According to a Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) Study, recently conducted by Forrester Consulting, it was reported that the Anaplan platform can deliver a 3X return on investment. To understand the fundamentals associated with an Anaplan investment, Forrester anonymously interviewed seven long-term customers, then developed a composite organization based on interview data to reflect the TEI that the platform could have on an organization. Based on its 2019 analysis, Forrester determined that the composite company realizes an Anaplan ROI of 324% over a three-year period. To learn more, download the study.
In the Forrester conducted research, Centers of Excellence (CoE) were specifically identified as critical for the success of maintaining and scaling your Anaplan footprint across the organization. Whether you call your team a Center of Excellence, Anaplanner Council, Anaplan Community of Practice, or anything else (see: Alternative Names for an Anaplan Centers of Excellence), the results are clear: Connected Planning cannot be achieved without the underlying team of Connected People.
As a result, I’d like to take this opportunity to connect the findings from the recent TEI study to our repository of best practices on how to build an Anaplan Center of Excellence.
From the study:
“In Year 1, the center of excellence is composed of four model builders, growing each year… The Anaplan center of excellence may include more than six model builders.”
While a new Center of Excellence can be stood up with as few as two dedicated resources, the average size of an Anaplan CoE is four to six full-time people. What types of individuals should take those roles, what are their responsibilities, and where should they sit in the organization? We have thoroughly documented the most successful approaches to the structure of this team in the Center of Excellence Roles and Responsibilities article within the CoE section of the Anaplan Community. To get started, your team should have representatives for the following roles.
From this chart, you should begin with the three most critical roles, which are the Solution Architect, Executive Sponsor, and Business Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). Starting with the Solution Architect, this is your strongest in-house Anaplan expert, who should either currently be or have applied for and be working towards becoming a Certified Master Anaplanner. Next up is a strong unified Executive Sponsor who will oversee the current and future Anaplan footprint. This individual is responsible for connecting corporate strategic objectives with tactical planning and execution, and we are beginning to see the adoption of the Chief Planning Officer as a role suitable for fulfilling these responsibilities.
Lastly, and most importantly, the Business SME(s) must represent each group of end users. These SMEs are typically embedded within the business group using Anaplan and are responsible for defining and validating that the Anaplan models fully meet their planning needs. They are also tasked with identifying opportunities to evolve current-state planning business processes into future-state transformational processes by leveraging the full power of the Anaplan platform. In many cases to get started, two or three individuals will represent all of these roles, and further role differentiation occurs as the group matures over time and the Anaplan footprint expands within the organization.
From the study:
“One interviewed customer also included representatives from each business function including sales, finance, supply chain, and human resources.”
Once you’ve identified these individuals, where should they sit within the organization given the broad reach of Connected Planning? We recommend that the Anaplan CoE be located as close to the business users as possible (organizationally, politically, and even physically where possible), which usually ends up meaning many different people separated across many different functions.
Many CoEs embrace a more informal organization structure, especially at first, where the members of the CoE share a “dotted reported line” to each other and the CoE lead and executive sponsor. Any reporting structure can be successful so long as the group retains a strong meeting cadence and remains in constant communication with the business. For example, your model builders may not be located in the same departments, lines of business, or even physical offices, like in the following typical example. The important part is that there is a centralized core group of at least one or two people who are dedicated to the governance, scalability, and consistency of the entire Anaplan footprint across all of these federated teams.
From the study:
“One of the interviewed organizations included two FTEs responsible for extract, transform, and load (ETL) in the center of excellence.”
What is the role of IT in your CoE, and how much should external technical resources be included? As the image above shows, IT plays a critical role in the successful implementation of your Anaplan models. Connected Planning also requires Connected Data, which is typically where IT plays the most important role. Similar to your model builders, whether these individuals are formally reallocated to a full-time Anaplan CoE position is a decision that will vary by customer. A key element to success will require that these individuals be identified and have their responsibilities to the Anaplan CoE formally recognized.
From the study:
“The center of excellence also provides central oversight over the development of models.”
Now that you’ve identified and put together your team, what exactly should they be working on, and how do they help maximize the value of your Anaplan investment?
At its core, the CoE must ensure the production stability of deployed models. Anaplan is a business-owned tool, so the business owners within the CoE should take a page from the IT playbook on “business as usual” to ensure consistent system functionality and uptime. From there, the CoE is responsible for pivoting from a supporting reactive role to a proactive role of driving value for the business and advocating for and bringing Connected Planning to broader organizational audience. We like to think of this group as the individuals who hold the sledgehammers used for breaking down traditional siloes of legacy planning processes. Once there, review more details about some specific functions that many of our customers have assigned to their CoEs to take active ownership of driving the most value from the Anaplan footprint.
From the study:
“At the time of interview, at least one organization had not yet formed a formal center of excellence but had plans to develop one in its connected planning roadmap.”
If you don’t have an Anaplan CoE yet, when and how should you get started? While the specific next steps depend on where you are in your Anaplan journey, the correct answer is to start now regardless of what phase you are in. If you are in the beginning of your first Anaplan implementation or are just starting to build your first large-scale use case with broader impacts requiring a CoE, we recommend leveraging the User Accepted Testing (UAT) cycle of your implementation following The Anaplan Way to get started.
If you’ve been using Anaplan for a while with several use cases in production, the best place to start is by identifying your core team members and formalizing their roles and responsibilities and then setting up a regularly recurring meeting cadence. From there, every CoE can take its own shape, and your Customer Success Business Partner is there to help based on your unique situation, including providing feedback compared to other similar successful customers and pointing you to the latest and greatest resources and best practices within the Anaplan Community.
Do you have a Center of Excellence in your organization? How can we help you build one? Let us know your thoughts on developing a CoE in the comments below.