A Center of Excellence (CoE) can be a daunting undertaking, especially if you have a full Connected Planning vision on the horizon. While the vision may be big, the first steps are small and consistent to ensure you are involving the right people early enough to set yourself up for success. Let this be that guide to your first steps.
Step One: Start Early
We recommend that before (or during) project kick-off you identify individuals to fill each of the below key CoE roles. Identifying the CoE members early enables the individuals to engage throughout the project and understand why their participation is critical to the immediate implementation and future vision.
You will need to Identify who will fill the following roles:
Step Two: Enable Your Team
Before you dive into project requirements, it is important to dedicate time to completing formal Anaplan training. This enables all Model Builders to have the same foundational knowledge of best practices, the basics of model building, and equip them to understand the tactics of the overall strategy of your connected planning journey.
Starting from Day One of kick-off, it is important for your designated Model Builders to work alongside the implementation Partner. By participating in the build work, you become the owner (and expert) in not just your internal process, but its outworking in the Anaplan solution. This intimate knowledge aides future development, troubleshooting, and internal training and documentation.
Document Your Processes and Solution Attributes
Your Master Anaplanner and Model Builders will work with the business champions to fully document the business processes and use the best practices defined by the Master Anaplanner. This will help with the enablement of any new members of the CoE, as well as provide clear opportunities for improvement across the organization.
Provide Training to New CoE Members
Your Master Anaplanner will work with any new Model Builders to ensure they are able to effectively build the solutions designed by the Master Anaplanner, as well as support the existing models already in place.
Prevent Knowledge Attrition
By having a fully-enabled team, thorough documentation, and established best practices, you can have continuity in your CoE even with the natural attrition common in today’s work environment.
While Anaplan defines best practice approach to model building, your CoE will be responsible for the continuity across your Connected Planning solutions. Even if you only have 1 or 2 Anaplan models, it is of tremendous value to establish standards right away as it will prevent confusion, disorganization, and potential data mismatches across your organization.
First, define naming conventions. Most likely there are standard terms you use across your organization that should be maintained in Anaplan, but there may also be new processes within Anaplan that need to be clearly labeled. Having a centralized repository for this (such as a landing dashboard) will benefit all users within Anaplan and stakeholders outside of Anaplan (such as downstream systems and processes).
Secondly, determine usability guidelines that shape the user experience, which includes color palette for charts and graphs, logos for dashboards, and standard layout within the user interface. Ensuring a consistent user experience is key, especially as your Anaplan footprint grows. It can be confusing if pages and boards are structured differently from each other.
After that, ensure you are aligned on a data integration and data hub strategy and structure. It is imperative that there be alignment across the business and IT on how the environment will be set up and maintained in the future, including any changes.
Enable the CoE to Govern and Audit Your Process
By running all projects through the CoE, you ensure that all models are built adhering to best practices. This ensures there is project governance and auditability in place.
Prepare to Scale the Solution to Different Business Groups
Using the best practices and governance, you can truly grow your Connected Planning Honeycomb to meet the needs of the different business functions within your organization.
A key component of this is developing a release schedule for Anaplan development. This will set appropriate expectations and allow for a standard cadence in which to engage key stakeholders across your organization.
Step Four: Drive Organizational Engagement
Involvement breeds commitment. It is essential to include stakeholders in the development process during Anaplan projects, and it is also important to include them during productive use of your Anaplan solution. The more input and involvement you can get across the organization, the greater the commitment to success.
Communicate Your Success Across the Organization
The Executive Sponsor will lead the effort of sharing the benefits and successes of Anaplan in the current business units to the rest of the organization, but this does not fall only on their shoulders. It is on the whole CoE from Executive Sponsor and Master Anaplanner to the Business Champions to build excitement around what Anaplan can do for the organization.
Create a Virtual Hub for Users to Share Work Products, Ideas, Best Practices, and Questions
Your CoE should have a defined place to share amongst itself as well as take suggestions or questions from across the organization. We have seen excellent examples of this using Slack, Teams, or G-Chat groups as well as having specific Dashboards in Anaplan where the repository of best practices and frequently asked questions are held.
Step Five: Build and Learn
The CoE is a living, dynamic group who are collectively becoming more refined experts in business processes and skilled at maintaining technical solutions while fostering a culture of learning. This builds self-sufficiency, which saves both time and money. When your CoE can own the platform and champion the Connected Planning Journey, it allows you to get even more return on investment with Anaplan.
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.