What is the most important thing you can do to make your Anaplan implementation a success?
Defining clear objectives for how your Anaplan implementation will support your business? Important.
Obtaining buy-in from key stakeholders? Definitely.
Having an experienced project manager and Anaplan architect on the team? Always.
The Impetus team, however, has found that the most important thing its clients have done to ensure implementation success is to lead with enablement. That is…prioritizing your team’s enablement on Anaplan!
Enablement is both an activity and an outcome. It is the act of your team learning the Anaplan model-building skills, the Anaplan implementation approach, and the good Anaplan design practices that result in everyone’s desired outcome: a successful Anaplan implementation that serves as the anchor for your Connected Planning ecosystem.
When Impetus started incorporating its enablement program into every phase of its Anaplan implementation projects, we saw our stakeholders getting engaged sooner and staying engaged longer. By equipping them to participate in the implementation, we were able to empower our clients to think about what’s next. Stakeholders were able to identify other business problems they could solve with Anaplan and envision new planning capabilities with Anaplan, ultimately making their jobs—and their lives—easier.
Whether you are an executive sponsor, a subject matter expert in your area, or a data and modeling guru, I’m excited to share with you how and why we incorporate enablement into each and every one of our Anaplan implementations—and why you should, too.
Learning the Language: The Key to Clarity, Collaboration, and Creativity
When thinking about Anaplan’s implementation framework (The Anaplan Way), we have found that sponsors and project teams who allocate time to enablement during the foundation phase of an implementation create a lasting culture of conversation that persists long after the deployment of their first Anaplan model.
A central objective of the foundation phase is to gather user requirements and translate them into user stories to clearly define the project scope and level of effort. During this time, business users are encouraged to start thinking and speaking like Anaplanners (i.e., using Anaplan vocabulary, referring to Anaplan concepts, and visualizing their user experience). Taking time to prioritize training and enablement means project stakeholders can begin to communicate using the same Anaplan language.
When teams are speaking a common language, more “aha” moments happen:
Expectations align and scope can be understood by all.
Success criteria can be more clearly defined.
Fundamental lists and model structures can be envisioned.
Anyone who speaks the language can offer creative solutions.
The first step to learning the Anaplan language is to go through the Anaplan Foundations (101) course via the Anaplan Learning Center. Anaplan 101 introduces the Anaplan platform, giving newcomers a crash course in Anaplan vocabulary and teaching them the basics of navigating Anaplan. Following this course, Anaplan enablement continues with more-advanced coursework, hands-to-keyboard practice, project experience, and coaching from experienced Anaplanners. With each step in your enablement, you will develop a more robust understanding of the Anaplan platform.
Learning the Standards: Save Time, Promote Sustainability
When we first learn a language, we start off with phonetics and vocabulary, with an end-goal of fluency: not just speaking the language but carrying on full conversations with those around us.
All languages have a set of rules that makes meaningful communication possible.
Just as following proper grammar and syntax are necessary for meaningful communication and understanding of written and spoken language, following good modeling standards and practices (which are reinforced during enablement discussions) are necessary for model builders to build a user-friendly model, based on user stories, that is easy to understand, maintain, and add to. For example:
The PLANS standard for model-building provides a set of rules that all designers should keep in mind to create a sustainable model (a model with optimal performance and flexibility for enhancements and changes).
Modules should follow the D.I.S.C.O. standard, to maintain model hygiene and organization (i.e. grouping similar calculation logics together to reduce inefficiencies in downstream build and performance).
During their enablement, all Anaplan project team members should complete the Anaplan Level 1 Model Building training to learn and practice these standards in a safe environment. Individuals can learn how to apply the D.I.S.C.O. standard and visualize it in a model map; how to build a model from scratch; how to import data; how to write formulas; how to build end-user dashboards; and how to set model access and security. When Impetus leads with enablement, whether for our clients or our consultants, we practice and reinforce the importance of build standards—such as naming conventions of lists and saved views, dashboarding design tips, etc.— which helps learners establish good habits early on.
