[Pre Work] COE Maturity: Arendelle Analytics Case Study
Pre-Work: Read the following Case Study and post below in the comments your response to the following question:
As Anna WarmHeart, what would be your recommended strategy and mandate for the Anaplan CoE at Arendelle Analytics?
Establishing the Anaplan Center of Excellence (CoE) at Arendelle Analytics: A Case Study
Note: This case study is based on a fictional company Arendelle Analytics, and a fictional character, Anna WarmHeart. However, it closely resembles the experiences and challenges faced by many of our CoE’s. The purpose of this case study is to provide insights and best practices for organizations looking to establish or scale their own Anaplan CoE.
This case study explores the challenges faced by Arendelle Analytics, a leader in software design and engineering, due to the absence of a formalized Anaplan Center of Excellence (CoE). The lack of a CoE led to difficulties in project prioritization, stakeholder management, knowledge retention, and team scalability.
Arendelle Analytics successfully addressed these challenges by establishing a structured CoE, implementing a project intake process, developing model building standards, and adopting a comprehensive staffing strategy.
The case study highlights the importance of a formalized CoE in managing growing demand for Anaplan projects and offers valuable insights for other organizations looking to establish or scale their own Anaplan CoE.
In 2019, Arendelle Analytics became a customer of Anaplan, and its finance organization began exploring the platform's potential. The team noticed the limitations of traditional planning techniques and recognized that Anaplan could support Arendelle Analytics' “Future of Finance” initiatives to create engaging new career paths and build a top-notch finance team. As the tool gained traction, the number of use cases skyrocketed, sparking excitement throughout the company.
Between 2019 and 2023, external partners developed numerous models but left behind scant documentation, resulting in maintenance becoming both challenging and costly. As external partners departed, they took their expertise with them, leaving the Arendelle Analytics team to navigate the complex models without proper guidance. This knowledge gap jeopardized the long-term sustainability and success of Anaplan's implementation at Arendelle Analytics.
During this period of growth and exploration, the organization grappled with a lack of defined project intake and prioritization processes. Work was often allocated to the most vocal stakeholders instead of prioritizing projects based on impact and value. Consequently, finding the right balance between maintenance and new projects became increasingly difficult, leading to inefficiencies and frustration among team members.
As Anaplan projects continued to accumulate, effective workload management became a significant challenge. With no clear process in place for task monitoring and capacity optimization, miscommunication and inadequate stakeholder alignment ensued, resulting in missed opportunities and unmet expectations. Moreover, knowledge transfer and retention within the team emerged as a critical issue.
Recognizing these mounting challenges, Elsa ColdFusion, the Vice President of Finance Transformation, decided to take action and sponsor the formal creation of an Anaplan Center of Excellence (CoE). In 2022, Elsa hired Anna WarmHeart to lead the CoE with a mandate to "connect, optimize, and automate."
Current State of Arendelle Analytics' CoE:
Use cases: Four live use cases, all in the Finance organization:
- Revenue Planning
- Opex Planning
- Long Range Planning
- Workforce Planning
Users: ~350 across all use cases
Integrations: Automated using MuleSoft
Existing model builders: ~2 model builders: one certified MB, and one who has only done L1. Anna is a Certified Master Anaplanner (CMA), but doesn’t have the capacity to be a full time Solution Architect (SA). Arendelle Analytics had a partner who was acting as SA but their contract ended shortly after Anna started in her new role.
Defect/enhancement process: The team currently uses something they call the “Big Anaplan List”, which is an Excel file they use to track enhancements. Anna has mostly been maintaining this on her own.
Performance/best practices approach: Arendelle Analytics leverages Anaplan Hypercare and has a budget set aside for Model Optimizations and Concurrency Testing. There are no modeling standards currently set internally.
