Excel Add-In Use Cases and Benefits — With Master Anaplanner Alessio Pagliano
Certified Master Anaplanners are Connected Planning pioneers, building industry best practices and shaping the way Anaplanners everywhere utilize Connected Planning solutions every day. They understand the possible and are passionate about helping set the direction of the platform
This month, we're sharing insights from Alessio to illustrate the power of the Excel add-in and its complementary with the Anaplan platform. Alessio is an IT Manager at Bacardi and a great contributor to the Community. I met him many times in my Anaplan journey and we both evolved, became Master Anaplanners and joined different companies. Alessio is very excited to share his first steps with the Excel add-in with the Community!
Tell us about yourself, your current role, and your journey with Anaplan.
My name is Alessio Pagliano and I’m a Master Anaplanner. I joined Bacardi as an IT manager and model builder in January. The company is fantastic! I’m working with some amazing individuals focusing on the Anaplan European project of a complex but engaging commercial planning use case.
I started my career as an IT consultant in Italy and relocated to the UK in 2005 to work for Aviva in IT and finance, specializing in tools such as Oracle Hyperion and IBM Cognos TM1. Three years ago I applied for an internal role in finance, where we were piloting a new tool called Anaplan. The rest is history! I’m proud to see how the adoption of Anaplan grew and allowed us to connect people, data, and plans through several use cases. Quite quickly an internal CoE was established and became self-sufficient in a short amount of time.
How did you learn about the Excel add-in?
Over the years I’ve always kept an eye on new Anaplan functionalities that became available with the add-in, such as for Excel and PowerPoint, and used them on several occasions.
I mainly used the add-ins for data reconciliations, ad-hoc data retrieval, analysis, and ad-hoc presentation packs where custom formatting was a key requirement.
What is the problem you are trying to solve?
I often need to understand whether a specific deployment is somehow impacting end results. This is particularly important when a single development model is responsible for feeding data to a variety of production models. Not only is this a complex and time-consuming process, but if localized data doesn’t properly flow into a final aggregated model, it won’t be accurate or reliable.
Currently, this type of time-consuming activity is a manual process that must be executed across multiple large models. Amidst an ever-expanding landscape, this process requires an increasing amount of manual support—it’s simply not scalable as a manual process.
It quickly became apparent that the Anaplan Excel add-in would be a fast, efficient answer.
The sketch below represents the manual process.
How did you get started with the add-in?
All I had to do was to log into the add-in section on Anapedia, download and install the add-in, and I was good to go. The site makes it easy to find information about new features, functionalities, and best practices.
It’s so easy to use that you can practically create everything you need without any training.
How did you configure your Excel add-in? Did you need any support from Anaplan along the way?
In just one hour, I managed to create a workbook that provides me with a reconciliation report. It drastically saves me time by pulling data from six different large-scale models with key metrics. These are impressive results, considering simply opening them takes up to 10 minutes. All I need to do now is open my workbook and perform two clicks. In just a few minutes, all of my reconciliation reports are up to date with data pulled from all my models.
I also created a simple summary tab to summarize the information from the other tabs. Each tab has a connection to a specific workspace and model. I implemented the same logic I would have adopted in Anaplan.
The sketch below explains the working solution.
The first part of the tab contains Anaplan data and the second part has a snapshot of my Anaplan data from the previous refresh, followed by a reconciliation section and a few formulas to count and highlight variances.
Then, I created a simple macro to copy the Anaplan data from the top section to the next, and the job was complete. Excel is now comparing the latest data to the previous, highlighting variances for me.
Now, whenever I deploy a change I can quickly check and analyze my data in Excel without spending extra time or effort — the add-in does all the work. This lets me focus on specific details and use Excel as needed.
Having achieved a working and usable POC, I started thinking about how I could have improved and automated it even further. At the same time, I wanted to validate whether I had missed other implementation options, so I reached out to my friend Magali Pelissier, the Add-In Product Manager at Anaplan. I was impressed with how quickly she replied with helpful comments and insights about my specific questions!
I have now submitted three new ideas on the Idea Exchange and am pleased with how easy it is to access support if needed.
I have presented the POC internally to the wider teams and it has been received well. We are going to adopt the solution while evaluating the tool for further enhancements or use cases.
What benefits do you see with the Excel add-in?
When it comes to the Excel add-in benefits, two differentiators stand out:
- Modeler/administrator. Data reconciliations and controls, particularly across different models, are great use cases for the adoption of Excel add-in. The latest version has the read and write access, providing key advantages including strategic data fixes and fast partial data rollbacks.
- End users. While end-user adoption may require IT support for installation, add-ins can certainly aid in a strategic approach to particular scenarios. With add-ins, users could potentially access specific visualizations, templates, and presentation packs. Also, the latest version is ten-times faster and is extremely easy to navigate.
Have you thought about using the PowerPoint add-in?
Unfortunately, I haven’t found an opportunity to explore the latest version of the PPT add-in yet, but it’s on my to-do list!
What is the right balance between what goes into Anaplan’s New UX versus the Excel add-in?
Small reconciliation processes/administrative tasks are particularly suitable for the Excel add-in. It’s also great if you need to perform additional reconciliations, run formulas and/or compare with other existing data, and can be useful during new projects where some data is already stored in Excel.
While some administrative tasks can be performed via the Excel add-in, I would rather use the New UX wherever possible, for consistency, auditability, and user adoption. The New UX allows you to easily pull data from different models, so you can accomplish reconciliation and administrative tasks there as well.
What is your recommendation for people thinking about using the Excel add-in?
My recommendation would be to test it out firsthand. Take a look at the add-on page, download and install them, and create a simple report. This should be enough to get a feel of how it works and assess potential use.
If you haven’t used the add-ins before, it is certainly a good investment of your time and it can take as little as 10 minutes.
Any Master Anaplanner tips?
- Explore the add-in, try it out, and start small. Have you got a specific pain point that the add-ins can help resolve? Test it with a very simple POC to get started.
- Be careful with the authentication method setting during the first installation. I submitted this idea and one hour later the product manager confirmed this functionality will be delivered soon.
- If your requirement is somehow similar to the one I presented here, make use of what is available. For instance, if you create one or more saved views from your DEV model, setting up the connections/views from the add-in will take just seconds. You won’t have to complete extra pivoting/selections.
- Check out the “Clone” button. Would it save you even more time to create further reports/tabs? Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could edit the connection when working with it? Good news! This enhancement is already on the product roadmap.
- I think it would be helpful if the add-in could support VBA/macros integrations. If you feel the same, please vote on this idea.
More about the Excel add-in:
A big thank you goes out to Certified Master Anaplanner Alessio Pagliano for his valuable insights. Tell us what you think about the interview in the comments below. Remember to subscribe—on the blog homepage—for real-time notifications of valuable content like this and more!