The 3 Pillars of Connected Planning: Part 2—Data


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In the first part of “The 3 Pillars of Connected Planning” series, the Community team spoke with Chief Planning Officer Simon Tucker about the importance of the “people” pillar of Connected Planning and the need for a cultural shift within an organization. In part two, we take a look at the “data” pillar and what companies should consider when it comes to importing their data into the Anaplan platform.

What is your definition of “data” when it comes to Connected Planning, and why is this pillar important?

Simon: "There are two aspects of data when it comes to Connected Planning. The first is that data really is that flow of the drivers that go across the different use cases that really make up Connected Planning. So, data, in terms of drivers, outputs, and inputs from different use cases, is important for Connected Planning. All of those hit the P&L cash flow and balance sheets; that’s the first type of data that’s important. The second type of data that’s important that feeds the flow that goes across the Connected Planning for all the different use cases is the data and the metadata–the things that we record, the transactions that we record in the business."

What should companies that are transitioning to Connected Planning consider when it comes to their data?

Simon: "Companies have to realize that no company’s data is perfect, and they can’t wait for it to be perfect. Anaplan as a platform gives lots of different ways that you can spit data out of different transaction systems in a very simple way, all the way up to a very sophisticated way to get data into the Anaplan solution.

"Fast start with the Anaplan platform is to literally go from all the basics—from just a text file out an ERP system—all the way to getting an API to an ERP system into the Anaplan system. It’s a journey, but you can get going very quickly with the tools and technologies that we’ve got on the platform.

"But what they should consider is actually creating a central hub. It doesn’t matter whether that’s an enterprise data warehouse in EDW or whether it’s an Anaplan hub. You’ve got to get from your transaction systems a central location that merges all that different data and metadata across all the different transaction systems into one hub that can be then used for the different use cases across Anaplan—that’s the biggest consideration."

What is one of the most challenging aspects of the “data” pillar, and what can companies do to overcome that challenge?

Simon: "The most challenging is data accuracy and data cleanliness. A really basic example of that is customer lists. Amazingly enough, a lot of customers struggle with actually getting a single list of all their customers. They may have multiple ERPs. One will say IBM, the other one will say International Business Machines, but they’re the same customer. So that’s one of the challenges: multiple data sources and actually merging all those data sources together.

"The other challenge companies have is thinking that they need to perfect their data before they start the process of planning. In actual fact, that process of data cleanliness is an ongoing journey that they have to take."

Q: Do you have any examples of how customers have gone about cleaning up their data?

Simon: "I’ll give you one example. What one customer does is every single year for four months, they get a team of people to literally clean the data. Other times what people will do is actually use Anaplan as a reference point, meaning they’ll clean the data, put it into Anaplan, and Anaplan becomes the source of records."

What impact does the Chief Planning Officer have on the “data” pillar of Connected Planning?

Simon: "The CPO has a huge impact because data really drives the planning and decision-making process. The Chief Planning Officer is the person who needs to understand from the data architects in the organization, ‘Where do I need to take data from, what data source, what frequency?’ They are going to set the cadence, set the plumbing, as it were, and get IT to actually plumb those connections from those data sources into the Anaplan system."

What is a mistake that customers sometimes make when it comes to data?

Simon: One of the biggest mistakes that customers make is they don’t think about data upfront. They’re very obsessed with building the models and figuring out the business process. They get halfway through that and figure out that the data is bad, and no one has even started looking at it. Data is one of the fundamental pillars in the Anaplan Way that we publish, so you’ve got to start thinking about data right upfront. Get someone to start looking at it."

More from Simon Tucker:

Connected Planning brings people together, promoting collaborative decision making, greater insight from collective intelligence, and rapid alignment to business changes. In part three of our Connected Planning pillars series, we will talk to Simon about the “plans” pillar and how Connected Planning can transform a company.