Beautiful story and sentiment @JaredDolich, I wholeheartedly agree that you are already a giant among Master Anaplanners, thank you for continuing to raise the bar for this community (and then help others attain it)!!
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AMAZING job Jen & Yelena, just re-watched the video and picked up a few more nuggets of wisdom, feeling very lucky to be your co-worker!
Here's the link to the other video I referenced at the end of the video, which provides a framework and whiteboard to use when talking about Connected Planning to other executives within your company (feel free to substitute "Chief Planning Officer" with the current Executive Sponsor of your Anaplan footprint).
We hope you find all of these resource useful, feel free to let us know if there's something specific we can add to the discussion to assist you on your Connected Planning journey!
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As the Anaplan ecosystem continues to mature, many companies are beginning to commit dedicated resources to building and scaling an Anaplan Center of Excellence (CoE). We have found that those customers who have made this investment are the most likely to attain independent sustainability, and maximize their value received out of the Anaplan platform.
In our continued efforts to support the growing community of these CoEs, we recently hosted a Community Ask Me Anything (AMA) on the topic of the maturity curve of developing a CoE. At that time, we also launched the 9 most common steps to building a CoE, which now also has a template CoE Charter deck.
Throughout the AMA, the questions and conversations centered around topics of internal organization and sponsorship, as well as enabling business users to own and maximize their Anaplan platform. We wanted to take this opportunity to showcase a few key highlights from the discussion, and we encourage you to follow the links to review the detailed conversations as they took place:
Something that always comes up in early CoE-development conversations is the role IT should play, and whether it makes sense to position the CoE within IT or the business. My personal favorite exchange of the AMA was between two of our Certified Master Anaplanners, @Megan_Carrozza from Groupon and @LokeshNandula from ServiceNow. They both shared their perspectives on why each of their CoEs sit where they do, which currently live within Finance and IT, respectively.
Securing strong executive sponsorship is one of the most critical early tasks of building a CoE, which @SerenaZ brought up specifically as it relates to handling leadership changes, while @Agandhi started a conversation on how to approach justifying additional internal investment in a CoE.
@JaredDolich mentioned a key challenge as CoEs begin to grow, balancing empowering decentralized super users with maintaining centralized governance. Along similar lines, @fabien.junod raised a question about managing decentralized administrative access as the Anaplan footprint begins to expand.
Looking forward to activities typically conducted by more mature CoEs, @Tiffany.Rice covered topics like what comes next for CoEs after completing the backlog and reaching a point of stability, including building a Connected Planning Roadmap.
We even received some more technical questions about aspects of the Anaplan platform typically owned by the CoE, such as ALM and deployment checklists (@Ellen.Morley), and managing compliance controls, which could be applied more broadly to SOX controls, and model health (@Nikita_S_Gnilozub).
And of course, we touched on some fundamental topics like @UpaliKW question on the role Implementation Partners play in helping building CoEs, and @TaraTCG question on how to overcome and avoid some of the common pitfalls and potential disadvantages of an improperly-built CoE.
We hope these conversations are helpful along all points of the CoE journey, and as always we are excited to find more opportunities to continue support our customers on this critical path to self-sufficiency. What did you think about the AMA? Please share your thoughts or post more questions in our ongoing CoE Discussion Forum!
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Thanks for hosting this AMA, such a great topic! Quick question for you, which types of predictive analytics do you think are best suited to be moved into Anaplan? Not just integrated into Connected Planning models, but actually migrated to being entirely calculated within Anaplan?
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Thanks @Romain_Colin! This is something we're actively working on, rolling out a tool that our AoA team currently uses (Anaplan's internal Anaplan CoE). Stay tuned for more (subscribe to the CoE section of Community, which is where this will launch, if you haven't already).
Also as a short-term workaround, this offering is part of our Hypercare support package, which is an add-on to your current subscription with additional cost.
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Great question, managing compliance controls like Diageo's CARM or more general SOX compliance is starting to come up more often.
In complete transparency, it isn't something that I have much experience with and these usually require very strict formal approaches, but I do know we will need to provide more support here as this catches up to becoming a priority for more customer CoEs. So I can offer a few high-level customer examples, and hopefully some others from the community can chime in here as well.
First, I've seen customers lean heavily on the Model History to manage this. Some creative customers have built input modules that are structured the same as the export from the Model History, so they run a Model History export at regularly scheduled intervals, then upload the file back into an Anaplan module, and use that for compliance and audit reporting. I know that I'm oversimplifying a pretty complex process, especially for a group like Diageo who manage MANY different models, but it might inspire some ideas.