The team needs to layer on a system of prioritizing and tracking the "Big Anaplan List", plus set up recurring check-ins to re-evaluate the list. Additionally, the team should request formal process documentation from business partners where applicable and create their own process documentation elsewhere. Measurable outcomes include tracking completion of tasks and documentation with an emphasis on timely completion. Overall goals are to build a process that does not fall apart as team members come and go and ensure prioritized items are completed in a timely manner.0
Anna's team needs to expand the scope of the "Big Anaplan List" so that the entire team updates it (not just Anna) and so that it includes functionality to review the results of updates, provide input to each other's updates, etc. The goal of this is to create the functionality and infrastructure for the team (and future versions of the team) to be able to understand how the model has evolved and how to edit it more. This can be measured with a grading system about how complete the updates are.0
COE should set a vision that includes creating standards and best practices to ensure the long term success and scalability of the program - this should include goals around the process for project intake, knowledge retention/documentation, model build and maintenance standards, PMO, and staffing strategy.0
The CoE mandate to "connect, optimize, and automate." is perfect and can help the team prioritize and focus on what will drive the company forward. By building best practices and efficiencies the team can begin to rank, prioritize and assign a level of effort for all the items on the "Big Anaplan List". By keeping focused on the key business enhancements that "connect, optimize, and automate", Anna can begin to understand her level of effort needed, any additional employees needed, and begin to assign deadlines and work to the hypercare team in order to accomplish the enhancement list and continue to grow the CoE.0
Anaplan prioritization within the "Big Anaplan List" should include a decision matrix/ranking to understand LOE on the build side, business SME effort/availability, maturity of the existing process/documentation of said process, and ROI/time savings opportunities. Anna should connect with Elsa at a minimum, and tag leadership supporting change management and possibly systems design from other parts of the organization. This can be informal if Anna has the time, or formalize a Steering Committee that can prioritize projects, which will help Anna to forecast headcount based on desired timelines.
~20% of build time should be devoted to proactive maintenance. This would include the hypercare optimization edits, as well as submitted enhancements for the existing models (which have also been prioritized using the decision matrix)
~10% Buffer should be reserved for bug fixes/fires—models need a priority/risk ranking to be able to consistently know what to fix first if there are ever larger outages, and defined SLAs should be in place with IT or any other supporting lanes.
Offload low-hanging fruit where possible—if business SMEs are tech savvy, offer page builder training and even model builder training for any teams that want to fast-track updates, with clear expectations of approvals/reviews/launch procedures.
Since their data is generally automated, I would approach this as templating processes where possible so that handling can be automatic. In this case, Anna needs an intake form with the data she needs to decision matrix the requests, and detailed intake templates to follow up the initial request and identify any existing gaps in the business process to be sure decisions are made BEFORE the project kicks off.
One other item to automate is proactive check-ins with business owners. Understand in advance what may hit your intake, and coordinate with any page builders or federated model builders to keep rollout timing, trainings, documentation, and style guides consistent across the entire portfolio.0
One of the goals should be to enact objective prioritization standards to The Anaplan Big List and share the maintenance among the team. This should free up some time for Anna to start implementing modeling standards with the team and in the process helping to upskill them so they can take on more responsibility in the future. Some time should also be allocated to developing a project intake form and enhanced model documentation to ensure adequate knowledge transfer and business continuity in the future.0
One primary objective for Arendelle Analytics is to establish a standard of documentation. Every company uses Anaplan differently, and no two models are the same. It's important for the company to create a series of best practices and develop model maintenance standards as well. This will prove to be especially useful when the CoE team grows and/or changes.
Another key objective should be to shore up the project intake process by developing an intake form that gathers all relevant information before committing to taking on new project requests and enhancements. This intake process should gather information on time commitment, data requirements, desired function, and overall business impact. It would also be beneficial to include a template or mockup that requires the requestor to provide the exact framework for each intake submission. This will help conserve the capacity of Anna and other model builders by preventing the need to chase down stakeholders to further specify on project requirements.0
Promote knowledge sharing and best practices related to the Anaplan ecosystem. Prioritize high-impact project which aligns with the broader organization.
- Define governance structure - centralized vs federated
- Define the roles and responsibilities of COE members
- Outlined workflow and SLA for logging enhancements/defects and new project request
- Set up monthly/weekly touch base with CoE members, model builders, and business partners around prioritization and updates on existing logged items and knowledge sharing
- Define build standards and streamline documentation
COE should set up a tracking list with recurring meetings to evaluate where the team is at. The goal should be to create a sustainable foundation so new people can come in and be able to understand the different models and their purposes. They also need to identify roles and get input from all levels of users to build a sustainable infrastructure for the future.0
A successful formal creation of CoE requires clear vision and objectives: structured CoE, implementing project prioritization, stakeholder management, knowledge retention and team scalability. Some of the initial priorities for Arendelle Analytics will be a CoE structure and key participants aligned to roles and responsibilities (RACI), enablement and training, documentation.
All Anna's team members will update/maintain 'Big Anaplan List' and will discuss the progress an a weekly touch base.
