Reflections from ACE: CloudWorks for Anaplan CoE enablement
Author: Tiffany Rice, Certified Master Anaplanner and Anaplan Model Builder, Prudential Financial.
With a new year upon us, this is a great time for reflection on the prior year and the capabilities that have been added to Anaplan. During the recent Anaplan Community Experience (ACE) this past November, there was an informative session on CloudWorks as a key lever for Center of Excellence (CoE) enablement featuring Will Lederer, Solutions Architect: FP&A, Business Technology Director at Okta, and Ashwin Krishnamurthy, Principal Product Manager at Anaplan. If you missed it, the replay is available here:
For those of you unfamiliar with CloudWorks, this is a native no-code integration tool within the Anaplan platform. That’s right — NO CODE — and within the UX you are accustomed to working in every day. As a model builder from a non-technical background, I must tell you this was immediately intriguing to me. In my experience, integrations can be one of the most challenging aspects of an implementation, due to resourcing constraints as often you have multiple projects competing for the same pool of integration developers. This can lead to short-term approaches of manually triggering actions which unfortunately sometimes become long-term solutions once the workaround was created.
So how does CloudWorks help?
One of the most powerful features is the ability to schedule model-to-model imports without the use of an ETL tool or API. As Will phrased it, “CloudWorks really frees us up.” Members of the CoE and business users are now empowered to set up their own integration schedules. The setup is quick and easy with intuitive prompts. The scheduler capability allows for hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly integrations with the ability to configure them around the desired time zone. If you are looking for quick-win opportunities to begin capitalizing on these features, I recommend identifying the recurring tasks that you may be manually running today. Great examples are actions to update lists or modules from Data Hubs or to dynamically generate list subsets based on model updates. Before getting started, avoid the gotchas and be sure to read the documentation to configure a process. A common error is when working with lists that have selective access enabled you must first grant the “Integration (Full Access)” account access before the integration runs. Note: this integration account will not be found in the users panel and access must be granted within the list itself.
The next big win is the notification functionality which is massive from an ease-of-mind perspective. No longer do you need to review time stamps to determine whether an action ran successfully, within the setup you can specify which users should be recipients. These notifications can be customized based on run status, should the integration fail; you may want to notify your CoE team to begin triage and error resolution. For successful integrations, you may want to notify certain end users or possibly receive no notification in a no news is good news type of approach. The successful notification is particularly impactful in instances where end users have a dependency on the action being completed before they can move on to the next step within their process. If the action is a routine update that occurs in the background, I tend to gravitate towards no success notifications to minimize traffic. Notifications can be In-App, email, or both. I would recommend failure notifications be sent via email, particularly for off-cycle processes where there may be a delay before you observe the notice In-App. This capability eliminates the need to log on during weekends or nights to confirm critical integrations run successfully. See this help article for additional information on configuring notifications.
A less lauded but helpful feature of CloudWorks is the ability to see the run history of an integration without running history for the entire model. This provides not only an audit log of successes/failures but also allows you to view duration. This can be helpful in assessing changes over time for recurring processes. For example, if you have a daily job that has scaled up over time to include additional actions you can see the impact those additions had on the run time duration. Should the integration fail, the activity detail can be used to review error details as well to initiate an email to Anaplan support with the pertinent identifiers included (customer ID, integration ID, etc.). Note, it is best practice to troubleshoot internally for common errors prior to engaging Anaplan support. More can be read here on viewing activity details.
For those of you thinking that this all sounds very cool, but what can we look forward to on the roadmap? I am so glad you asked! My absolute favorite feature in development is the ability to “bundle and save” as Will so eloquently put it. Integration flows will enable admins to create sequential processes to address dependencies and streamline the setup process. Today to accommodate a sequential integration, each process must be scheduled individually with the duration accounted for in the start time of each subsequent step. In the future, you will be able to bundle these processes into a single flow where a step is triggered only after the preceding step is completed. One potential savings from the bundle is achieved if there are a series of processes across multiple models that should run on the same cadence such as feeds for Hub and Spoke models. By setting up a single flow, you can minimize the time spent configuring the schedules and have fewer maintenance points. I’ll certainly be watching the product releases for this much-anticipated orchestration capability.
Ashwin also covered a forthcoming feature to create a limited integration user role. The current integration role sets the permission at a tenant level whereas in a future release, we can look forward to access being provisioned at the workspace level. This will be impactful in those instances where it is desirable to empower business-led integration while still restricting integration access to any sensitive or highly controlled workspaces/models. Security and risk mitigation is an area that is always of chief concern and the roadmap clearly reflects those priorities.
A parting thought for those who have a robust and established system of existing integrations... it is perfectly acceptable to retain your preferred ETL. Managing the cost of change is part of the role the CoE must play, and the needs of each organization are unique. However, I would encourage consideration of the maintenance over time and if there might be opportunities to achieve scale and lift through a hybrid integration approach. The internal Anaplan processes are a goldmine of synergistic opportunities to empower your CoE and eliminate dependency on resources external to the CoE. Look for the right use case to explore the power of the native no-code capabilities and assess the leverage your teams could achieve.
- Tenant administrators can assign Integration admin roles to users which will make CloudWorks accessible.
- Review technical documentation before setting up your first integration.
- Ensure the Selective Access is addressed for the “Integration (Full Access)” account.
- Ellipsis indicate additional functionality is available, use these to see detail, edit, etc.
- Use the right tool for the job, when contemplating setting up an integration think about the source, target, data transformation needs, and the development resources at your disposal.
- Stay tuned for future product releases!
Questions about this ACE session? Leave a comment!