I also am aware of some customers who have tried to use Tenant Administration to manage this, though I think this provides limited usefulness at this time. But worth taking a look.
And last I would say this is definitely something worth partnering closely with IT on. Aligning to internal policies and procedures is probably your best bet here, especially in the short term (I know your group is unique here, but this should stand for most other customers with a similar question).
Hope this helps for now, knowing that this is an underdeveloped topic that definitely needs a closer look!
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Passing along a direct response from Ashley Stevens, CoE Leader at Aviva, who had this to say on your excellent topic. As you can tell from the number of replies on this question, you really hit a nerve in terms of something that is very top of mind for CoEs these days!
" I don’t think you ever fully enter maintenance mode. The Anaplan transformation journey to get to a connected planning end state is ever evolving: bringing in new areas, rebuilding legacy models, adopting the NUX, etc....
The key transition for us was moving beyond a reactive approach where projects were initiated by end users (generally following a conversation with Anaplan) to shaping our own strategic roadmap. All current / pipeline activity is focused on moving us closer to a connected planning end state as well as revisiting legacy models to ensure best in class solution. Key to doing this successfully is having the right roles and responsibilities in the team to ensure we deliver end to end transformation: Data / Solution Architect owning the roadmap, Process Engineers designing the E2E solution, Model Builders, BAU Maintenance Analysts, Governance Lead - and using third parties to augment these skills where appropriate.
Hope this helps.
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Great points, it's very helpful that you've outlined this thorough list here!
I think you're absolutely right. If these are the required skillsets for your company in managing your Anaplan footprint, it should absolutely be heavily dependent on IT resources and/or an implementation consulting partner. We're in agreement that these skills would be very rare to find within the business, and in this case the business would still of course play a critical role in providing user stories/business requirements as well as feedback on your implementations.
That said, I think many Anaplan customers are not quite looking for that level of expertise in managing their planning applications in Anaplan, especially at first. I know you all are doing some very big and exciting things with Anaplan, so your situation is unique, but also we can point to just as many examples of finance or other business users accomplishing complex technical requirements in Anaplan on their own.
Either way, this will of course vary customer to customer, and you're absolutely doing the right thing for what your company needs, and if other companies have similar needs they will probably skew more towards IT-reliance than being entirely business-owned, I'm just not sure exactly what percentage of customers fall into your same category here.
Thanks again for putting together these exhaustive list, excellent resource to be added to the CoE resource library!
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Thanks @prakash_harihar, really appreciate you sharing your experience here! And for everybody else who doesn't already know Prakash, he works at Anaplan now but is famous in the land of CoEs as the leader and creator of our first ever Customer CoE from his time at McAfee. Many of the foundations for our customer CoE strategies come from his work, so thanks Prakash for everything, and these details should be very useful as other CoEs look to find additional funding and support for their teams!
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Thanks for bringing up the contrasting roles of business and IT, this something I’m asked very frequently and realistically the answer is slightly different for every customer.
I’ll start with the most common answer, that Anaplan is meant to be a business-owned planning platform, which leverages Excel-like formula syntax to shorten the learning curve as business users transition from planning in spreadsheets to Connected Planning. The benefits of the business owning Anaplan is that they are the most qualified to ensure that Anaplan directly addresses their planning needs, and can be responsible for adjustments to the system as their planning environment remains fluid and flexible. Or from another angle, most IT teams don’t want to receive a support ticket every time a business user needs to make a slight adjustment to their planning or forecasting process (which would happen weekly, if not daily in some cases!).
That said, you’re absolutely right that most business owners are not experienced in managing and architecting a scalable, enterprise-grade cloud platform. This is a new skill for many of them, which is why we are investing so heavily in providing these resources around how they should manage their CoE (and of course we know we still have a long way to go here!). The benefit to IT playing a role here is in sharing common best practices in software management that apply across all technologies, regardless of how flexible or intuitive they are to learn. In other words, most business users don’t have a decade of experience designing Software Development Lifecycles to migrate new functionalities from a development sandbox to a production environment, and we certainly don’t want to discredit the in-house expertise that the IT team already has in this area.
Every CoE should have representatives from both the business and IT in order to ensure a successful holistic Anaplan implementation. We like to recommend a “best of both” world where IT owns software-related elements that are technology-agnostic (integrations, data management, documentation, etc), where the business owns planning processes, model building, and dashboard design. There are more details about this breakdown on our Roles & Responsibilities article (3rd graphic from the top).
