We're excited to welcome Chris Weiss to this session of Ask Me Anything! Chris is a Lead Solution Architect, Sales Strategy & Planning at Anaplan Partner, Accenture.
How long have you been an Anaplan partner? I’ve been working with Anaplan since early 2016.
Tell me about your journey thus far. What did you do prior to being an Anaplan partner? How has that shaped your current role? Before joining the Anaplan ecosystem I was a Salesforce consultant and solution architect specializing in the Customer Relationship Management space (Sales Cloud). In my work on CRM implementations, there was a clear disconnect between Front End Sales departments and Sales Operations planning departments. Our technology solutions in Salesforce always empowered Front End Sales, but did little to assist Sales Operations groups with their planning and enablement functions. Our practice at Accenture focuses on bridging that gap between Sales and Sales Operations, and by far the best technology enabler we’ve found that provides the systems needed to empower this connection is Anaplan.
How do you interact with Anaplan and customers in a typical day? A typical day might start with a workshop to understand a company’s current state business processes and defining optimized future state workflows. Then I might head to a side-by-side build session, which is a joint working session between our Accenture build time and the customer’s model builders, where we discuss business processes, high-level solution approaches, and assign build tasks to anybody in the room while providing guidance on configuration leading practices. Then I might take some time to myself to design any of the more complex Anaplan functionalities, including documenting the design and sending it to our build team. Then I would likely test and validate any of the previous work of our build team to ensure the functionality meets the need of the customer’s business process, and follow that up with a demo of the functionality back to the client to collect feedback and continuously improve the solution (and on a good day, might get sign-off on a completed dashboard, which means we get to celebrate that evening!).
What is your area of expertise? My area of expertise is in Sales and Sales Operations business functions, ranging from optimizing business processes to providing technology enablers. I always enjoy helping the community around questions on how Anaplan can enable Sales functions and planning, as well as technology best practices. I also spend a decent amount of time focusing on expanding our internal Anaplan capability, so more than happy to discuss ways to stand up and build an Anaplan function or COE within an organization.
Favorite thing about working with Anaplan: That it puts the power of technology and advanced planning in the hands of the business. Anaplan enables flexible scalable solutions that can be fully owned by Sales Operations, no need for IT involvement or developer/coding skills, which unlocks the full potential and creativity of Sales Operations (and the ability to follow the whims of sales organizations in general), all built on top of the stability and governance of an enterprise platform that can integrate to the rest of their enterprise platforms, often for the first time in a sales organization’s history.
One fun fact about you: I have 2 miniature long-haired dachshunds named Penny and Olive, and even though they’re only 8 pounds each have huge personalities and love long walks in Central Park.
Can you tell us if, how and when do you use the ALM functionality? Do you use it for every model you build? And, in your opinion, what are the pros and cons of using it.
Hi @fabien.junod, thanks for the question.
We use the ALM functionality throughout all of our implementations, it has really made the whole SDLC much smoother. As we finish build sprints and allow the business/testing team to validate, we use ALM to deploy to a Test model (in deployed mode). This allows us to 1) Keep large data quantities out of our Development environment so that our build teams aren’t slowed down when they hit errors, and 2) Continue to develop new functionality without impacting the testing of the previous sprint. Then we use ALM to deploy to a Production environment for Go-Live, while still making any enhancements or building future functionality in a Development environment without impacting end users.
Overall, I’d say we start using ALM once we finish the first sprint or two and testing begins, and from there on out we’re probably using ALM to synchronize models almost daily throughout the rest of the implementation.
Hope that helps, thanks!
Thanks for participating and offering your unique insight!
My question(s) is as follows: How do you define the relationship between Partners and Anaplan when working with customers? How do we ensure the success of the customer across the different working teams and companies?
Hi @anne_cooper, thanks for joining us.
We definitely value the strong relationship between the implementation partner, Anaplan, and the customer product owner(s). The way I see it is that the relationships change and are defined by where the customer is in their Anaplan journey. Upfront, either when the customer first buys their licenses or when they’re starting to implement a new set of functionalities, the implementation partner is key and does most of the heavy lifting on the people, process, and technology sides. We live and breathe the customer’s business process and help move them towards a better future state, and that make that a reality. In comparison, Anaplan’s Customer Success group is less hands-on in the beginning but always involved in the journey, and owns the long-term relationship with the customer. So long after the implementation is finished and the partner has left, Anaplan will always be there for the customer.
So our job as partners in that relationship is to make sure that Anaplan fully understands what we learn about the customer, that they know the future state and everywhere that the customer expects Anaplan to go in the future, and that we have a full knowledge transfer of what we build to Anaplan so that they are fully empowered to own the long-term success of the customer within the platform. Anaplan’s Customer Success owns the long tail of the customer journey, and our job as partners is to transition the Reader’s Digest version everything we’ve learned and done in our intense involvement early in the process to ensure seamless transition as we wind down. We ensure success by making sure this isn’t a one-time KT dump, but instead that everybody has a seat at the table and that Anaplan is involved every step of the way (though obviously not nearly as intensely or in the weeds during the implementation phase).
Hope that helps, happy to provide more details, this is one of the most important elements of customer success through their Anaplan journey so thanks for bringing it up!
Thanks for taking your time to answer some questions! My question is related to developing a daily switchover. Do you have any best practice tips for building this functionality into a model? Is there a way to bring current day into the model without having to do a manually update?
Hi @Evantownson, always appreciate a good “Best Practices” question!
I’ll split your question in two. First I’ll start with bringing “Today” into a model. We usually need to implement some way to indicate the current day, so we’ll put a line item (with no intersecting dimensions) in a Global Settings module somewhere that’s just a user-entered, date-formatted line item. Then we use whatever integration strategy you have in place to import to this line item daily with the current date. There are lots of articles on the community about how to build or use something like this, I’ll try to find links later, but you can do anything from Anaplan Connect pointed to a one-cell Excel spreadsheet with the TODAY() function all the way to using Anaplan Hyperconnect to keep this line item updated. Or of course you can have somebody update it manually daily, but I wouldn’t recommend that as a long term enterprise-grade solution.
Regarding daily switchover, you can definitely automate the process of importing to your Versions, so you would just need a source module and then an import into Versions mapping to the Switchover date, based on your Today line item. You could include this import into the integration strategy that sets your Today line item for you as well.
But one word of caution, this can have huge impacts on your model (as I’m sure you know better than me), so for anybody else reading this I really wouldn’t recommend automating this process until you have a very mature Anaplan model strategy in place. Overall this should really be an edge case and most Anaplan customers probably don’t need to go this route, I would recommend taking a good look at requirements and alternative options before going down this path.
Happy to give more technical details if anything here is unclear, or if you've already gotten this far on your own and want me to take this to the next level definitely happy to help!
Quick followup on this.
Am I able to run an import into versions for switchover if I am in deployed mode? I was told it is structural data, and needed to come from Dev. I was actually looking for an RFE to address it as I see the value in being structural if a formula, but as a month, it would be better as prod data, not to mention it can throw off my dev.