Meet Master Anaplanner and former CoE Leader — Brittany Deaton
Meet Brittany Deaton — Actuarial Director at Unum, former Center of Excellence Founder and Leader, and 2019's Certified Master Anaplanner of the Year. We asked Brittany to share her thoughts on becoming a Center of Excellence leader, provide perspective on valuable skills learned, and elaborate on the benefits of having a CoE.
The most valuable skills that I learned along my journey involve collaboration and working with people to bring them along in the vision.
- Brittany Deaton
Tune in to learn about Brittany's career journey and how she brings value to her organization, or check out the complete transcript below.
Interviewer: In 30 seconds, please share with us who you are and what you do.
Brittany: My name is Brittany Deaton and I am currently an actuarial director at Unum. During my tenure at Unum, I have done a variety of different roles. I start off and a voluntary benefits evaluation role before moving over to our Global Financial Planning & Analysis team, where I got first introduced to Anaplan, and more recently I've been involved with a voluntary benefits planning organization where we are responsible for building the annual plan and doing the monthly reporting process, analyzing our results back against plan.
Interviewer: Can you share with us a bit about your Anaplan Journey?
Brittany: I first started with Anaplan when I moved onto the GFP&A team back in around 2017. At that point in time, you know, it was just starting on its Anaplan journey I basically spent the first week or two of my time on the team sitting in a conference room talking about Anaplan and talking about how we were going to implement it and help building user stories.
And then the following year, as we were rolling out our phase two of development and I was shifting more into a leadership role and you're starting to set up the Center of Excellence That was when I was awarded the Master Anaplanner of the Year award. And really that was just tied back into all the work we've been doing.
My involvement with helping push forward the platform throughout the company. I spent the entire next year and into early 2020 leading the Anaplan Center of Excellence team, after we had set it up and we moved through our third year of development and got projects kicked off of the first year. At that point in time, I decided I wanted to make a shift and pivot back into a more traditional actuarial path, and I moved over into the product line planning role that I am in now and mostly use Anaplan as an end user at this point, but definitely try to stay as involved as I can with the ecosystem. A lot of it was an interest
Interviewer: What made you want to be a Center of Excellence leader?
Brittany: A lot of it was a strong desire to be heavily involved with that work. So I made it very known that I wanted to be involved in the strategy and the leadership, the platform and so I was able to take on a lead model builder role. And then as we were looking for what we wanted to do next there were some shifts in the team and it opened up an opportunity for me to step into that role. And I was able to make that statement of what I wanted. And you're able to move and set that up around me.
Interviewer: What is the most valuable skill you learned along your Anaplan journey?
Brittany: I think some of the most valuable skills that I learned along my journey involve collaboration, and working with people to bring them along in the vision. So I was in a position where I was having to challenge people to think about the way things were and how things could be different.
Sometimes this was met with a little bit of resistance and I had to learn ways of respecting the expertise of those around me and pushing them and challenging them to think about processes in new ways and we were able to work together to come to a common goal to gain the buy-in. So we all have a better outcome.
Interviewer: What are some of the benefits of having a Center of Excellence in an organization?
Brittany: The first was being able to have that centralized governance structure. I think governance is very important. Personally, I have a lot of desire to have strong governance. Not everybody may have that same excitement around governance, but I do.
And I think it all ties back to being able to manage model risk and make sure that we can provide end users confidence in the tool. I think that organization, having a CoE established can help provide a lot of confidence and results because that CoE, CoE lead can be responsible for establishing the governance, for making sure that there are controls in place that ensure that the data coming in is good and strong, that the calculations that are happening are done so in a consistent and appropriate way.
Interviewer: Are there benefits to having a direct connection with Anaplan as a CoE Leader and if so what are they?
Brittany: So I think one of the benefits that I see with the connections for how having direct connections with the Anaplan business partners and customer success and having that Center of Excellence, leading that point of contact is that you can have one flow of information. So anybody in the organization that's having issues or problems can feed that thru the CEO, you can make sure that any internal knowledge is used first before you have to go external.
We have to connect those partners, but when you do, it can be very helpful to be able to make sure that you're getting the best information, that you're able to influence potentially the direction of the platform to potentially be able to remove obstacles before they even start.