That said, this exact breakdown is different for every company. You may find a great deal of success having your Certified Master Anaplanners (or global solution architects) located in IT due to their expertise in developing scalable enterprise-grade solutions. Or your entire team may be located within the business, with occasional requests over to your IT team for occasional data feed updates, and learning the new skill of enterprise solution architecture to build the best Anaplan models.
The thing that is most important is that for your company, your CoE needs to maintain a strong relationship across both groups. And isn’t that the whole point of a CoE anyway? Breaking down corporate silos of traditional planning? Why not start here, breaking down the silos between IT and Business!
Hope that helps, definitely curious to hear your views and from others who are struggling with similar dilemmas!
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Great question, as with everything in the Anaplan ecosystem we work extremely closely with our Partners to ensure the success of our customers along every step of their journey, including building and scaling a CoE.
I’ll share two of the most useful resources that I’ve seen lately when thinking about the relationship between Customer, Partner, and Anaplan in terms of CoEs. First, we’ve learned that the best time for new customers to build their CoE is during their first model implementation. Partners typically take the lead in this step of the customer journey, and we’ve identified a simple roadmap to help Partners support our customers build a CoE as part of The Anaplan Way.
During UAT, when customers begin releasing Anaplan to their end users for the first time and collect test script feedback, Partners are typically responsible for managing any defects and issues that will prevent successful go-live, but typically lots of out of scope and enhancement requests also come up. We recommend using the attached template to split responsibilities between customer and Partner, with the Partner owning the dedicated UAT activities, and the customer owning the CoE-Lite activities, as the foundation for what will become their Full CoE after deployment. This also helps the Partner focus their time and attention where they can add the most value during the sometimes chaotic time of UAT, on fixing in-scope defects that are critical to the success of the initial deployment.
Additionally, our most mature customer CoEs have developed very robust, evolving relationships with their Partners as they take on new roles with the Customer, everything from providing complex technical solution architecture across all cloud platforms and providing thought leadership on Connected Planning and how to achieve excellence in planning in specific LOBs. Our most recent customer interview panel went into some details here, especially around 5:17.
Thanks Upali, always glad to make sure the Partner perspective is included in everything we do here, great question!
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Glad to hear about the progress you’re making with your CoE, thanks for sharing your engagement model thoughts. For what it’s worth this is a common CoE setup that is working very well for many other customers, so you’re in great company! I’ve seen this exact situation approached two different ways, and would be interested to hear from you if your group has come up with any other creative solutions here.
The first solution is of course to replicate standard Versions and Bulk Copy functionality in a custom build, so that end users can activate these business processes from a Process action published on a dashboard. I’m sure you’ve considered this, and there are lots of reasons many customers don’t take this approach based on their specific situation (and of course we recommend using standard functionality wherever possible).
The second solution that I see customers land on more often, is identifying at least one model builder in each group who would have admin rights. If your concern about providing admin rights is around access issues, it’s worth looking into ways to use Anaplan itself to help you manage what your admins are up to (think Tenant Administration, splitting models across multiple workspaces, reviewing model histories for user audits, general offline governance approaches/expectations among your team, etc.). And we’re also piloting a broader CoE solution based on how our Anaplan-on-Anaplan team manages this issue, if you aren't already involved please let us know if you’d like to be included or otherwise keep an eye out here for updates from us and @pierre_kerkinni.
Otherwise, if your concern is around the cost implication, I recommend front-loading the effort of ensuring exponential value that the group will be gaining from this investment (beyond just the ability to bulk copy). For example, while these power users within the business units are collecting enhancement requests, can they also be responsible for quickly building lower complexity items within guardrails set by the CoE, and does that increase the speed to value for that group? Can they serve in a “part-time” role on your CoE (say 20%) and act as the model builders on implementations for their business group to help prioritize the needs of their team and ensure resourcing constraints don’t slow the CoE down?
To get to your point, I fundamentally agree with you and believe that the business SHOULD own these tasks, and the job of the CoE is to remove any barriers preventing that from happening (for example cost/business justification, user audits, and/or admin enablement and expectation-setting). We all know the time invested in these activities is far more valuable than time spent owning the model maintenance tasks, even if at first they both take the same amount of time.
Hope that helps, let me know if you'd like me to go into more details on any of these ideas, and good luck with the next step of your CoE!
