AMA: Partner Perspective With Chris Weiss
We're excited to welcome Chris Weiss to this session of Ask Me Anything! Chris is a Lead Solution Architect, Sales Strategy & Planning at Anaplan Partner, Accenture.
How long have you been an Anaplan partner?
I’ve been working with Anaplan since early 2016.
Tell me about your journey thus far. What did you do prior to being an Anaplan partner? How has that shaped your current role?
Before joining the Anaplan ecosystem I was a Salesforce consultant and solution architect specializing in the Customer Relationship Management space (Sales Cloud). In my work on CRM implementations, there was a clear disconnect between Front End Sales departments and Sales Operations planning departments. Our technology solutions in Salesforce always empowered Front End Sales, but did little to assist Sales Operations groups with their planning and enablement functions. Our practice at Accenture focuses on bridging that gap between Sales and Sales Operations, and by far the best technology enabler we’ve found that provides the systems needed to empower this connection is Anaplan.
How do you interact with Anaplan and customers on a typical day?
A typical day might start with a workshop to understand a company’s current state business processes and defining optimized future state workflows. Then I might head to a side-by-side build session, which is a joint working session between our Accenture build time and the customer’s model builders, where we discuss business processes, high-level solution approaches, and assign build tasks to anybody in the room while providing guidance on configuration leading practices. Then I might take some time to myself to design any of the more complex Anaplan functionalities, including documenting the design and sending it to our build team. Then I would likely test and validate any of the previous work of our build team to ensure the functionality meets the need of the customer’s business process, and follow that up with a demo of the functionality back to the client to collect feedback and continuously improve the solution (and on a good day, might get sign-off on a completed dashboard, which means we get to celebrate that evening!).
What is your area of expertise?
My area of expertise is in Sales and Sales Operations business functions, ranging from optimizing business processes to providing technology enablers. I always enjoy helping the community around questions on how Anaplan can enable Sales functions and planning, as well as technology best practices. I also spend a decent amount of time focusing on expanding our internal Anaplan capability, so more than happy to discuss ways to stand up and build an Anaplan function or COE within an organization.
Favorite thing about working with Anaplan?
That it puts the power of technology and advanced planning in the hands of the business. Anaplan enables flexible scalable solutions that can be fully owned by Sales Operations, no need for IT involvement or developer/coding skills, which unlocks the full potential and creativity of Sales Operations (and the ability to follow the whims of sales organizations in general), all built on top of the stability and governance of an enterprise platform that can integrate to the rest of their enterprise platforms, often for the first time in a sales organization’s history.
One fun fact about you?
I have two miniature long-haired dachshunds named Penny and Olive, and even though they’re only 8 pounds each have huge personalities and love long walks in Central Park.
Note: The live Q&A session is now closed.
Remember to join us on Monday for the next AMA! Post your questions here throughout the week for our first partner and Master Anaplanner host, Chris Weiss. Not sure what to ask? Here's a few ideas to get you started:
- Model building challenges and opportunities
- Exploring the Partner role in a customer's connected planning journey
- Partner perspective - What's it like to be an Anaplan Partner
- Partner career benefits of being a Master Anaplanner1
The AMA is now open — Post your questions here any time this week, or chat live in the forum with Chris on Friday.1
Can you tell us if, how and when do you use the ALM functionality? Do you use it for every model you build? And, in your opinion, what are the pros and cons of using it.
Thanks for participating and offering your unique insight!
My question(s) is as follows: How do you define the relationship between Partners and Anaplan when working with customers? How do we ensure the success of the customer across the different working teams and companies?
What are the fundamental guideline or reasons when to use a Custom Time and Version. In what situation, you would not use the standard time function and Version. What are the things to be cautious when using custom time and version. Thanks2
Thanks for the topic!
