Chris Weiss: What is the Center of Excellence Development Maturity Curve?

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Community Manager

Chris Weiss: What is the Center of Excellence Development Maturity Curve?

Check out the questions and answers from our latest Ask Me Anything session. Chris Weiss, who runs our global strategy for customer Centers of Excellence, along with other CoE experts, answered questions all throughout last week.

Over 200 of our customers have built an Anaplan Center of Excellence (CoE). Help to jump-start your journey to launching your own CoE by checking out the video and questions and answers in the comments.

 

*This AMA is now closed. Scroll down to read the questions and answers posted during our live week-long event. Want to continue the conversation? Head over to the Centers of Excellence discussion board

39 REPLIES 39
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Community Manager

Re: Chris Weiss: What is the Center of Excellence Development Maturity Curve?

And we’re live!! I hope you find this brief video useful in orienting yourself towards the most common steps of building an Anaplan CoE. And now I’m happy to dive into the details on any questions you have, either regarding the video, broader CoE development maturity curve, or any other topic you may want to discuss regarding your CoE. Don’t hold back Anaplan Community, Ask Me Anything!

 

-Chris Weiss
Master Anaplanner/Community Boss

Re: Chris Weiss: What is the Center of Excellence Development Maturity Curve?

@ChrisWeiss 

Thank you for hosting this AMA. CoE is one of my favorite topics for sure.

From my perspective the CoE is a balancing act between effective governance and empowerment. On one hand the CoE needs to enforce standards to ensure the entire ecosystem maintains compatible models, particularly with the data hub. On the other hand, the CoE needs to empower their modelers (hopefully the business users) to innovate and solve their use-cases with a minimal amount of technical support. 

How have some of the most effective CoE's made this balance and what, in your opinion, were the success factors? 

The challenge for most customers, I base this off of a limited number of customers I've worked with, is that their teams are too small to have all the people necessary to implement the type of CoE you describe in your video. How can they focus on the "beginner" CoE?


Jared Dolich
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Community Manager

Re: Chris Weiss: What is the Center of Excellence Development Maturity Curve?

Hi @JaredDolich, thanks for being such a great CoE advocate to your clients! 

Great question, and you're absolutely right that the best CoEs have found a balance of removing themselves as a bottleneck to model development while ensuring consistent quality and adherence to best practices.

What I’ve learned from these customers is that working towards this goal doesn’t start by achieving 100% of both, but rather prioritizing enablement of business users (empowering modelers as you said), and working as hard as possible to support them through any errors they face or defects that are inevitably caused, as quickly as reasonable given limited resources. 

When done best, success here looks like an exponential increase in the creativity of problems solved within Anaplan by outside modelers, which should be released in increasing speed over time. 

Here’s an example of what this looks like in real life. One of our strongest CoE leaders told me that they knew they had achieved success here when they were conducting a model audit one day, and stumbled onto a really complex set of calculations that they didn’t understand. After investigating further, turns out that several months ago the business had used Anaplan to completely solve one of the biggest challenges the company had been facing for years, all without the CoE ever knowing. Of course to get there that particular CoE leader had spent a ton of time cleaning up peoples’ messes first, and there were still some elements of the build that had to be tweaked to come into alignment with best practices, but it was worth it for this solution that the CoE had never even thought to bring into Anaplan!

 

Hope that helps!

 

-Chris Weiss
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Master Anaplanner of the Year

Re: Chris Weiss: What is the Center of Excellence Development Maturity Curve?

@ChrisWeiss Thanks for starting a AMA session on COE! Could you share your wisdom on how to maintain a COE structure when the executive sponsorship is affected by a company re-org?

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Community Manager

Re: Chris Weiss: What is the Center of Excellence Development Maturity Curve?

Hi @SerenaZ, thanks for the great question, lots to dig into here!

