CoE Connect - Newsletter April 2023



Welcome to the fourth edition of CoE Connect, your monthly source for all things Anaplan Center of Excellence (CoE)!
We hope this newsletter proves both informative and inspiring, and we always welcome your thoughts and ideas for future editions. Thank you for being an integral part of the CoE community—let's stay connected and grow together!

CoE Spotlight: Introducing Jiri Palasek, the first Anaplan CoE Lead to be spotlighted from the EMEA region, representing Edwards Lifesciences. In our April feature, we explore Jiri's fascinating journey within the Anaplan ecosystem and reveal how he overcame initial challenges to transform the CoE, ultimately leading to a 20-fold increase in user base. Don't miss this inspiring story, as it offers valuable insights into building a successful CoE and leveraging Anaplan's capabilities.


We're excited to announce that nominations for the CoE Leader of the Year Award are now open!
Customer Success Business Partners (CSBPs) will nominate exceptional CoE leaders within the Anaplan ecosystem. CSBPs will provide scores and examples for each criterion, which will be centrally collected and used to rank candidates. The top 5 nominees will be presented to a selection committee comprising Anaplan leadership and active CoE community members. To ensure impartial evaluation, the committee will review anonymized nominations stripped of company and CoE leader information. The evaluation criteria include:

  • Leadership: Showcasing strong leadership qualities and effective team management
  • Innovation: Focusing on creative and forward-thinking Anaplan use cases
  • Performance improvement: Driving measurable enhancements in CoE operations, processes, or outcomes and
  • Collaboration & Advocacy: Engaging proactively with various teams and partners while actively contributing to the Anaplan CoE community.

Let's celebrate our CoE community members' achievements and recognize their dedication. Good luck to all exceptional leaders!

Update on the CoE Leaders Cohort: Building on our previous newsletter, we recently held another fun-filled, interactive session in our exclusive peer-based program for CoE leaders. This two-hour session focused on "Managing Stakeholders by Effectively Selling the Value of Anaplan through Storytelling." Participants learned and practiced three key components of effective storytelling to engage their audience:

  1. Highlight why the audience should care by categorizing benefits as more money, less time, or making their job more enjoyable.
  2. Use the Tell, Show, Tell methodology when showcasing a feature in a demo: Tell what you're about to show, Show what you said you'd show, and Tell what you just showed.
  3. Utilize personas to make demos/storytelling more effective.

Throughout the session, participants practiced their selling skills, making it an enjoyable and valuable learning experience for all.

In a recent interview, I had the honor of exploring Jiri Palasek's remarkable journey as an Anaplan CoE Lead. Based in Prague, Jiri transitioned from a Deloitte consultant to leading Edwards Lifesciences' Anaplan CoE team. Jiri shares insights on his career path, the valuable skills he's acquired, and the significance of a CoE within an organization. Join us as we uncover Jiri's experiences and draw invaluable insights from his achievements.

Mariam: Tell us about yourself? Your current role - where you are based.

Jiri: I am a Director in IT solutions organization, and I am the lead of Anaplan CoE in Edwards Lifesciences. I am based in Prague, the Czech Republic. 

Mariam: Share with us your career path within the Anaplan Ecosystem from first experiences to today.

Jiri:
I met Anaplan almost accidentally. A few years ago, a friend of mine who was working in Deloitte asked me if I would be interested in working there. I have had extensive work experience with Managerial Accounting, Modelling, Forecasting, Budgeting, and Planning from my past, and I was always interested in the technical side of business as well.

During the interview process, I was offered a position in the team which was about to start Anaplan Consulting services within the region. It sounded like an interesting challenge and a good mix for my experience and profile. I worked and led on a number of implementations. One of my clients was Edwards Lifesciences. Edwards' EMEA IT director approached me and offered me a position within his team. I knew the environment, I liked the people in the company, and their Anaplan team. Also, it sounded like an interesting challenge.

I won't lie to you; at the beginning, we were in a very bad situation, the system was not great, the users were unhappy. There was an option considered to stop using the system altogether. We worked really hard, set standards, pushed our implementation partners hard to improve on their sides, improved security, quality, UX, and we have done a lot of evangelization in the company and slowly, step by step, gained popularity and more and more people got interested in our tailor-made solutions.The situation changed considerably over the years. We have a lot of things coming our way; dozens of use-cases, an interesting pipeline, and a 20 times bigger user base than we had 3 years ago.

