Tips for learning Anaplan

edited March 2023 in Blog

Authors: Ben Ramirez, Certified Master Anaplanner and Manager at Spaulding Ridge, and Tyler Gareau (@tylergareau), Associate at Spaulding Ridge.

Starting out in the Anaplan platform may provoke certain positive emotions such as curiosity, excitement, and stimulation. On the other hand, learning a brand-new platform can seem overwhelming and have you feeling stumped at times. Thankfully, all Anaplanners have gone through these emotions and can act as supporters to help others onboard the platform. Those “aha” moments, tips, and tricks for working with Anaplan are all shared in one place for anyone to access, known as the Anaplan Community.

I’m sharing three pieces of advice that I wish I had been given when I first started my career with Anaplan: be resourceful and inventive, break down formulas, and always build with the goal of simplicity. 

Be resourceful — Utilize the Anaplan Community

The Anaplan Community is the first place I go when I have any Anaplan-related questions. Wherever you are in your Anaplan journey, the Anaplan community should be a place where you feel comfortable asking questions, answering questions, and contributing to the platform’s growth and development. I have attached a few articles that I find extremely helpful in my day-to-day work. 

  1. The Planual is a one-stop shop and guide for Model Building in Anaplan. All model builders, even master Anaplanners, regularly take advantage of this resource, as it answers all questions from Versioning to Integration to UX Pages and everything in between. 
  2. The Model Optimization Checklist guides you through model architecture and assists Anaplanners at any level of experience through system Best Practices. This is especially helpful for Model Builders who are looking to transition to more of a Solution Architect role but can also be referenced by new Model Builders who have just been exposed to the platform. This checklist should be used if model performance is not up to standard and changes need to be made to improve performance, such as reducing load times.
  3. Convert between Data Types: Bookmark this document to your browser! Although Anaplan recommends that most data transformations are done outside of the platform, there is still a need for model builders to convert different data types. Do you need to convert your flat data text column labeled ‘Period’ to an Anaplan Date? Utilize this document to find the argument, data type, and function needed to convert this to your preferred data type.
  4. Anapedia provides in-depth support documentation and tutorials to enable users to get the most out of the Anaplan platform. This resource is updated frequently to ensure that the most up-to-date instructions are always available to utilize. Examples of topics on Anapedia include Anaplan’s built-in calculation functions, application lifecycle management, importing and exporting data, and PlanIQ. 
  5. Stay up to date with Releases. Anaplan publishes monthly releases and sneak peeks at the next month’s releases. This information is precious as it provides insight into other ways that your business, or client, can unlock all the potential that Anaplan holds for business operations and planning management.

In addition to accessing tangible resources within the Anaplan Community, lean on your peer group to learn and grow together on your Anaplan journey. Working at an organization that is an Anaplan Implementation Partner, I constantly consult with other model builders and Solution Architects when configuring solutions — whether it be about the best way to display charts on a dashboard or how to integrate specific data platforms that they have experience with. Usually, the solution to your issue simply requires a different perspective. 

Break down formulas 

Writing formulas in Anaplan is simple in nature but can be tricky to master when you are first starting in the platform. There are many key concepts to creating a well-written formula that will perform the desired calculation for the business requirement, including timescale, summary methods, dimensions, and format. Breaking down formulas is an effective way to ensure that all parts of your formula are working correctly. Let’s walk through an example. 

*Note: Familiarity with the LOOKUP function and IF THEN ELSE logic covered in Level 1 and Level 2 Model Building courses may be needed to understand the following formulas. 


You are an Anaplan model builder within a company’s Center of Excellence (CoE). Your team received a new request from the Financial Planning Manager that the finance team would like to use Anaplan to calculate the overhead capital amount for each cost center in their organization using existing data and relationships that your current Anaplan FP&A model holds. 

Current state:

You have a module that is dimensionalized by cost centers (a hierarchy that exists in the model) and Time (months). Two-line items currently live in the module: overhead rate and total capital, both with the exact dimensions of the module. 

Future state:

The output you would like to see in your new line item, named Overhead Capital Amount, is the overhead rate of the cost center’s parent multiplied by total capital IF the month is within the ‘actuals’ period in the model. If the month is not within the actuals period, the overhead capital amount should equal 0. 

To put this in Anaplan terms, your formula may look something like this:

IF ‘SYS01 Time Settings’.‘Actuals Period?’ 

THEN Overhead Rate[LOOKUP: ‘SYS02 Cost Center System Module’.’Parent’] * Total Capital 


Instead of writing one formula and spending valuable time evaluating where an error may occur, you can break this down into three (or more) line items temporarily and consolidate them at the end. 

Doing this lets you see if each part of the formula in the desired multi-part formula is calculated correctly. After validating the output of these three-line items and analyzing if the correct dimensionality is being used, you can combine the different components into one formula. 

For further data analysis and validation, use the drill-down function on a single cell (F8 on your keyboard) to show the formulas used and data cells referenced in the calculation. You can use drill down in Anaplan on any cell with a formula or a summary. By using the method illustrated above, you can efficiently compose formulas and minimize the number of errors made in the formula that brings you to your end goal.

Remember that simplicity is key

If you have had the chance to use the platform, you may have realized that model building in Anaplan can be as simple or complex as you want it to be – the decision is in your hands! My advice for you is to try to keep your calculation engine and UX pages as simple as possible to meet business needs. The bottom line is that the model built should be easy for the business to keep, as the platform and solution are business-owned and uncomplex for the average model builder to understand. 

Data analysis in a model using multi-dimensionality is not straightforward and takes practice. Keeping things ‘simple’ in Anaplan may not fall into your typical definition of simple, but the goal is to have a model that can be understood and followed by the average model builder. To achieve this goal, Anaplan’s best practices should always be followed. Still, these have to be weighed against business use/context, as you’ll find there are many acceptable ways to satisfy a business requirement. Additionally, there are a few other tips I would keep in mind: 

  1. The notes section of your model (modules and line items) should continually be updated with descriptions. This provides an outsider with the overall purpose of each piece of the model that was built and can be leveraged when rework needs to be done in the model, such as a change to the business process. 
  2. Modules, line items, actions, Lists, and UX pages that are not in use should be deleted. Not only will this reduce the model’s size, but it will ensure that model builders are referencing the correct data and that end users are interacting with the right parts of the model. 
  3. Naming conventions should be standardized and followed throughout the models in the workspace.

Overall, the Anaplan Community has abundant resources to leverage and users who regularly contribute. To be successful and work efficiently, utilize these resources, break your formula writing into segments, and remember that — if possible — complexity should be avoided when model building. 

What tips do you have for the Anaplan Community or those just starting out in their journey? Leave a comment!


  • "Break down formulas", I couldn't agree more with this point. It works as a life savior when understanding a long pre-written formula.

    Kudos to both of you @bramirez & @tylergareau!!

  • I love the "Remember that simplicity is key" in BOLD.

    And like a good old friend used to stress quite a lot "Just because you can doesn't mean you should".

    Also great advice on splitting bigger LIs in multiple ones : until the known toaster issue is finally delivered it's almost a necessity on big complex models).

    And for complex formulas I think that whenever it makes sense it's even better to leave extra line items there, if it facilitates debugging/understanding and/or use the note field to either explain the logic or flag model optimisation opportunities (eg merging line items)

    Nice article

  • Utilizing the Anaplan community and Anapedia, breaking down formulas, and cleaning the model to reduce the model’s size and efficieny by deleting line items, actions, Lists, and UX pages that are not in use are good tips for model builders. Thank you @bramirez @tylergareau for sharing this!