The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up Your Anaplan Model

Certified Master Anaplanner

91Jh-PEp1OL.jpgMarie Kondo's "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" seems to be popping up everywhere these days with her book and Netflix show. I decided to take the principles of her KonMari Method and see how we can apply them to how we build Anaplan Models. 

The KonMari.com website explains the method:

The KonMari Method™ encourages tidying by category–not by location–beginning with clothes, then moving on to books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and, finally, sentimental items. Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service–then let them go. People around the world have been drawn to this philosophy not only due to its effectiveness but also because it places great importance on being mindful, introspective and forward-looking.

The six basic principles of tidying tweaked for Anaplan:

  1. Commit yourself to tidying up 
  2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle [Anaplan Model]
  3. Finish discarding first [Add delete labels, and delete after reviewing all categories]
  4. Tidy by category, not by location [use model settings as our categories]
  5. Follow the right order [see below]
  6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy. [Think of joy as productivity and efficiency!]

I found it was easy to relate this back to cleaning up Anaplan models I have worked on in the past. Instead of thinking of it as tidying up I thought of it as ways I could organize, improve performance, improve efficiency, simplify, etc. The principles that seemed most relatable to Anaplan are tidying by category (i.e., going through each category of the contents pane in Anaplan) and making sure I followed the right order.

Before cleaning a model, it’s essential to take a 'Copy and Archive' just in case anything should go wrong during the model cleanup.

This is the order I use when tidying up Anaplan models:

  1. Modules 
  2. Line Items 
  3. Lists 
  4. Dashboards
  5. Actions
  6. Contents
  7. User Access 

A general tip I use when cleaning my models is to export the model blueprint files to Excel and use filtering and simple formulas in Excel to figure out what items to focus on. As I go through my model, I tag items with the word DELETE_ in front of their name and move them to the bottom of the page view. After circling through the different areas, I then come back at the end of the exercise and physically start deleting items in the same order mentioned above. 

Diving into each of these sections, here are some tips for how to clean up each one:

Modules 

  1. Identify modules that are not referenced by anything and are not published to dashboards
  2. This is easily accomplished by using the export of Excel to filter on where these two columns are blank
  3. Review these modules to see if they are necessary or can be removed from the model

Identify ten of your largest modules (again use export to excel and sort on cell count), run through the following set of questions for each one:

  • What is the purpose of the module? 
  • What dashboards is this used on?  
  • Are all the dimensions (applies to) needed or is there any relationships between the dimensions?
  • Review individual line items for efficient formulas applies to, summary settings 

The results of this exercise will vary model to model, but in my experience, I've found the 80/20 rule applies to pulling the ten or so largest modules and seeing that they take up anywhere from 75%-95% of the space within a model. Because these modules take up the majority of the model spending time making sure they are providing value in the most efficient way possible can lead to immense improvements in model quality.

Make sure that these ten modules are using model building best practices will set up the rest of the model up for success.

Line items 

  1. Review existing formulas and try to simplify them 
  2. In the Excel export identify any formulas that are longer than 500 characters and try to think through ways to either simplify the formula or break it up into different line items
  3. Look for specific formulas that can slow performance in Anaplan
  4. Review existing formulas to look for repetitive formulas 
  5. Examples of where I often see this are having line items in every module for look-ups to list members when these should be kept in a centralized system module and referenced throughout [ALWAYS DISCO]

Lists 

  1. Identify lists that are not Referenced in Applies to, Format or Formula and tag these for deletion
  2. This is easily accomplished by using the export of Excel to filter on where these columns are blank
  3. List cleanup could be taken one step further by cleaning individual lists and looking for list members that are no longer used or could be tagged as inactive
  4. Note: Careful with this as even if a list member is not used once it is deleted, you will lose the data associated with that member

Dashboards

Ask yourself the following questions for each dashboard: 

  1. What is the purpose of the dashboard? 
  2. Can I explain what actions the end user should complete on the dashboard in a few sentences?
  3. Does the navigation of the dashboard intuitively flow?  

When performing this exercise, it might help to put on the "hat" of the end user. Set your security access to be the same as the end user to get in the correct mindset. The purpose of this exercise is to make dashboards simple and easy to use. Changes to how the models are organized, text headers, synchronized selection, and more can all improve the user experience. 

Actions

  1. Identify actions that are not used in the process and not used in dashboards—mark these for deletion
  2. This is easily accomplished by using the export of Excel to filter on where these columns are blank
  3. Organize actions by updating the naming convention of actions to include numbering for the order they are running within processes 

Contents

  1. Make sure the contents pane only contains dashboards
  2. Set up contents pane specific for each user role, so only relevant dashboards show up for each user role
  3. Organize the contents pane, so the most critical dashboards show up at the top of the contents pane
  4. Consider using functional areas and dashboard names to act as directions or as a task list for end users

User Access 

  1. Create a checklist of model roles that are assigned to users and remove any unused model roles
  2. Compare model roles to ensure there are no duplicates 
  3. Don't create model roles for just one or two users—try to group users into more general roles
  4. Review the list of users to make sure they are all current and delete any users with no access or who no longer need access to the model

This list should act as a foundation and can be applied to any Anaplan model. Even just choosing one category to organize and clean can be a method to 'spark joy' in your Anaplan model. Following through on the task of tidying up your Anaplan model will lead to not only joy, but also increased efficiency, performance, and productivity.


Frankie_Wolf.pngFrankie Wolf is a Senior Solution Architect in Anaplan’s Professional Services team. She has been building Anaplan models for around 4 years across multiple industries and use cases.

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7 Comments
Contributor

Love this, Frankie!! I'd also add that removing Summaries where possible (from line items that aren't user facing; eg. aren't referenced further and are in modules that aren't featured in a Dashboard) can greatly help reduce your model size! Plus it avoids aggregating over unnecessary dimensions - reducing calculation volume and increasing performance (especially where there are many levels to a hierarchy or many time periods to aggregate over).

New Contributor

Nice work Frankie.

New Contributor

Good article. I suggest you also consider if there are any other applications, external or Anaplan apps, that reference your model, lists, or modules as data sources or for other usages. 

New Contributor

I love this article.  This gives structure to a daunting task that almost every customer could use.  Thank you. JZ

Occasional Contributor

Frankie, nicely done!

This can as well be call "A Complete Model Makeover"

New Contributor

For modules, I also like to ensure there are not any outgoing connections to other models. I do this by looking at the Business Map under Administration (in tenant access), and then selecting the model. A pane appears on the right-hand side of the window with a list of both incoming and outgoing connections. When you click on the outgoing connections, you can search for the module name. I like this because I don't have to go and check within each model's data import sources.

Certified Master Anaplanner

Thanks everyone for chiming in and adding these additional tips for how to Make over or Clean up your model! Keep the tips coming!