As more organizations embrace Anaplan as their cloud-based platform for business planning, many are looking to establish an internal Anaplan Center of Excellence to support their growing footprint. However, establishing a Center of Excellence can feel like a daunting task with no clear steps on how to get started. Although there are many areas to consider when establishing a Center of Excellence this article focuses on one area that every Center of Excellence should include: a model building standards document.

A model building standards document is your internal knowledge repository for all things Anaplan. This centralized guide can play a very important role in your long-term success with using Anaplan. A carefully constructed document can provide a wealth of benefits, including the following:

  • An intuitive and consistent model design to make life easy for model builders and accelerate learning for future model builders
  • A user-friendly experience for end users, maintaining familiarity across models
  • Certainty that all of your models are designed with the latest best practices
  • Assurance that only well-tested development work is present in your production environments
  • Confidence that you are unlocking the full potential of Connected Planning across models

As you develop your own model building standards document, here are seven components to consider:

Model Layout and Naming Conventions

A set of guidelines for model layout and naming conventions is a model builder’s best friend. Introducing standard-naming conventions for factors such as actions, processes, modules, and line items is an easy way to ease the burden on a Center of Excellence that is responsible for maintaining several Anaplan models. These standards help model builders easily transition from one model to the next and allow new resources to quickly get ramped up across multiple models. Whether you are using the conventions outlined in the Planual or have your own set of standards, proper documentation is essential.

Model Design

A robust model design is the first step toward any successful Anaplan model build. When you are introducing new models into your Anaplan environment, a carefully assembled list of design principles can be a great accelerator to the design process. The 10 guidelines for pioneering model builders offers a great start to this list, but over time, you will be able to expand your list. Documenting these principles will provide an added level of quality assurance for each new model in your landscape.

Front-End Dashboard Design

When it comes to the long-term success of your Anaplan footprint, a user-friendly experience is as important as the model design. Being consistent in your dashboard design and routinely incorporating best practices is the easiest way to keep your end users happy and your adoption rates high. While it is relatively easy to develop an Anaplan dashboard, keeping a few basic tenants in mind can go a long way toward creating intuitive—and beautiful—dashboards for your users. A key responsibility of your Center of Excellence is ensuring that your model builders are delivering high-quality dashboards that will help your users enjoy their time in Anaplan. Defining and properly documenting these tenants will help all of the model builders within your Centers of Excellence follow a consistent approach.

Application Life-Cycle Management

When you have Anaplan models deployed in production, a robust Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) process will help ensure that all development being released into production has been properly tested. If you are not using ALM, consider introducing it into your Anaplan landscape. However, using the ALM functionality on its own will not be enough. Only when you introduce a carefully defined governance process will you realize all of the benefits that Anaplan’s ALM functionality has to offer. This process should be outlined in your standards document to ensure that all future models follow a standardized approach to ALM.

Data Hub Governance

If you are using Anaplan, you probably already have a data hub model in place. As your Anaplan footprint grows, you will likely add more data sources to your hub. Additionally, some landscapes require more than one hub to store sensitive data, such as employee salaries. There are some cases in which data can be loaded directly to a model and others where it should almost certainly be routed through a data hub. As such, it is important to define a set of guidelines for when data should be flowed through a data hub and how it can be stored most effectively.

Integrations and Scheduling

Defining best practices for moving data between models will allow you to get the most value out of your Connected Planning architecture. What integration tools are you using to move data from your data hub into your models? Which models talk to each other? What is your process for setting up new connections between models? Having a process outlined in your document will allow you to quickly set up powerful new connections when new models are brought on board.

Reporting Guidelines

Although Anaplan offers reporting functionality, don’t assume that it will be the solution for all reporting requirements associated with the planning process, especially if you already have access to other point solutions for reporting. Defining which types of reports are best suited for Anaplan and including this list in your document is a great first step toward developing a strong point of view about your reporting strategy.

Summary

Creating a model building standards document is a great way to jump-start your Center of Excellence's capabilities. However, to serve you most effectively, it should be a living, breathing document. As new functionality is released and as your team continues to learn, the document should be continually revamped and revised. A well-maintained document provides a layer of standardization and governance that will help ensure you are getting the most out of Anaplan as your footprint grows.


About Cervello

Cervello, a Kearney company, is a Global Strategic Anaplan Partner that helps smart businesses win with data. We optimize business performance, improve business analytics, and solve complex data challenges. We specialize in designing connected planning processes and analytics using transformative cloud-based technologies to maximize business value and provide deep insights into business performance.  We work with enterprise clients in the functional areas of Finance, Operations, IT, and Sales & Marketing. Visit mycervello.com for more information.

This article was written by Cervello in conjunction with Anaplan and the Centers of Excellence team.


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