For me, using custom time lists usually relate to reporting aesthetics, or to separate years & months into two dimensions (to increase pivot flexibility). For example, where i want February displayed as either "February" or "Feb"... and not, say, "Feb 18". Also, sometimes Analytics are improved when I can pivot Years and months separately (e.g. years in rows, months in columns).... can't do that with native anaplan time!2
Thanks for taking your time to answer some questions! My question is related to developing a daily switchover. Do you have any best practice tips for building this functionality into a model? Is there a way to bring current day into the model without having to do a manually update?
Thank you in advance for answering my questions!
- From your perspective, what do you feel is the best approach to Knowledge Transfer for your team, and your Clients?
- Teach Out - - Build first, then teach out the model?
- Collaborate - - Build together with the Client?
- Coach - - Coach the Client during their build?
- Or possibly some other method?
- Which is the most effective over time, do you believe?
- Also, how much time do you spend working with Clients on their Anaplan skills?
- From your perspective, what do you feel is the best approach to Knowledge Transfer for your team, and your Clients?
As an Anaplan Admin, I'm always struggling on arranging the users. It seems that the 'User' list is a bareboned place without any tool to sort, filter or re-arrange the users in anyway. Can you please share your suggested best practice for the following scenarios?
1) How do I move myself to the top of the user list (as a starter ?
2) How do I group a cluster of users together (either they have same access, or have similar attributes)
3) How do I sort out users with a same selective list access, then modify them in one-shot?
4) How do I substitute one user with another (e.g. the new user inherits exactly the same access to the incumbent)?
5) How do I manage users who changed their email addresses (due to marriage, for example)?
6) How do I quickly disable all user's access, then restore it (without re-setting up all the selective list access)?
Thank you very much.3
If I can add :
7) How to copy a model to another WS without copying all people / roles.0
Thank you so much for taking the time to host our first external AMA! I was wondering if you could share a few career benefits you've seen since as a partner since becoming a Master Anaplanner. 🙂
Thanks Holly, appreciate the chance to connect with everybody in the community, looks like we already have a lot of great questions queued up and I’m excited to start diving in! I’ll be here to answer any questions live as well, so feel free to keep the coming!0
Hi @fabien.junod, thanks for the question.
We use the ALM functionality throughout all of our implementations, it has really made the whole SDLC much smoother. As we finish build sprints and allow the business/testing team to validate, we use ALM to deploy to a Test model (in deployed mode). This allows us to 1) Keep large data quantities out of our Development environment so that our build teams aren’t slowed down when they hit errors, and 2) Continue to develop new functionality without impacting the testing of the previous sprint. Then we use ALM to deploy to a Production environment for Go-Live, while still making any enhancements or building future functionality in a Development environment without impacting end users.
Overall, I’d say we start using ALM once we finish the first sprint or two and testing begins, and from there on out we’re probably using ALM to synchronize models almost daily throughout the rest of the implementation.
Hope that helps, thanks!1
Hi @anne_cooper, thanks for joining us.
We definitely value the strong relationship between the implementation partner, Anaplan, and the customer product owner(s). The way I see it is that the relationships change and are defined by where the customer is in their Anaplan journey. Upfront, either when the customer first buys their licenses or when they’re starting to implement a new set of functionalities, the implementation partner is key and does most of the heavy lifting on the people, process, and technology sides. We live and breathe the customer’s business process and help move them towards a better future state, and that make that a reality. In comparison, Anaplan’s Customer Success group is less hands-on in the beginning but always involved in the journey, and owns the long-term relationship with the customer. So long after the implementation is finished and the partner has left, Anaplan will always be there for the customer.
So our job as partners in that relationship is to make sure that Anaplan fully understands what we learn about the customer, that they know the future state and everywhere that the customer expects Anaplan to go in the future, and that we have a full knowledge transfer of what we build to Anaplan so that they are fully empowered to own the long-term success of the customer within the platform. Anaplan’s Customer Success owns the long tail of the customer journey, and our job as partners is to transition the Reader’s Digest version everything we’ve learned and done in our intense involvement early in the process to ensure seamless transition as we wind down. We ensure success by making sure this isn’t a one-time KT dump, but instead that everybody has a seat at the table and that Anaplan is involved every step of the way (though obviously not nearly as intensely or in the weeds during the implementation phase).
