Getting your users engaged by giving them… laptop stickers?

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So simple, and yet so effective! If you’ve implemented Anaplan in your company, you might agree with me that one of the biggest challenges after implementation is getting your users engaged. I want to share how I got my team of end users fully trained in basic functions *and* excited about Anaplan in the process. Spoilers: this also opened their eyes to the potential of Anaplan and created a huge roadmap of use-case requests.

I was the main Anaplan model builder at a technology company for three years in a classic FP&A use case. I arrived at the company in the final stages of implementation, and I was amazed at all that functionality that had been created. The model had really insightful dashboards and pretty much all the data that a finance analyst could dream of having at their fingertips!

Except no one told them about that. Of course, there were end-user trainings at the beginning of the project, and each user would get a thorough walk-through with the deployment of every new functionality. But let me tell you something about the end users:

  • 90% of what they learned on basic training was forgotten within the next few days after the session (parameter purely based on my experience).
  • They probably understood just enough to get the job done. This is where I need to type in my numbers? Great! *ignore everything else*

I would get people coming to my desk on a daily basis with the most basic questions. Or, I would walk by and see someone doing 15 exports one by one because they didn’t realize they could pivot the data and take out just one export. I had to find something to get people excited about all those amazing data and features that were hidden to them without the knowledge of basic Anaplan functions (such as pivoting, export labels, filtering, etc.).

Well, for my users in that team, the answer was simple — laptop stickers.

Stickers were a part of the company’s culture; everyone would walk around with their “tattooed” laptops, and you often get one from participating in an event. It was just the incentive people needed to complete some basic functions training in Anaplan — to get a nice, new sticker.

But that’s only half of the story. The other half is the training itself. The Anaplan Academy has amazing training material for all levels of Anaplanners, but for your average FP&A analyst that will use Anaplan once a month for their forecasting, that just won’t cut it. The training must be:

  • Quick
  • Focused
  • Easy to access
  • Close to their reality

I watched my own users struggle, and I was getting basic questions all the time. I knew what they needed to learn to solve 90% of their questions, so I came up with a shortlist of Anaplan skills that all my users should have. I recorded very short screen recordings (not longer than four minutes each) to demonstrate them, and the videos were showing the demos on their model. They knew that model, they understood that hierarchy, and they saw exactly how and where they could use that new skill to get the insightful numbers they needed.

Then I bundled the basic skills as a set, and I called that “Anaplanner Level 1”. I also went a step further and created the concepts of “Anaplanner Level 2 and 3”, with extra skills with increasing level of difficulty per level. When someone got really excited about their new experience with Anaplan, they could look forward to learning more and become even better. Maybe even model builders themselves? You never know!

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Note: these are the skills per level that worked for that team in that company. Make sure your shortlist works for your team!

When someone finished watching the set of videos, they would come to me and do a “test” (this might be an exaggeration, as it usually took about five minutes). I’d ask them things like, “Can you show me the total IT costs by cost center for FY20?” and they would need to pivot their main P&L table, use ‘select levels to show’, and apply a year filter. I’d do a couple more questions like that to make sure they could demonstrate all the skills from the Level 1 set. Then they would get their coveted sticker!

Both my productivity and theirs increased as no one was wasting time trying to come up with numbers that were already in front of them, to begin with.

I immediately saw the impact of this program. We could see the excitement of people who would get their stickers and then show them off to everyone else. My desk was suddenly not as busy; people didn’t need me for the basics anymore. When someone needed me, it was for something ****, something that really did require a model builder’s help. Both my productivity and theirs increased as no one was wasting time trying to come up with numbers that were already in front of them, to begin with.

If you made it this far, let me give you a walkthrough of how you can achieve this at your company as well:

  1. Find the right incentive to get your people excited. For my company, it was stickers. For yours, it might be a nice coffee mug or a shout-out at the monthly meeting. Find something easy but enough to get people to want it.
  2. Find out what skills people need to know. Maybe in their reality exporting is not necessary, or maybe they never use filters. Think of the things people are always asking you to help them with. Or, if they aren’t, maybe watch them working when they are in the model for their normal process and see which inefficiencies could be solved by some pivoting or filtering.
  3. Create the video tutorials. This doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Make it easy on yourself. Record your screen and show how to pivot in a couple of minutes. But do it in THEIR model. They need to recognize what they are seeing on the screen. Don’t worry too much about the technical aspects; it’s such a short video that you probably don’t even need to edit it.
  4. Launch the campaign. Make a whole fuss about it! Get people excited to see who gets their rewards first. Why not make it a competition? That always makes it more fun.

I’d love to hear about your experiences on this. Leave a comment to tell me your story, or if you’re going to try this approach definitely come back to tell me about it! Good luck and happy Anaplanning!

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