The measurable outcome will be a proper balance between maintenance and new projects, creating a good documentation base, knowledge transfer and retention within the team in the journey of self-sufficiency and to drive better results in the connected planning.0
I think there are a few immediate actions this team can take to improve their CoE followed by mid-term and long-term improvements.
- Prioritize Level 2 and Level 3 training for the L1 model builder. Developing this model builder’s skills will give Anna more time to think strategically.
- Publish the Big Anaplan List to a central location and connect it to an intake form so the Finance org can submit tickets and see everything the CoE is working on.
- Take advantage of a Model Optimization through Hypercare – this will identify opportunities in the model and help with long-term roadmap development and prioritization.
- Set up two regular meetings with Finance stakeholders:
- A weekly or biweekly touchpoint with a subset of end users to prioritize the Big Anaplan List, deliver progress updates and request support.
- A monthly or quarterly review with leadership to showcase the team’s progress and upcoming projects. It will be important for this team to get their work in front of senior leadership so they can make staffing requests in the future. Use the first instance of this meeting to introduce the concept of an Anaplan CoE and educate leadership on the benefits of establishing a formal CoE.
- Work with stakeholders to formalize a CoE and publish a CoE Charter.
- Document existing processes, prioritizing data integrations and monthly/quarterly tasks the Anaplan team needs to complete.
- Anna should do a full review of the existing model for space optimization and best practices. She may choose to host a series of workshops with Finance team members to answer some of these questions: Is the model currently meeting the team’s needs? Where is it falling short? What are our highest priority deliverables and their timing? What are our most common bug types and how can we improve the model to minimize these? How often is a “bug” actually end user error and how can the model be improved to be more intuitive for end users? Following this exercise she can develop a long-term roadmap and make staffing recommendations.
First, it is important that the "Big Anaplan List" is shared within the team so that everyone has good visibility over the backlog. It would aslo be great to further increase the transparency by making the entire CoE co-responsible for the list, and why not move it to Anaplan instead of excel? That could also be a great learning opportunity for the less experienced model builders, as well as making Anaplan more "native".
With this, it would also be possible to some joint planning, estimate the effort for each task and make the prioritisation transparent. You could even go as far as creating presentations within Anaplan, used for communicating with the business.
Second, it would be highly beneficial if the existing documentation could be gathered and harmonised, ensuring it is in similar format, as well as available in the same place.
Third, the CoE would need to set long-term standards and strategies. Below are some examples of standards that would be beneficial to have:
- Data integration
- Requirements for external model builders
- Knowledge transfer
Connect - to begin, my advice would be to bring in a PMP with an Anaplan background or a Solutions Architect. Their job would be to focus on Model Standards, bridge the communication gap on current development status, and provide Anna with an immediate team to offload managing the “Big Anaplan List”
She should focus on working with SME resources, sponsors, and business users to prioritize the backlog then begin to define what the next few sprints will be to feed to the PMP/SA and model builders.
Optimize - Anna will need her L1 model builder to focus on tasks defined by the PMP/SA and MB to work on executing the enhancements on the current Sprint from the Product Backlog.
As a part of the development cycle the final task should be to document the work done on each module with a problem statement, solution used, and diagrams for process changes.
Automate - Anna should consider moving the excel tracker to an off the shelf productivity tool (ClickUp, Monday.com, Trello, etc.) to quickly connect business users with the developers should question arise. She could also consider using the internal Anaplan workflow features but must move the tracker from a silo to a broadly shared app.
By removing impediments in the communications, this will begin the automation process so that all stakeholders are brought into alignment on future developments, clear on priority, and reduce inefficiencies.0
In the mandate of "connect, optimize, and automate", it seems that Anna should focus on two horizons - short term and long term
In the short term, the priority should be to keep the lights on, since most of the institutional knowledge has been lost with external SA/MBs that don't longer partner with Arendelle Analytics. This can be done by either prioritizing business-critical enhancements of the "Big Anaplan List" and/ or doing an architectural review of the most critical modules.