Hope that helps, happy to provide more details, this is one of the most important elements of customer success through their Anaplan journey so thanks for bringing it up!0
Hi @egomez66, thanks for kicking us off with a technical question.
I think @PaulRitner hit the nail on the head, definitely agree with everything he said (as always! Thanks Paul!). One other element I’ll add is that to be completely honest, we use custom time a lot less now that Anaplan released custom time filters. One of the primary reasons we’ve used custom time in the past is to limit sparsity related to adding the full time dimension to modules that only apply to a specific timeframe (for example, you have 3 years in your model time settings, but have a module that only contains 12 months of historical bookings, so this module would take up 2 years of unnecessary space).
Regarding custom versions, the first time we think to use them are if there is a fluid number of planning scenarios which should be modified by the customer on the fly. We would then use a list and allow the end users to add more items from a dashboard, which is clunky at best for Versions. We would also use custom versions if there are multiple different types of scenario planning requirements which require multiple types of “versions”, but this is less common especially for a less-mature new Anaplan customer.
I would say given the flexibility of Anaplan there really aren’t many down-sides to using custom Time/Versions, except you could be missing out on a lot of great standard functionality that Anaplan has baked in to the product especially as they continue to grow and add more features (think custom time ranges, but also things like functions that reference standard versions or time - sure you could replicate those with other functions, but you might be missing out some advanced features). Overall, we love the standard Time and Versions and make sure to use them as much as possible, and really evaluate on a case-by-case basis whether it’s worth using custom dimensions to replace that functionality.
Hope that helps!0
Hi @evan.townson, always appreciate a good “Best Practices” question!
I’ll split your question in two. First I’ll start with bringing “Today” into a model. We usually need to implement some way to indicate the current day, so we’ll put a line item (with no intersecting dimensions) in a Global Settings module somewhere that’s just a user-entered, date-formatted line item. Then we use whatever integration strategy you have in place to import to this line item daily with the current date. There are lots of articles on the community about how to build or use something like this, I’ll try to find links later, but you can do anything from Anaplan Connect pointed to a one-cell Excel spreadsheet with the TODAY() function all the way to using Anaplan Hyperconnect to keep this line item updated. Or of course you can have somebody update it manually daily, but I wouldn’t recommend that as a long term enterprise-grade solution.
Regarding daily switchover, you can definitely automate the process of importing to your Versions, so you would just need a source module and then an import into Versions mapping to the Switchover date, based on your Today line item. You could include this import into the integration strategy that sets your Today line item for you as well.
But one word of caution, this can have huge impacts on your model (as I’m sure you know better than me), so for anybody else reading this I really wouldn’t recommend automating this process until you have a very mature Anaplan model strategy in place. Overall this should really be an edge case and most Anaplan customers probably don’t need to go this route, I would recommend taking a good look at requirements and alternative options before going down this path.
Happy to give more technical details if anything here is unclear, or if you've already gotten this far on your own and want me to take this to the next level definitely happy to help!1
What is your impression of the Master Anaplanner program? Would you recommend it to Anaplan customers or other Anaplan partners?
Thanks for participating in our AMA and your thoughts on this topic.0
In regards to your 6th question, I would suggest taking the model offline, then turning it back online when you are done.
In regards to your 5th question, copy all of the old accesses etc. and create a new account with the new email, past in the new accesses/rights, delete the previous email.
4th question has the same answer as the 5th, without the delete.
Model Role can be used for your 3rd question.
Hi @dana.petroff, excellent question!
Can I take the easy way out and say my answer is “Yes to everything you just said”? Ha!
