It is not uncommon for the way in which your organization uses Anaplan to grow and change. Sometimes, your business processes change. Sometimes, individuals enter and exit your organization. And sometimes, you simply think of better ways of doing things.
The good news is that Anaplan is designed to help you respond to all three of these dynamics, and it is quite common to need to do so. There are three main areas of focus to do some ‘spring cleaning’ in your Anaplan deployment that will streamline your planning for the year ahead:
Cleaning up your models.
Cleaning up your processes.
Cleaning up your projects.
Cleaning Up Your Models
There are several items you could examine in your models, but we will focus on three key areas: organization, simplicity, and performance.
There are two prongs of organization to consider: Data flow and User Interface (we will address the latter in the next section). First, a critical item to evaluate is whether the flow of data through the model is the most efficient and effective that it can be. Are there redundant line items? Is there overlapping or duplicative reporting modules? Do calculations take the shortest route from data/input to result? Looking through the answers to these questions can provide benefits in all three areas (organization, simplicity, performance).
Fortunately, Anaplan has developed a comprehensive system for designing and structuring your model to do just that. The D.I.S.C.O. model structure focuses on organizing modules in your model into Data, Inputs, System, Calculation, and Output modules, which is complemented by the PLANS methodology, which asks us to build in a way that is performant, logical, auditable, necessary, and sustainable. We are continually learning better ways to build an Anaplan model, and perhaps when you built yours, this design was not established. Now is a great time to change that!
Furthermore, there are a few common centralized modules that can be referenced throughout your model to aid in this optimization:
Setup and use a centralized filtering module. It should have no overall dimension, and then the ‘Applies To’ of each line item can be tailored to the list that will be filtered. The name of the line item should communicate the way it is intended to be used.
For example, a list that is part of a hierarchy can be left as the name of the list level with the implied understanding that it will include only that level of the list. However, if there is a subset of data that is being filtered, this should be included in the name of the line item (e.g. ‘FL – Employees, Sales Only’ for a filter on a flat employee list that contains a formula filtering down only to sales employees).
You can also set up line items for filtering on Time within this module.
In a similar manner to the filtering module, a centralized time module should be constructed and maintained. Any direct references to the timescale that requires a lookup should be directed to this centralized module (as well as any reference that could be accomplished via a SELECT clause).
In keeping with the filtering and time modules, a third standardized module should exist for any instances where a lookup of a specific list item value needs to be done. This replaces the need for using a SELECT clause in formulas throughout the model, which should be avoided (and is necessary to avoid if you are using ALM). This greatly aids the design and administrative burden after the implementation is complete.
To aid with model rollover processes, create a Delete Module. The structure is similar to the Filtering Module: The overall module has no dimensionality, but there should be one line item per list in the model that is Boolean-formatted with a formula of ‘TRUE’. Then, create an associated ‘Delete from List Using Selection’ action for that list and title the action, ‘Clear XXXXX List’.
Un-nesting formulas (breaking the components of a single formula across multiple line items).
Reducing the overall list item count in the model (if possible).
Parse out line items with large lists in modules used on dashboards.
Cleaning Up Your Processes
Once you have spent time streamlining your models, the next place to look is at your business processes within Anaplan—specifically, how your users interact with the system.
The first question to ask yourself is, ‘Has the process changed from how we have set it up?’ Perhaps you have discovered more data points to consider along the way in your planning process. You may have learned of boards or worksheets that are not being used or are in need of an overhaul to deliver maximum value to your users. It can be helpful to take stock of these and spend time canvasing your stakeholders to find out from them which pages are valuable and which ones are not. This has the triple benefit of easing administrative burden (by removing unneeded ones), garnering buy-in from stakeholders, and organizing your apps.
It is also critical to evaluate how changes are affected in Anaplan. Are you using Application Lifecycle Management with a Development, Testing, and Production setup? This is a key technical and governance process that will significantly improve your ability to deliver timely updates to your organization while providing for secure development and testing environment.
Cleaning Up Your Projects
Lastly, to complete your spring-cleaning process, it can be helpful to evaluate your Anaplan projects. Do you have a coordinated system to improve Anaplan within your organization incrementally? Do you lack a system, or is your system over-engineered? It is helpful to have a Center of Excellence (COE) established to help drive this. If you do not have one, look at some resources to get started.
Based on your analysis in each of these sections, do you have work cut out for you? There may be some quick fixes, but there are also likely items that will take more time and coordination with other people. Put a plan in place to steadily implement these optimizations in a timely yet achievable manner, and your organization will all reap the benefits.
If you need more advice or support in this area, Spaulding Ridge offers a full suite of Anaplan, Advisory, and Data Integration consulting services to partner with you on this journey. For more information contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What spring-cleaning areas have you identified for your Anaplan implementation?
Aaron Overfors is a director in performance management at Spaulding Ridge, LLC, and has been working with the Anaplan platform for six years in various roles at Anaplan and Spaulding Ridge, including product support, customer success, premium support, solution architecture, and currently, driving standardization and quality assurance across projects. He has extensive experience working in sales performance management (SPM) applications of Anaplan and couples it with his deep knowledge of the Anaplan product to help companies construct more robust plans that engage stakeholders and deliver tangible value across their organizations in a dynamic competitive environment.