I’ll start with some honesty, I haven’t see a a whole lot of examples of this in general. That said there are some commonalities across the few examples that I have seen, and realistically they all have to do with the actions of the members of the CoE, regardless of team size.

The first and probably most impactful way to maintain the CoE structure through leadership changes is to have a strong Anaplan technical expert (hopefully a Certified Master Anaplanner, like you Serena!) take responsibility for maintaining the day-to-day consistency of the Anaplan footprint, almost like a grassroots effort to maintain governance regardless of formal org structure. This is even more helpful if there is a visionary CoE Leader on the team to also maintain order (keep an eye out for upcoming resources to launch soon describing this in more detail), though realistically in this situation the technical expertise is more critical than the CoE Leader role.

Then it’s the job of that Master Anaplanner to roll up their sleeves and demonstrate key wins to the new executive sponsor (if one has been assigned), or to take Anaplan on a road show to ideal new exec sponsors. Things I’ve seen succeed are demonstrating ROI from previous implementations, sharing praise and comments from business users who have benefitted from Anaplan, or even just quickly building Proof Of Concept dashboards to demonstrate speed and value in the language of the new exec sponsor(s). This idea of “internally selling Anaplan” to executives is a great way to ensure you maintain control over your CoE structure (by helping your leadership appropriately understand the benefit of this team’s existence and your role in defining the best path forward), and is also a great way to accelerate your career growth as part of this hypergrowth ecosystem. Along those lines, Arjun Rai and Kyle @sakowski27 just finished describing this in more detail in our interview from a few weeks ago around the 17:10 mark, and of course I recommend checking out the whole interview.

If executed correctly by somebody like you, senior leaders should begin fighting over who gets to own the Anaplan footprint and CoE, and your job becomes picking and aligning to whomever has the best strategic vision for enabling Connected Planning at the company, leveraging your past success and role as the Anaplan SME to ensure you have a say in the matter.

The examples I’d reference are from customers who recently underwent an acquisition, where they maintained a leadership role in their CoE by having the more successful series of Anaplan implementations, and also from another Certified Master Anaplanner who moved from one region with a strong CoE to another region with no CoE, who was able to leverage his mastery of the Anaplan platform to generate the political capital necessary to receive approval to build another team in his new region (not that there should always be separate regional CoEs within one company, but that’s a story for another question).

 

Really great question with lots of room to elaborate further, hope this helps!

-Chris Weiss
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New Contributor

Re: Chris Weiss: What is the Center of Excellence Development Maturity Curve?

Hey Serena - I just wanted to reinforce some of the guidance Chris detailed in his response to your comment.

 

Our group recently went through some org changes. Although we did not have to 'resell' Anaplan to new leadership we did have to demonstrate its usefulness to someone who was not as familiar with the platform. We also needed to provide them education on what Anaplan is compared to other analytic tools.

 

In the areas where we deployed Anaplan, a specific ROI is challenging to quantify. What I have found to be helpful outside of providing Anaplan demonstrations and user testimonials, is showing the comparison of what a process looked like before and after Anaplan. Demonstrating the inefficiencies of an old process and how Anaplan resolves them provides concrete examples to new leadership on the platform's benefits and can spark ideas of the platform can be leveraged in other ways.

 

I hope this helps!

 

-Arjun

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Certified Master Anaplanner

Re: Chris Weiss: What is the Center of Excellence Development Maturity Curve?

Good day @SerenaZ,

 

I have actually dealt with both of the issues you have highlighted below.

 

The first obstacle my team faced was getting executive sponsorship behind us in order to pursue a COE. As an FP&A team we saw the benefits and need for more structure and organization around administration and maintenance, but we only would pursue a functional COE if we decided to go ahead and up our contract to the enterprise license. Long story short we opted out and our COE discussions everything was put on hold.

 

The second obstacle the team faced was that our boss (who was working on developing and pitching a COE/new position to executive management) decided to leave. So our teams COE dream was put on hold until further notice.