Ok, for my real answer, we have a very intentional approach to enabling Anaplan customers and dedicate a lot of time and thought to this. The flexibility of the platform and the ability for it to be truly business-owned is probably the most exciting thing for me about Anaplan in general, so we definitely take the time to make sure customers realize the full potential here.
Here’s how I see the customer enablement journey: After purchasing licenses and before preparing for implementation, the customer has their key business owners go through Anaplan’s Launchpad training. This sets the foundation for everybody to have a common understanding of the platform and the terminology needed for using Anaplan. Then, that core group should go through the 201 certification on their own. Once that’s completed is when we come in as the partner.
We strongly believe that 201 helps set a really solid foundation for model building. We also believe that the business should be involved every step of the build process. But what we’ve observed is that there’s a gap between the knowledge somebody has after completing 201, and the knowledge needed to understand what’s going on during an implementation. So before we begin the implementation we take as much time as we can (ideally 3-5 weeks), and facilitate another set of training for the customer – this is your Coach approach from above. Here we focus on letting the customer apply their knowledge from 201 on a new build (not the use case we’re implementing), and we provide guidance on how to complete that build on their own, while using that as an opportunity to teach some leading practices and common pitfalls of building in Anaplan. During this time, our build team is usually ramping up or working on collecting requirements/user-stories, so this usually fits in nicely with an implementation timeline.
By the end of this period and when we’re ready to start the implementation model build, the customer should be pretty advanced for Anaplan newbies, and can meaningfully contribute to the build (call it side-by-side build). This is where we take your Collaborate approach from above. We assign user stories to the customer as well as our build team, and usually try to work together in a war room environment so everybody can see what we’re doing. We help the customer through roadblocks they hit with their build, and we build particularly challenging or important sets of functionality we walk the customer through how and why we did what we did.
In our experience, this has led to really effective side-by-side building, where the customer can fully own parts of the build without “slowing” anybody down. And it’s also led to huge rewards both short- and long-term. Short-term, our build team is augmented by the customer model buidlers, which is great for helping build out complex business processes that they really know best, or even for taking on things that might have been beyond our original scope. Long-term, when we deploy and transition out, there is minimal KT required and very little bump in continuity between the implementation team who built the model and the business owners who own the model moving forward. Really taking that business-owned philosophy to the extreme, where they fully own the model even before we’re out the door.
So there you go Dana, apparently this is something I’m really passionate about, I’ll stop here for now and happy to answer follow-up questions, thanks so much for getting me started on that topic!0
Hi @jim_ma, thanks for your question, happy to help.
User management is definitely a hot topic and a tricky one. I’ll start with one of our guiding philosophies about model maintenance which might help set a better context for my answer. Overall, we believe that all interactions with the model, even from an administrative perspective, should be driven from dashboards (as opposed to the model settings tab). If the model is constructed properly, nobody should need to go into the model settings as part of their daily/weekly/monthly job, even as system administrators.
So, with that in mind, we always build an Employee Management dashboard. Depending on your model strategy and level of maturity, this might be its own model, or might exist in a Data Hub, but for most new customers implementing Anaplan for the first time we usually just put this in the primary model we are building at first.
On this dashboard we manage everything from who works for the company and who will have Anaplan licenses, including their model role and selective access visibility. We need to know everybody who works for the company so that we can tag and report by people, even if they aren’t Anaplan users. For example, in a Sales Forecasting implementation, we would need to know the Sales Rep who owns an Opportunity, which means we would need a full list of everybody who works in the Sales Organization, even if only Managers and above would actually use the model.
Then for User management, we use a module on this dashboard to set the User Role (a custom list with the same value as the actual user roles in user settings), we use Booleans to say which subset this person may belong in (for example splitting out Sales Reps from Sales Managers, if we have modules that only apply to Managers), and we allow people to set selective access (should they only see a specific region, etc.). Through import actions published on this dashboard we can create Anaplan licenses, set roles, subsets, and selective access, all from this one dashboard. Happy to get more technical on this part if it would help.