Mariam: What are some of the most valuable skills you have learned along that journey?

Jiri: Work in Anaplan environment is an extraordinary journey and quite a complex one. You are learning something new literally every day and you cannot become complacent at any time. Just few examples: 

  • Agile methodology and The Anaplan way
  • Technical expertise
  • Variety of the use-cases
  • Day-to-day operation
  • Strategic planning
  • Pipeline building

There are new things to learn every day and I am very grateful for that. The platform is improving daily, and it brings opportunities for us to do things better.At the same time, you do learn a lot about patience, negotiation, understanding what you can control and what not and about the company where you work. You learn a lot about how to be a better leader and how to give everyone in your team the opportunity to shine. 

To work in Anaplan CoE is a complex journey, and I am happy to be part of it! 

Mariam: As a CoE Leader, in your opinion, what are some of the benefits to having a CoE within an organization?

Jiri: In my opinion to leverage Anaplan the best way possible, you have to aim for the North Star, and it is Connected Planning. 
Without Anaplan CoE it is an extremely difficult if not impossible to herd all the cats within the company and make them pull to same direction. The goal is to have an environment where you are able to move information seamlessly between stakeholders, and enable them to make the right decisions at the right moment being armed with information of perfect quality. Each group of stakeholders is using Anaplan for their specific use-cases. They have relatively narrow view of what’s happening in company. CoE can help them navigate to leverage information from other systems/applications/models. 
CoE which is in the middle of the environment, can propose solutions and find efficiencies. It is in a way the key moderator of a discussion, which helps to shape how the company works in the most effective way. 

Mariam: Do you need to be an Anaplan technical expert to be a CoE leader?

Jiri: No, I do not think so. To be good at storytelling, create a great team with extensive and complementary skillset is much more important than technical skills in this position. At the same time, you have to be able to create and nurture relationship within the company and with your external partners. 
My own way led me through role of Anaplan Architect, but I do not see it is a necessity. More important is to understand the purpose, to have a vision and certain relentlessness in the approach - at the end of the day, you are bringing change to the ways of working of people and it is never easy. 
I do not want to downplay technical knowledge needs for CoE leader. Some technical knowledge is definitely important. I would say that you as CoE lead you do need to understand the capabilities of the system, you do need to understand limitations and what you can bring and have the ability to explain what can be done. Nothing is worse than oversell system. You need to be able to manage partners’ expectations and explain pros and cons of their requirements. 

Mariam: As a CoE leader how do you prioritize between new projects, enhancements, bug fixes?

Jiri: The most important thing for any service is reliability and therefore the bug fixes always have the biggest priority. There is no way around this. 
New projects and enhancements are due to capacity constrains constant challenge and constant discussion with different stakeholders on the prioritization and the best return on investment. It is a complex task, which I do think keeps everyone in any CoE awaken at night. 

Mariam: As a CoE Leader, what are some benefits to having that connection with Anaplan Business Partners and Customer Success?

Jiri: I am so lucky and honored to have such a great partners as I have on Anaplan side. Emmanuel Redon and Julien Dyon are amazing, it is great pleasure to work with them. Being part of one company, supporting its specific needs may come with the particular and often rather narrow view. Partnering with Anaplan team is invaluable; these guys oversee the entire environment and can help to broaden your horizons. 

Besides the day-to-day priceless support, they are the partners who inspire, encourage our growth, and help to explore unexpected options and possibilities.

Mariam: What are some of the resources within the Anaplan Community that you as a CoE leader saw as being the most valuable?

Jiri: At the beginning, the pivotal resources have been the ones related to the CoE structure in different phases of the lifecycle. Similarly important is the best practice documentation. Besides avoiding the costly mistakes, best practice resources help to guide you throughout the organization set up, hiring and technical set up of the environment. 

We hope you enjoyed this edition of the newsletter and look forward to engaging and helping you achieve your Connected Planning vision. If you have any questions or suggestions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected].

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