work."
But focusing on just the here and now can result in Anaplan falling short of its true, untapped potential. Sure, will your current planning process be exponentially quicker? Yes. Will data integration be quick and painless, allowing for seamless updates during a planning cycle? Of course. But are you set up for a future of sustainable growth and connected planning? Perhaps not. This is where the importance of developing a center of excellence comes in.
To grow effectively, establishing this team is crucial to the effort. However, this doesn't happen overnight. This takes strong buy-in from the business at a corporate level, as well as at the individual level. Clients who begin coaching and developing internal model builders right away at the start of a project already have a leg up in this regard. Once these model builders are more comfortable working in Anaplan, the business insight they already possess puts them in a prime position to assist in sustainably growing adoption. By achieving this commitment from an organization, it allows individuals to truly learn and understand the concepts of Anaplan beyond just writing formulas and loading data. Standards and best practices will emerge. Model builders will become experts at translating Anaplan models and environments into visuals for the project sponsor and stakeholders across the company. They will learn to gather and implement user feedback, all while adopting efficient and structured sprint cadences, which will optimize both development and user acceptance testing schedules.
There are several factors that make this significantly challenging. First off, is resourcing. Customers won't always have employees fully available to start building a center of excellence from day one. Even if they do, there may not be inherent background in Anaplan to rely on out of the gate as a foundation. If this is the case, the importance lies on the implementation partner to help coach and provide transferable concepts. Coaching and inspiring the client will immediately pique interest in Anaplan. It's also imperative for the implementation team in this scenario to not build in a silo. Be vocal, transparent, and walk the client through your process, even if the concept may seem foreign to them at the time, it will surely pay off in the long run. Provide them with transferable concepts, reference materials, and tricks of the trade. Once more builders are available on the client side, they will already have a starting point to begin working from.
Another challenge is focusing too much on the short-term fix. It is easy to overly prioritize the issue at hand, like automating a journal entry process or planning compensation at a lower more complex level. These obviously cause pressing issues for organizations that need to be solved. However, a truly sustainable Anaplan adoption focuses as much on the future as it does on the present. Is it possible to know exactly what an organization will look like two years down the line? No. But, can organizations and their blossoming centers of excellence take tangible steps to examine the impact of Anaplan and where it may lead? Surely.
Some questions that can be asked to effectively think about long term expansion:
- Is there a Data Hub? If not, what are the hurdles preventing one?
- Is the Data Hub capable of handling metadata for multiple models if needed?
- Is the current business need transferable to another business area?
- Is there part of the process that you wish you had more control over?
- Is there part of the process that exists at a lower level of detail that could complement it?
- Are there existing data streams that can be leveraged in a different capacity?
- Is a current model serving a downstream process that would also benefit from Anaplan?
It is important to scope and to build with these types of questions in mind. Those listed above are just the tip of the iceberg. Partners and organizations alike should always think about keeping planning truly connected. If the current need doesn't require Connected Planning, they should focus on making that future transition as seamless as possible, building as much with the future in mind as much as the present. Center of excellences can focus on this scope and design current solutions to accommodate expansion as best they can. This includes optimizing data processes and formulas, as well as creating best practices and standard processes that every model builder should follow. This makes it much easier to scale upwards in the future.
Adopting Anaplan almost always serves as an organizational turning point. Realizing the endless benefits and capabilities generates enthusiasm that immediately feeds the hunger for more. While this is a great thing, it is important to complement this excitement with a plan in place to allow it to be sustainable and to grow. Laying the groundwork for a center of excellence that is focused on not only building in Anaplan but learning and establishing guidelines future builders can follow is crucial.
Think beyond what the biggest hurdle is right now. Examine what further opportunities will arise from successfully leaping over that hurdle. Create the framework necessary to reach your goals. It’s a tried-and-true recipe for success well beyond what a single Anaplan solution could ever provide.
Senior Consultant, Enterprise Performance Solutions—Matthew is a certified Master Anaplanner and Solution Architect. He has a multitude of experience within the Financial and Consumer goods industries. Matthew also specializes in training model builders to properly utilize Anaplan.