So I think that answered a few of your questions but really was just a rant on my opinions of best practices of user management. So for the sake of completeness I’ll go back through one by one:
- 1) I don’t think you can actually reorder the Users settings list, but if you use the Employee Management dashboard then you can change your sorting/filtering and interact with the user settings in a much more usable manner.
- 2) Using subsets or any driver line item on the Employee Management dashboard, it would be easy to filter or group your users. From my example above, if you used Booleans to say whether somebody was a Sales Rep or a Sales Manager then you could filter on those Booleans to only manage one group of them.
- 3) I’d use the same sorting/filtering from previous steps, and then use copy-down/across to set the same setting for the filtered group, again from the Employee Management dashboard. Even better if you can automate this access based on other attributes of the Employee (for example, use a formula to set their access to Regions based on the Employee’s Region from an HR system).
- 4) While you COULD use a new line item formatted to the Employees dimension to say that a new user should have all the same values as an existing employee, I think this is risky and possibly over-engineering something that could be done in more flexible and simple way. So I would probably go with a Copy/Paste on the Employee Management dashboard of the old user to the new user, which gives more flexibility than using formulas which would lock you out of overriding one-off individual attributes. Again much easier to do from an Employee Management dashboard than from the User settings.
- 5) This one is tricky, because the email address is the unique identifier that links your Employee dimension to the Users list. I’m not sure I have a better answer for you on this one other than to manage this exception case directly from the Users settings, and to be honest I don’t think you can modify a user’s email address after they have received a license, so you might just need to treat them as a new user altogether (which is easier, just update the email address attribute on Employee Management and Anaplan will do the rest to create the new user with all the same settings as the current user), but you’ll still need to remove the old license to keep the model clean.
- 6) 2 ways, the first way is to just take the model offline, like you would do when synchronizing through ALM (locks out everybody except Workspace Admins while you validate the deployment was successful). Second way would be to update everybody to a new a Model Role with very limited access. You can even use an import with a formula hard-coding the specific model role you want to use, so running that individual import would temporarily update all model roles, and then you can use your standard Update Employees process action to reset whatever model role was actually set on the Employee Management dashboard.
- 7) (From @ThierryP, nice to see some Accenture love here!) I think the only way to do this is through Tenant Administration (which I’m admittedly not up to date on), though you can use Employee Management in the new model to set all Model Roles to No Access which would effectively accomplish the same goal.
Hope that helps, I know that’s a lot to digest!1
Question about Hub Hackathons...
1) What do you enjoy most about them?
2) Who has been your favorite co-judge?0
Hi @michael.moore, short answer is a resounding YES.
I think @Courtney and team have done an amazing job with their recent re-vamp of the program. While it was always valuable, I think it’s really taken a turn for the better and you should be seeing a lot of new and exciting things here, now is DEFINITELY the time to get on board.
I recommend both partners and customers get involved. When we work with Anaplan customers we always try to identify at least one person from the team who will become that company’s first Master Anaplanner (shout out to @AmyX, our most recent Master Anaplanner from a project last year!). The program is great, the recognition is amazing, and from some of my previous answers you’ll see I truly believe in the power of this business-owned platform, so what better way to have expertise in house than to have some Master Anaplanners around!
Hope that helps!1
Nice one @obriegr, you beat me to it! Totally agree on all points.0
Hmm @tyler finally getting to the real meat of the AMA.. Luckily I have the same answer for both questions, my favorite part about judging hackathons is hanging out my favorite 2-time co-judge, you know the one with best ability to quickly and properly note all key points ("Noted!"). Ha!
Looking for toward our next annual hangout sir.0
Quick followup on this.
Am I able to run an import into versions for switchover if I am in deployed mode? I was told it is structural data, and needed to come from Dev. I was actually looking for an RFE to address it as I see the value in being structural if a formula, but as a month, it would be better as prod data, not to mention it can throw off my dev.