 

What We decided to do as a team was to begin operating any Administrative/maintenance/enhancement/defect requests just as a working COE would. Collecting and prioritizing these and then having weekly meetings on timelines in order to make sure Anaplan was operating both efficiently and as user friendly as possible. This has allowed us to 1. Collect/address/adjust our model accordingly and in a timely fashion 2. Create more structure around revision tags for Audit Purposes, and 3. Provide a foundation that could easily transition over to a full time COE in case the case that executive sponsorship finally hops on board.

 

Hope this helps!

 

Best,

Kyle

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Certified Master Anaplanner

Re: Chris Weiss: What is the Center of Excellence Development Maturity Curve?

Thank you for the COE AMA! I often think of a COE being very cumbersome and complex to implement, but I appreciated how you simplified it. In your experience, what is the most common disadvantage of a COE once it's been implemented and are there actions that can be taken to overcome that disadvantage?

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Community Manager

Re: Chris Weiss: What is the Center of Excellence Development Maturity Curve?

Hi @TaraTCG,

Great question, and thanks for the feedback that you think this video helps make CoEs a little more approachable!

I’d say that I see 4 potential disadvantages of CoEs, which I’ve seen most often in groups that unintentionally slipped into an informal “CoE” without much forethought (who then need help rectifying these issues):

Potential Challenges:

  1. Becoming a bottleneck or source of red tape if they become overly centralized in nature,
  2. Decelerating the speed to new value as they grow,
  3. Struggling to maintain internal investment (both time and money), and
  4. Pigeonholing the team as an application management/support function vs. a true transformation connected planning engine.

And here are the most effective solutions I’ve seen in combatting those challenges, in respective order:

  1. Building strong internal processes: As a CoE shifts from focusing on chipping away the backlog or putting out fires, they quickly need to focus their attention on creating scalable, repeatable, consistent business processes for things like managing new requests and maintaining recurring meeting cadences, including providing some documentation. This should help the team become more comfortable with the moderate level of decentralization that follows, while unlocking their productivity to keep up with the business.
  2. Prioritizing internal enablement: Every Anaplan customer should have at least one Certified Master Anaplanner (or somebody in the application process working towards becoming one). And as the CoE matures, the original founding members and Certified Master Anaplanners should shift their attention from focusing entirely on model building activities towards primarily focusing on internal training and enablement activities. When they become a multiplier, the CoE can focus on providing exponential new value at scale, while helping end users identify for themselves how Anaplan can be used to continue improving their business processes (and take less of your time with basic support issues).
  3. Identifying strong visionary leadership: As the CoE continues demonstrating the successful outcomes the Anaplan footprint has provided to the business, a Chief Planning Officer or visionary Connected Planning executive sponsor will understand that limited resources prevent realizing additional value from the current Anaplan investment, so the decision to invest in expanding the team shifts from being a net cost to a net benefit. Additionally, this executive sponsor is critical to ensure that the CoE continues focusing on connecting the company’s strategic objectives to the tactical execution planning conducted in Anaplan. In other words, they provide value by making sure model builders are prioritizing building the right things in Anaplan, which helps prevent anybody from underestimating the CoE’s value.
  4. Maintaining close proximity to the business: As CoEs grow and become more centralized, inevitably somebody tries to move the group to a more “logical” place in the organization. This is often a mistake (varying from customer to customer of course). The CoE must stay as close to the business as possible and maintain their role in achieving transformational Connected Planning, rather than just supporting one or two production applications. Even as CoEs expand across many LOBs, the bulk of the team should be made up of business users from each of those LOBs, which will help ensure that business outcomes are continuously prioritized and improved as capacity allows, rather than becoming a mini-IT support department for what should be a primarily business-owned platform.

I know that your team in particular has lots of great thought leadership on helping your clients avoid most of these pitfalls, so please feel free to add more details that you think other customers might benefit from. Thanks for getting this great topic started!

 

-Chris Weiss