Accessibility: 5 tips for building and navigating Anaplan using voice input
Whether you’re disabled in the arms or hands, interested in preventing repetitive strain injury (RSI), or simply want to get more work done while pacing around the office, today I'm sharing my tips for any Anaplan Model Builder who wants to use the tool with their voice.
For my computer activities, I primarily use the voice input software Dragon Professional Individual by Nuance. This software is my top recommendation, although it can be costly for an individual. There may be free options out there that I’m not aware of. I’m also using Microsoft Windows OS, but there is a version of Dragon for Macintosh.
5 tips for building and navigating Anaplan with your voice
- Starting Anaplan: Optimize your browser for voice navigation.
Starting an Anaplan session can be done 100% hands-free. Use these two simple steps to quickly open Anaplan.
- Bookmark your Anaplan login page (and, of course, other Favorites).
Dragon dictation software browser plugin responds to commands which specify the Bookmarks bar. For example, once your web pages are in their folder as shown, start an Anaplan session with the commands:
"Click Anaplan" which opens the folder:
"Click Anaplan login"
The browser navigates to the Anaplan Login page (or perhaps your company’s SSO).
- Use a Password Manager browser plugin.
This is not just a hands-free Anaplan tip but an amazing timesaver and overuse injury prevention strategy. Over a career, imagine how many hours a person can spend just typing in passwords.
A password manager browser plugin (like Lastpass, 1Password, and many others) will automatically fill in your usernames and passwords. It also suggests strong passwords and saves them automatically when you create new accounts or change your passwords.
Often a company’s Information Security team recommends a certain password manager application, as part of their security strategy. Ask your manager or IT department if they have a recommendation!
Once you’ve got the Bookmarks folder and Password Manager set up, start your Anaplan session any time with the following voice commands:
“Open Google Chrome. Click Anaplan. Click Anaplan login. Click continue.”
NOTE: there are even faster ways to start programs hands-free (e.g. automation tools like batch files). Those are a bit more advanced. The objective here is to quickly show how to use Anaplan with voice tools.
- Bookmark your Anaplan login page (and, of course, other Favorites).
Navigate Anaplan by speaking commands (and using the New Model Build experience).
Once you have logged in and opened your model (e.g. “click ‘Supply Chain PROD’”), the model builder settings icons are clickable with voice commands.
“Click lists” or “Click general lists”
You get the idea—the menu items on the left are clickable by voice! There are two exceptions:
- The Model Search window is best clicked with the command “press ctrl shift F”. It isn’t identified by the commands “click model search” or “click search”. “Click close” closes the Model Search dialogue.
- “Click table of contents” doesn’t open the Table of Contents. As far as I’ve discovered, it must be clicked with a mouse.
NOTE: The new model build experience is a HUGE improvement for voice accessibility. Don’t build models using Classic mode.
- Other voice navigation commands for Anaplan.
Pretty much everything else in an Anaplan menu that has a label can be clicked with the voice. Here are a few quick examples:
“Click time” > “click time ranges” > “click new”
“Click modules” > “click insert module”
“Click Actions” > “click new action” > “click process”
- Optimize your naming conventions for easier identification by voice.
Thoughtful naming conventions are an extremely simple way to make a model more easily navigated by voice! This may be the most important accessibility tip in this post; it’s hard to overstate how much Anaplan voice navigation is impeded by incompatible naming conventions.
Here are three simple rules to make your lists, actions, modules, and line items more accessible to voice users.
Do not put leading zeros in your numerical designations.
Using an example from the Level I Model Builder training, the module EMP01 Employee Drivers is much more accessible when changed to:
EMP 1 Employee Drivers
Put space characters between numerical and alphabetical designations.
Using the same example above, notice that there is a space character between EMP and 1. This is good – it’s because voice dictation commands like “E M P one” are produced ‘EMP 1’.
The character string ‘EMP1’ would be difficult for Dragon’s default vocabulary to input.
Do NOT use the word “period” in your names.
This one is worth mentioning simply because it is such a common word in planning and forecasting. “Forecast period”, “historical period”, “Last year period” all appear like so when spoken: “Forecast.”, “Historical.”, “Last year.”
Best to leave this one out of your Anaplan naming vocabulary!
There is SO MUCH MORE to talk about when it comes to naming conventions with voice input, but these three tips are plenty to get you started quickly.
- Know your Keyboard Commands: Anaplan & Chrome/Firefox/Safari.
Dragon dictation is awesome at knowing all the keys on the keyboard and understanding spoken shortcuts. In this section, I’ll give a few of my most useful spoken shortcuts for hands-free Anaplanners.
Open new browser tab: “press control T”
Jump to the adjacent browser tab: “press control page up” (left) or “press control page down” (right)
Close current browser tab: “press control W”
Open cell or Anaplan name field: “press F2”
Toggle module blueprint mode: “press control shift space”
Program your dictation tool to know Anaplan functions and syntax.
This final tip will help you more rapidly input Anaplan functions into your formulas. Use the Vocabulary Editor in Dragon to train the syntax of your most used functions! I created custom words in my Dragon profiles vocabulary. For example:
“Anaplan find item”
I chose to say the word “Anaplan” in my commands, but you can create your Anaplan voice vocabulary to be whatever words suit you. Create your Anaplan function vocabulary as you model build to quickly ramp up your formula input capabilities.
Voice software limitations
Voice input software makes hands-free navigation within Anaplan relatively simple and quick. However, there are still situations where a model builder needs to use a mouse.
- Drag-and-drop mouse inputs can’t be done with Dragon; creating new modules, pivoting dimensions, and building UX pages still require the use of a mouse.
- Scrolling (both horizontal and vertical) tends to be a challenge for voice dictation. “Press page down” and “press page up” commands are not good substitutes for controlled scrolling.
These hurdles are not necessarily a problem with Anaplan. They occur in whichever applications I’m using alongside Dragon dictation.
As with any problem that Anaplan model builders face in their normal activities, an attitude of patience, persistence, and creativity will exponentially compound one’s ability to overcome and improve. You can do it; it just takes some practice.
Thanks for reading! Whether you’re trying to encourage a workplace culture of inclusivity, safety, and accessibility, or simply trying to prevent injury for yourself and your family, I hope you learned something that helps you accomplish your goals with healthy ergonomic practices.
Do you have any questions about voice dictation when using Anaplan? Share in the comments below.
- Information about the Dragon Vocabulary Editor
- Google Chrome keyboard shortcuts
- Anaplan keyboard shortcuts
- Dragon dictation how-to videos by Nuance
- Dictating punctuation and special characters
- Dragon dictation web extension (software proof of purchase required)
Mitch Aist is a Master Anaplanner and Certified Solution Architect with several years of experience as a consultant, specializing in EPM software and business process. He is passionate about Connected Planning, and especially loves teaching and mentoring new consultants and model builders.
Wonderful article, thanks for sharing @mitchellaist0