Prioritizing enablement activities for the project team, like Anaplan Level 1, saves countless hours down the road because:
Good model organization and hygiene make it much easier to navigate a model when troubleshooting an issue, adding a new feature, or integrating a new business process or model.
Following a consistent set of standards enables new model builders and administrators to quickly learn a model and jump in to modify it or build a model that will integrate with it.
After Anaplan Level 1 training, the project team has practiced the Anaplan language, has been introduced to build standards during a focused training, has practiced lessons learned in a separate playground model, and has implemented these lessons in their own model. Our clients who go through Anaplan Level 1 training as part of their enablement are more-confident and better-prepared to participate in their Anaplan implementation project.
Becoming a Pro at Prose: Practice, Practice, Practice!
We have the vocabulary. We’ve learned the grammar. We can put together complete sentences and know we’re being understood. Now, how can we move past “Hello, how are you?” to discussing something more advanced, perhaps in a field like philosophy or politics, or even in areas like finance, sales operations, or supply chain planning? Practice. Lots and lots of practice.
A goal for every one of our implementations is for our clients to speak the Anaplan language fluently and confidently, and to feel empowered to become full owners of the model(s) used to support the connected planning process they participate in. To get there, we have our client model builders start small by building out one- or two-line items, then a full user story, and as their fluency progresses, they can take on multiple user stories or even full models all on their own! “But is it really that easy?”
Yes and no. As you practice, it helps to have someone to practice with: ideally, others who are learning the language, and a fluent speaker (coach), who can help you along the way and keep you from mispronouncing that one word (or making that one model-building mistake that will come back to bite you down the road). We have found that when project stakeholders and team members go through training as a group with an experienced Anaplanner as a coach, they are better prepared for their implementation and for what comes after. To promote enabled Anaplanners, you can work to review Anaplan model structures and formulas, practice applying these formulas inside (and outside) of the project use case, and then bring all together by discussing lessons learned.
To accelerate our clients’ and consultants’ enablement, Impetus developed the Advanced Accelerator™ to teach Anaplanners the architect mindset and to master the Anaplan language, giving them the knowledge and skills they need to be fluent authors of Anaplan models. The key here is providing a safe space to learn and apply that learning, participating in the implementation with a role that increases over time, assuming ownership of the model, and ultimately unleashing their skills and creativity to enhance and expand their Anaplan models in constant pursuit of making planning better and easier.
In Summary: The Powers of Leading with Enablement
Prioritizing and incorporating time for enablement when developing a project plan is a major step you can take toward a successful implementation. It allows the entire project team to use the same language when gathering requirements and creating user stories, instills build standards in the project team who will be responsible for building a sustainable model, and empowers business users to not only own their models but to envision creative solutions for other business needs. You will find that when your teams are enabled to communicate in the Anaplan language, your business planning needs and solutions will quickly evolve as you grow your Connected Planning ecosystem.
Now that we’ve discussed the fundamentals and benefits of incorporating an enablement program, I’m curious to hear from you. What has influenced the success of your Anaplan implementation? What Anaplan courses or external tools have you found helpful or inspiring as you have learned about Anaplan or taught Anaplan to others?
Stephanie Kim is the Talent Development Manager at Impetus Consulting Group (Impetus), an Anaplan Gold Partner. Stephanie is responsible for Impetus’s internal New Hire Enablement Program™ and its enablement-focused client service offerings. She also oversees all curriculum development and delivery. Through her work with Anaplan customers and those new to the Impetus team, Stephanie is preparing the next generation of Anaplanners with the knowledge and skills they need to connect people, plans, and data. Stephanie has a master’s degree in management studies from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. She has experience in roles ranging from trainer, to management consultant, to Anaplan model builder and has worked with clients across industries, including life sciences, consumer package goods, financial services, and technology.