Seven advantages to building and modeling in Anaplan

AntonS
Certified Master Anaplanner

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The benefits of Anaplan cannot be overstated. Today, I’m excited to share with the Community my experiences and the benefits of building and modeling in Anaplan! I enjoy using Anaplan because it allows me to avoid complicated technical scripting and maintain related infrastructure, saving a tremendous amount of time. This extra time I prefer to devote to business and process analysis and go deeper in understanding the underlying methodology.

Early Anaplan

I became familiar with Anaplan in 2016 when I got the opportunity to participate in a new project for an Excel replacement. My first impression of Anaplan was that the platform was mature and met the trend at the time for low-code and self-service orientation. On the other hand, I experienced some rigidity and lack of flexibility and performance for enterprise-level models. As I progressed, I discovered that some of this appeared to be subjective and vanished with practice as I grew my knowledge base of solutions and workarounds. As my journey has progressed, I’ve been excited to see some of my pain points addressed in releases like Dynamic Cell Access (DCA) and CloudWorks, and I look forward to others being added to the roadmap in the near future.

Current-day Anaplan

Anaplan has a great Community where we can find different cases and solutions, questions and answers, and live discussions. I love the Anaplan learning environment and Academy, and the regular events and programs like the Certified Master Anaplanner program and mentorship opportunities. All of these additions add to what makes Anaplan such a popular platform! While this helps give Anaplan a competitive advantage, today I want to focus on modeling and the specific Anaplan functionality that I enjoy the most in my day-to-day work in the platform.

Here are my top seven Anaplan features: 

  1. Easy structural changes like adding new or withdrawing excessive dimension
    In my experience with other platforms, when changing dimensionality or even correcting a minor typo in the name of the object, you needed to start from scratch. Changes in business requirements or mistakes in choosing the right dimensionality because you were rushing? No problem! Anaplan forgives and allows implementing changes to happen much faster. For example, on the animation below I’m adding a new dimension in just a few clicks:
    Changing dimentionality.gif

    This is now something we take for granted, but compared to my previous experience, I was very excited about this feature.

  2. Automatic backups and history
    As we work in Anaplan, the platform tracks all changes made in the model. At any point, you have the ability to go back and restore the model from any point in just a few minutes. There is no pain requiring the setup of a backup procedure or big gaps between two backup versions, or a backup and current model. In practice, this saves a lot of time, nerves, and production data.
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  3. Model integration
    Another breath of fresh air was when Anaplan introduced integration between models. Anaplan best practices state that you should have several models, including a data hub. Connecting different models can be easily set up by using standard actions that do not require any scripting. Sequential benefits of these standard actions are the speed of setting up the integration and synchronization procedures, and further maintenance and adjustments. A good example of standard action would be the «Bulk Copy» functionality.

  4. ALM: Benefits of a separate development environment
    Not all mature systems can brag about having separate development environments with automatic deployment of new functionality to production models. Unbounded advantages of separate environments in general and that of Anaplan ALM are:

    • Separation of end users and model builders. Model builders do development in their own sandbox, so this leads to many benefits, like the lack of overloading of the production model, unwanted changes, and flexibility in building.

    • Fast automated process of deployment. Automatic deployment makes the process of implementing new functionality much more flexible and decreases the probability of having bugs and unexpected hurdles — which can be overcome in a development model, but not a production model.

  5. Embedded lists of Time and versions
    Anaplan has native lists of Time and versions. Evangelists of other products frequently argue that it is not a problem to create a general type list and reproduce the time scale or version list. This is partially true and the only way without any alternative. In many cases, some people prefer using a custom list instead of a native list, but having a native version and especially time scale adds more flexibility and variability, such as:   

    • Prebuilt functionality may be able to save time like «Switchover» or «Edit from Edit to», or it can be used as a workaround solution like «Formula scope» for enabling formula and input in one line item.

    • Effective and powerful functions like «Previous()», «LAG», «ISCurrentversion» may solve the task in a more efficient or graceful way than looking for a workaround solution.

    • Native functionality increases using standard solutions and approaches which makes further analysis and audit more straightforward and transparent.

    Using embedded lists is an option — not an obligation — and this option always needs to be analyzed in the context of the specific case.

  6. Cloud-based platform

    This point is not Anaplan-specific and applies to all cloud-based solutions, but I cannot skip over it because it really makes the planning process more efficient.

    After switching to Anaplan, I realized how much time employees saved on small tasks that added up — like installing feature packs and certificates, downloading new versions, managing backups, and so on. Prior to a cloud-based option, I felt that around 20% of my time was wasted on maintaining the tool rather than using it to build new functionality. Of course, some of this overhead can be transferred to an administrator or other devoted person, but this is not always possible (depends on the scale) and has many shortcomings, like additional cost and increased dependency on an additional team member.

  7. Model audit and analysis (auto map and references)

    Last but not least, the seventh reason why I value Anaplan is that it makes audit and model analysis much easier than ever before.

    • Anaplan automatically builds a model map, which allows high-level model analysis.
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    • We have an understating of how the model is used by other objects via references by other modules.
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    • Data that is pulled to the model by actions also can be analyzed because of linking the sources and targets for actions.
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Why do you like building and modeling in Anaplan? Leave a comment!