Center of Excellence: centralized vs decentralized


Author: Bram Kurstjens is a Certified Master Anaplanner and leads a consulting team at EyeOn.

You might expect a five-step plan to build a successful Center of Excellence (CoE) from a consultant, but that would be highly misleading in my experience. With this post I would rather like to start a discussion and hopefully help you make better decisions in setting up/growing your team. I’m not married to any of the statements below, so if you have different experiences, let’s have a discussion!

First, a little background on me — why do I think I’m qualified to start this discussion? I have been working with over 30 global companies to set up and support new planning systems over the past eight years. In the past three years, I have internally set up a Center of Excellence around Anaplan, which has grown from 3 to 12 people. In this team we are doing all the usual activities of a CoE: we build and maintain several models, we connect to internal and external stakeholders, we train new colleagues, and provide a strategy and roadmap to our leadership. Enough experience to write something on the topic, but I bet there are plenty of cases still to come where I will have to adjust my current view. I hope to fast-track that process.

In this post I will start with the most difficult question: centralized vs decentralized. The name ‘Center of Excellence’ suggests having the team co-located and reporting in the same business unit, but that is not obvious for every company. There are risks involved with both centralized and decentralized and it requires a different type of effort to mitigate those risks. There are more benefits and risks than written here, so please add to it in the comments and I will summarize in a follow up post!




Learning curve on development is higher as you have people surrounding you with Anaplan knowledge.

Flexibility decreases as the number of use cases goes up. Longer lead times to update existing models, leading to stakeholders creating excels again.

Standardization across solutions becomes easier, as quality and maintainability of the models is a bigger priority for the team leader.

It is more difficult to understand the real business challenge, which makes building the right solution less effective and efficient.

The planning solutions can be discussed at the coffee-corner, driving progress towards Connected Planning.

Finding the right use cases for Anaplan becomes more difficult. When the business oversees innovation without proper Anaplan knowledge, the input for when Anaplan is a good solution becomes less obvious.




Addressing business needs becomes easier when the developers are in the business and experience those needs themselves.

A wild growth of siloed use cases can occur, leading to a hard to maintain ecosystem.

Prioritization of development is clearer to the stakeholder as they have their own development resource.

Progress of use cases are dependent on the skill of the developer within the team, making growth of the platform dependent on individuals.

Time saved by automating tasks is experienced by the team itself, causing rationalization of requirements.

All the developers need to be both technically and business savvy, making it harder to find the right people.

My personal preference is a decentralized CoE with a strong community feeling. As Anaplan is an extremely flexible tool, the profit for the company is the greatest if that flexibility is applied straight into the business. I find it much more difficult to create champions of non-technical people than to create a strong community of developers. It is good to mention that within the community, certain roles can have a central focus across business units, such as: architect, data integration, innovation lead, and knowledge management. These roles can be distributed across the community or centrally organized.

In general, I have found that most teams do not really have a choice in centralized vs decentralized, the company ecosystem decides for them. Both centralized and decentralized pose challenges that require constant effort to mitigate. I have put some of the practices in the table below.

Ways to optimize your Center of Excellence



Make it a requirement to have an ‘Anaplan Champion’ in the business for each business case. They should have some basic understanding of Anaplan capabilities and should be linked to and praised by the CoE.

Organize co-building events to share experiences and collaborate on the Connected Planning roadmap.

Maintain clear development prioritization and time-line estimations to the business (development roadmap).

Organize regular learning meetings where one of the developers shares any learning they have related to Anaplan. (Might be related to functionality, project management, change management, supporting tools, etc.)

Organize days for the CoE team to work alongside business teams to understand their work better and spot easy to build use cases.

Stress the importance of one way of working with development best practices, current use cases and available data. Have regular meetings to review progress, but be wary that these meetings become a burden –> make sure progress is visible. (Also relevant for centralized, but crucial for decentralized.)

Unfortunately, I do stick to traditional consultant phrase to what is a best practice — ‘It depends’. There is no straight forward answer that works for each business, but whatever you choose, be aware of the challenges. With a bit of structure and effort you can make sure your Anaplan solution truly supports the business in the long run.

Now my question to you — which practices triggered you and what do you think is missing to achieve and maintain Anaplan greatness? Leave a comment!