Spring refresh — Anaplan edition
As you consider the areas in need of a spring refresh in your home or office, it is also a great time to do the same for your Anaplan models. The most difficult part about cleaning is figuring out where to start and selecting the tools and equipment needed to get to the finish line.
Let’s break it down into three categories:
- Any model
- Data Hub model
- Spoke model
In any model, it’s helpful to take a step back and assess if an item is really needed. Just because it has always been there or the model has always had that piece, doesn’t mean you need it for today or even the future. Modules are a great place to start this process.
Investigate if 1) the line item/module is used in a formula, 2) referenced on a page, or 3) used/contained in a saved view used for imports/exports. Beginning to answer these questions will help ensure a model is following the PLANS methodology, specifically N – Necessary and S – Sustainable. Are module level notes up to date or present? This will ensure current and future model builders have clarity in the purpose and design, focusing on A – Auditability in PLANS.
Actions are an area of a model that can get a bit messy during implementation or iterations after. Revisit the list of actions in a model by reviewing the start date and time column. Is this blank for any actions? If so, this could indicate that it hasn’t been run in quite some time and may not be needed. Are there import data sources that do not have an import action attached? Deleting these will help tidy up and clarify which sources are in use for the model.
A great organization addition to your model is action headers. These are non-functioning actions intended to help group and separate import actions by process or purpose. Using a module with no line items or dimensions, create a saved view for each action header you intend to create. Import into the module using the saved views and rename accordingly. Once created, reorder the actions and/or action headers as needed to create an organized view of import actions.
Lists are some of the first development items designed and created in a model. As the business evolves, so will the hierarchies used to plan and report on. Are there any known list members no longer in use? Was an area of the business phased out, thus, no longer planned or reported on? Developing a delete process to ensure the hierarchies contain list members with active intersection of data will streamline the hierarchies for future updates.
Data Hubs are the first model created in an Anaplan implementation and possibly the last model you may think about for spring cleaning. Historical data was loaded at the time of implementation, but are those years still needed or used by spoke models? As time has passed, consider creating a process to delete prior year(s) of data as the model rolls forward and new years are added for forecasting. Are there any data sources that are no longer used? There may have been one-time or temporary loads that are no longer in use and could be removed. Is there a more efficient way to complete a specific data load? There may be an opportunity to move some data transformations into the source system or update or remove certain attributes from the data load.
Double-clicking into efficiency, this is a great time to consider the overall processes. Is there a more systematic approach that could be applied to the current process? As you look to possibly expand your Anaplan footprint, considering PLANS methodology and the D.I.S.C.O. approach will ensure success for current and future development. Are there any lessons learned since implementation? Business needs evolve and grow over time, just like a model builder’s skills. There may be new best practices or functionality that can be leaned upon to improve the processes and model. Focusing on key functionality and purpose will provide a foundation to build and expand upon for future development.
Now that we’ve tidied up the Data Hub, it’s time to move on to the spoke models. Daisy-chaining in formulas can lead to performance issues and unnecessary complications in a model. To begin to clean those up, we will look at it from three perspectives:
- How to spot
- What to do
- Why it matters
To identify formulas with room for improvement, it is best to start at the end of the line, in the output modules. When evaluating, consider if the formula can be calculated once and referenced multiple times or if there is a specific calculation and should remain as is. Displaying the parent of a dimension as a line item in a module, restating input line items in output modules or common filtering line items are examples of areas to explore to update and utilize system modules to ensure standardization and cohesion in your model. System modules for time, versions, list dimensions, and filters are another place to look to find potential daisy chains in formulas. In your target module, ensure the line item is not over dimensionalized as this will add more cells and calculations to the model than is needed. It can seem overwhelming, but breaking it down by D.I.S.C.O. area makes it manageable. Every small update will compound and lead to large returns on the performance and auditability of the model.
Implementing these ideas will not happen overnight, and that’s completely normal. It will take time and patience to get the job done and will lay the groundwork for future development and enhancements in your organization. It may not always be fun or enjoyable, but no one ever regrets the cleaning once it’s done!
Which spring cleaning activities are you ready to get started on? Leave a comment!
About the author
Madison Matous is a senior business planning consultant at Akili, Inc and has been working in the Anaplan platform for four years. Her primary focus is the design and development of financial planning and analysis (FP&A), demand planning/supply chain and merchandise planning & finance solutions in many industries. Her range of expertise coupled with significant experience solving complex challenges and delivering high-quality results. She is a Certified Anaplan Level 1 instructor and has assisted in developing clients' Anaplan model builder skills through coaching engagements on several projects.
Fantastic summary of how to approach cleaning up models @mhibbs !
The point made that business needs change and evolve over time as do model builder skills is one that really resonated with me. You don't know what you don't already know and as your model builder skillset develops, it is absolutely expected you may look back at something you built previously and be able to identify better, more systematic, space or calculation-speed efficient ways to structure your build. I have seen countless times where experienced model builders reviewing and providing feedback and revision suggestions to new model builders on their model builds helps to support new model builder's skills development while also ensuring prior learnings are integrated into new builds.1