Tips for successful key leader and stakeholder communications

edited April 2 in Blog

Author: Aaron Overfors is a Certified Master Anaplanner and Principal Architect at Spaulding Ridge.

In any Anaplan implementation, there is always a compelling event for the work to be done. There is some value to be realized, challenge to be overcome, and/or some process to be improved in part with the technology. Behind that compelling event is a person — or more likely, a group of people — who saw the current circumstances and realized that the way things are done today are not as good as what can be done tomorrow. Anyone who agrees with this or is impacted by that decision is a stakeholder, and at some point, they convinced or were convinced by a key leader that this work needed to be done for the benefit of their organization. Most likely, one or more of these key leaders wrote the check that funded the work, and so for a multitude of reasons, they are quite interested in the outcome of it.

It is one thing to take advantage of a superior technology to help improve a process and enable an organization to achieve on a level that simply was not possible in the past, but if they are not aware of the improvement or how to take advantage of it, then it all may be for naught. This is one reason why the Project Manifesto is an important part of The Anaplan Way; it establishes whom the value is for, which is inseparably tied to why the work is being done in the first place. Communicating with your stakeholders and key leaders is critical to realizing the full value of Anaplan and carries enormous weight in adoption of the solution.

Most Anaplan projects consist of a core team and an extended team. The core team is involved in the day-to-day development of the final solution, whereas the extended team likely includes stakeholders and key leaders who receive regular updates but are (rightly) not in the minutiae of the development. Herein lies a large portion of the challenge; it is crucial to keep these individuals apprised of the work, but there is limited time to do so, and likely more content than they are able to digest in said time. So, it is important to be crisp, focused on (1) drivers, (2) challenges, (3) successes, and (4) future outcomes.

The drivers

The drivers are those factors that paved the way for the project to become a reality. There is a gain in revenue or profitability, reduction in cost, smoother process, better communication, higher confidence in the outcome of the process, or some other positive benefit that drove the work to be started. Key leaders and other stakeholders are very interested in understanding what these are and following how they are being addressed. They may, in turn, be communicating with an even broader audience about why the work is being done in Anaplan and the improvement they expect to see come to fruition.

The challenges

The challenges are those factors that have been known from the beginning or have since become known that pose a risk to the value being realized to the extent desired or in the timeframe desired. This may be internal or external: it could be due to significant changes in a connected system, company reorganization, changes in leadership, new regulatory requirements, a lack of organizational readiness to change, poor data readiness, or a variety of other reasons. These do not automatically become blockers to developing a new set of capabilities in Anaplan that will drive value, but it is essential to appreciate the impact of these challenges and account for them appropriately when planning and executing. Leaders want to know what challenges exist so that they can monitor them and, if possible, use their position to mitigate or altogether eliminate them for the core team. Take advantage of leaders who are bought in and want to help!

The successes

It is also important to outline the successes of the current use of Anaplan. This does not need to be contrived, but keeping stakeholders and leaders apprised of real ‘wins’ over the course of the work can pay dividends. In some organizations, there may be a lot of activity going on outside of the Anaplan work, especially during key periods like a planning season or closing a financial period. The most obvious reason to communicate project successes is to keep these stakeholders aware and engaged around the work so that they are ready to take advantage of it once it is ready for productive use. Another benefit is that it is a more concrete statement of progress on the work being done and gives assurance that the work is, indeed, going to pay off.

Future outcomes

Lastly, communication with key leaders and stakeholders is important because it gives form to the future outcomes that are possible. Drawing heavily from the drivers for the project work, these outcomes may be something immediately pursued based on the current work or possible to pursue once the current Anaplan work concludes. For example, an organization may know that their compensation plans are in great need of standardization — but because they had no system to administer them and quantify what was happening, it was necessary to first establish a true incentive compensation management tool before driving standardization within incentive compensation plan structure itself. This, in turn, could also lead to potential future outcomes of maximizing revenue, minimizing sales costs, and providing greater visibility to the finance team — all driven by the initial work of developing a sales incentive compensation management system.

While it can be easy to become quickly engrossed in the ground-level development of a beaming new Anaplan solution, it is critical to keep key leaders and stakeholders apprised of the who, what, and why at their appropriate level to keep them informed, engaged, and in a position to reap the full value of the work. Reminding them of why it is happening, challenges that are being encountered and overcome, successes being realized, and the future potential it is unlocking helps pave the way to realize maximum value from your hard work.