You have probably heard this at least once recently from a co-worker, a friend, or maybe even a heartfelt marketing email from your favorite big-box retailer:
“We are living in unprecedented times.”
While that is definitely true, the reality is that our businesses often face unprecedented disruptions and changes. Now more than ever the ability to pivot from one plan to another is critical for navigating these challenges in a timely manner. I have been using Anaplan for close to eight years in different finance roles, and it has regularly saved me weeks of spreadsheet work in a single month.
For those that already use Anaplan, what I am describing is not a surprise, but what I’m hoping to highlight are some of Anaplan’s features that finance organizations can maximize for when those unprecedented times hit.
Take advantage of having a connected plan in one system. This spring, when the pandemic sent a lot of us to work from home, many finance teams realized that they suddenly had a new top priority: update forecast, annual plans, and any other projections that might be affected by this sudden and dramatic change. For those of us using Anaplan, the good news is that we likely had a complete financial plan in the system. As a result, instead of updating dozens of disconnected spreadsheets, we could utilize Anaplan to quickly build out adjustments dashboards to do scenario modeling without having to start from scratch. With a little retrofitting (more on that below!), the new scenarios could be hooked up to existing dashboards without disrupting end users.
Retrofit reports on the fly. My single favorite feature of Anaplan is its flexibility. The whole platform is a blank slate for building creative solutions to problems that not many other products can deal with. It’s why the “Excel on Steroids” moniker has been the easiest way to describe Anaplan to connected planning neophytes. When plans change, reports can change with them. Simple formula updates to connect existing charts and modules to new data is usually an easy update. For other changes, I often use the “Copy Dashboard” feature to make a new version where I can make more substantial changes. This makes the transition easier for end users who may still reference the version they are familiar with while your finance team will still be able to share new information with them.
Driver based adjustments with overrides are your friend. A fundamental issue with planning is that there are often exceptions to the process that can add complications to any sort of the driver-based planning. Luckily, Anaplan makes it easy to build in override functions to accommodate one-offs. This is super helpful when you need to plan fast. When an executive or manager needs an updated forecast turned around ASAP, Anaplan allows you to quickly forecast with tops-down adjustments and then makes it easy to add in those overrides when you need to get a little more granular.
While we may be living in the age of unprecedented times, at least we are also living in the age of Anaplan. The power and flexibility of the platform combined with a little creativity from your team can make planning and re-planning a little bit easier. I am grateful for those things and I will continue to add to and adapt my Anaplan models to a changing world.