Longer term, Anna needs to set a Team Vision and a Program Vision, with goals and measurable outcomes each. For example:
- Program Level
- Vision - To enable the Finance organization to run the business and unlock value for the company through a connected planning and reporting ecosyst
- Goals/ Outcomes - (i) Number of connected financial planning use cases vs offline, (ii) user satisfaction, (iii) hours saved vs offline processes
- Team Level
- Vision - To be the CoE that provides value to the Finance organization by building connected and automated models that ensure business continuity
- Goals/ Outcomes - (i) Team upskilling (e.g. SA certification), (ii) models with proper documentation, (iii) compliance with best-in-class build standards (PLANS methodology)
- Program Level
- Vision & Roadmap: Establish 2-5 year roadmap aligning the vision to the strategic goals of the organization
- Knowledge retention & Process Standardization: Continue to build the COE with various levels of capability across model builders. Establish a structured Skills Assessment rating and resource capacity model to align with the organization’s roadmap and strategic plan. Establish clear deliverables around use case documentation, model standardization and sustainability which must be achieved prior to closing out a use case
- Project pipeline prioritization: Establish a cross-functional oversight committee which will establish clear criteria for project approval and monitor with milestones and gated deliverables
Arendelle Analytics CoE needs the following improvements:
1 - Clearly defined Road Map, which includes new projects, maintenance/improvements of existing models, and prioritization.
2 – Connect all existing live use cases into a connected planning universe
3 – Develop a library of documentation (model documentation, build standards, UX standards)
4 – invest/hire a full-time Anaplan architect (or sign a long-term contract with a partner for a specific person)
5 – invest in additional training of existing model builders0
Here are a few ideas for Ms. Warmheart:
I) Level up existing staff > CMB update training to Solutions Architect, and have the partner cross train the CMB. The other model builder levels up to become CMB and cross-train with current CMB to upgrade skills. Anna Warmheart to ask for budget $ to fill in the gaps on team, bring in a junior model builder, or cross-train someone in the organization to save company cost freeing up Anna to focus on orchestrating business needs with the Anaplan tool.
II) Visualize the Honeycomb to scale appropriately and eliminate silos, thus improving communication across the platform.
III) Create a charter for the COE to standardize best practices and normalize processes (such as modelling standards, naming conventions, data, UX, and architecture) following the connect, optimize, and automate mantra.0
Vision: To create a top-notch Anaplan CoE that improves how the company use Anaplan, shares knowledge effectively, and continuously enhances the processes.
Measurable Outcomes: Prioritize projects better, retain and transfer knowledge efficiently, standardize model building, align stakeholders effectively, and continuously improve through feedback and performance optimization.
Goals: Develop a clear process for project selection, establish a system other than Big List to manage and share knowledge, set standards for model building, ensure better stakeholder alignment, and foster a culture of continuous improvement and performance optimization.0
The key purpose of a COE is to define/create standards and best practices to ensure long-term scalability.
- Anna and the team should update the 'Big Anaplan List' with a prioritization level, as well as the LOE for each enhancement. Having regular weekly touch-base meetings will help with tracking progress of current enhancements and allow insights to new requirements from the business.
- The team should gather document and streamline processes in a formal documentation and define the roles and responsibilities of the COE
Any successful process and application must have organization, order, and documentation. The team first needs to document all processes and procedures to prepare for additional developers and growth. Second, they need to establish and document a set of Anaplan standards and policies to ensure that all models, dashboards, etc, are built with a consistent frame work and are scalable. Then in order to manage that growth, all projects, including potential future projects, should be managed in an Anaplan model that can be utilized and presented to management to prioritize work, request additional resources, and track and report progress.0
First thing is documentation. No one can move forward unless the current state is fully understood. This means both from a user perspective and a builder perspective, including process flows and schemas.
Second thing is a scheduled meeting with all stakeholders to allow everyone to understand the backlog and resource limitations. This will allow them to negotiate with each other for timing for their own work.
Third is to make sure the data is clean and standard across use cases and data hub. Having a standard hierarchy, standard naming conventions, and then internal Anaplan model processes (DISCO) with template examples for newer model builders to reference would be very helpful.
Last, visibility into progress and status. Free tools like Trello are great for collaboration and visibility where excel spreadsheets are not.0
As a First Step The Big List should be formalized and the COE should try and include the stake holders/Sponsors as it will help in prioritizing and ensuring the work is adopted across.
Also Anaplan training for junior model builders should be in the roadmap.
- Defining governance structure
- Ensure all aspects are considered when bringing in COE members and their roles are defined.
- SLA should be defined for enhancements and defects and approach for new project requests
- Set up cadence within CoE members, model builders, and business partners
- Mechanism for prioritization and updates
- Defining Model building standards and what and how to document