Sure thing @mikestaib.
I’ll have to double check in the Anapedia documentation, but I’m pretty sure Versions are considered Structural Data, so you’re right that you wouldn’t be able to run that import on a model in Deployed Mode. So you would need to deploy in the change via ALM every day which is definitely not ideal. This might be a case where you need to evaluate using Custom Versions, but it will be challenging (though not impossible) to rebuild all the Switchover functionality on a custom dimension.
Definitely sounds like a good question for the support team, your Anaplan Customer Success representative, or your implementation partner, sorry I can’t be of more help here!0
Hey @Courtney, great question, definitely a lot of benefits (beyond all the awesome free Anaplan swag, thanks for that!) so I’ll try to think of the most impactful to my career so far.
First off, working for a huge company like Accenture means that it was very challenging to differentiate myself. Having achieved the Master Anaplanner status really helped make a name for myself in the company and opened up access to having a seat at the table whenever Anaplan discussions are happening, which isn’t always guaranteed in a hierarchical organization like this. But it isn’t the seat at the table that’s the value, the real value I’ve gotten from it is being around some of the smartest people and being involved in the high-level leadership and decision-making that somebody at my level usually wouldn't be involved in. So I’ve been able to learn a ton about being part of building a business that I otherwise wouldn’t have had access to, which has really helped me grow as a professional.
Next, I’ll say that one key part of being a consultant (and really applies to anybody) is managing your own career and creating the path you want to follow. The part that’s difficult is that this doesn’t always align with what the company needs you to do at any point in time. So I’d say that once I identified a passion for working with Anaplan and aligning my career on this path, it was challenging at first to get the support I needed to not get pulled in other directions. Becoming a Master Anaplanner really helped to align my company’s priorities for how I spend my time with my personal desired career path.
But at the end of the day, a title doesn’t mean as much as what goes behind it. I think it’s really amazing that your team has done so much work to verify and confirm who really has what it takes to be a Master Anaplanner, but for me the most valuable part of the work you’re doing with the program is getting us out in front of the ecosystem and giving us a chance to give back and contribute to the community. I get a great sense of fulfillment from helping pay it forward, so maybe not a traditional career benefit, but being part of this group definitely helps me feel good about coming to work in the morning (especially this morning!).
I know there’s a ton more, if I think of more I’ll add them here. Otherwise thanks to you and your team for the work you’re doing making this program so great, I’m always very appreciative of the opportunity to be part of it!0
Looks like things are starting to wind down. First, I’d like to say THANK YOU to @HollyRieke for coordinating this whole AMA (not just today’s, but all of them). Excellent job all around, and thanks for your support in preparing here, you’re adding a ton of value to the community and appreciate the opportunity. Also a huge thanks to @Courtney for running such a great Master Aanplanner program, I love the direction you’re taking the group and I’m grateful to be part of program, let me know how I can continue to help.
And most importantly, a huge thanks to everybody who took the time to send in such thoughtful questions. I enjoyed the thought exercise in giving my two cents and hope I was able to provide some useful responses and help on your Anaplan journeys. Let’s keep all these conversations going on the community, always feel free to @tag me in a comment or question online if you think I can add value to the discussion.
Looking forward to working with you all in the future as part of this great Anaplan ecosystem!1
Thank you so much for your detailed explanation. It is really helpful. Now the reason we are not using the module-driven solution is,
1) it seems to be difficult to grant multiple values on a selective access list. What I heard is you have to create multiple lines for the same user to do it.
2) how to delete users from the user setting list
Can you please elaborate on these?0
Thank you for the tips. As for taking the model offline, the problem is that the model will still be visible to the end users. Imaging you have mutiple testing models that need development activities, the best way is to grant access during the testing, and remove during fixes. Users are always getting confused when they see many models on their lists.0