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Great question, and thanks for the feedback that you think this video helps make CoEs a little more approachable!
I’d say that I see 4 potential disadvantages of CoEs, which I’ve seen most often in groups that unintentionally slipped into an informal “CoE” without much forethought (who then need help rectifying these issues):
Becoming a bottleneck or source of red tape if they become overly centralized in nature,
Decelerating the speed to new value as they grow,
Struggling to maintain internal investment (both time and money), and
Pigeonholing the team as an application management/support function vs. a true transformation connected planning engine.
And here are the most effective solutions I’ve seen in combatting those challenges, in respective order:
Building strong internal processes: As a CoE shifts from focusing on chipping away the backlog or putting out fires, they quickly need to focus their attention on creating scalable, repeatable, consistent business processes for things like managing new requests and maintaining recurring meeting cadences, including providing some documentation. This should help the team become more comfortable with the moderate level of decentralization that follows, while unlocking their productivity to keep up with the business.
Prioritizing internal enablement: Every Anaplan customer should have at least one Certified Master Anaplanner (or somebody in the application process working towards becoming one). And as the CoE matures, the original founding members and Certified Master Anaplanners should shift their attention from focusing entirely on model building activities towards primarily focusing on internal training and enablement activities. When they become a multiplier, the CoE can focus on providing exponential new value at scale, while helping end users identify for themselves how Anaplan can be used to continue improving their business processes (and take less of your time with basic support issues).
Identifying strong visionary leadership: As the CoE continues demonstrating the successful outcomes the Anaplan footprint has provided to the business, a Chief Planning Officer or visionary Connected Planning executive sponsor will understand that limited resources prevent realizing additional value from the current Anaplan investment, so the decision to invest in expanding the team shifts from being a net cost to a net benefit. Additionally, this executive sponsor is critical to ensure that the CoE continues focusing on connecting the company’s strategic objectives to the tactical execution planning conducted in Anaplan. In other words, they provide value by making sure model builders are prioritizing building the right things in Anaplan, which helps prevent anybody from underestimating the CoE’s value.
Maintaining close proximity to the business: As CoEs grow and become more centralized, inevitably somebody tries to move the group to a more “logical” place in the organization. This is often a mistake (varying from customer to customer of course). The CoE must stay as close to the business as possible and maintain their role in achieving transformational Connected Planning, rather than just supporting one or two production applications. Even as CoEs expand across many LOBs, the bulk of the team should be made up of business users from each of those LOBs, which will help ensure that business outcomes are continuously prioritized and improved as capacity allows, rather than becoming a mini-IT support department for what should be a primarily business-owned platform.
I know that your team in particular has lots of great thought leadership on helping your clients avoid most of these pitfalls, so please feel free to add more details that you think other customers might benefit from. Thanks for getting this great topic started!
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Great question, roadmap development is directly related to the final stages of building a mature CoE.
The short answer to your question of CoEs entering “Maintenance Mode” is that while there are definitely some of those out there, I wouldn’t personally recommend that as an aspirational goal until true Connected Planning is achieved across your entire company! (How’s that for aspirational?!)
I have seen plenty of mature CoEs whose primary goals are proactively taking Anaplan out to different areas of the business, demonstrating the value of Connected Planning (or even just Better planning, for that matter), and then have responsibility for the process of scoping the work and overseeing the implementation (whether they own the actual model build or not). Some of the customers I spoke to on CPX 2019’s CoE Panels discussed how they approached this topic (Maria Milazzo in San Francisco ~8:41, and Ashley Stevens in London ~23:45). At the end of the day, the best CoEs are those who achieve Connected Planning, not just those who build and manage the best Anaplan models.
Along those lines, we recommend that all CoEs build their Connected Planning Topology/Honeycomb/Roadmap, or whatever you want to call it. We’re in the early phase of building an accelerator for CoEs to manage this, tagging in @Beauram to loop you in on the pilot group if she hasn’t already. Hopefully these tools help make it easier for CoEs to tackle the more administrative parts of this mission.
But building a roadmap isn’t just about putting a bunch of hexagons on a slide, it requires transformational leadership. For CoEs who have successfully completed their backlog and have become a well-oiled machine efficiently managing the day-to-day with spare time on their hands, you have earned the right to take on this higher level challenge. This is your opportunity to pivot to become exponentially more impactful in your work and be at the forefront of bringing the Connected Planning vision to life at your company. While you may need a Chief Planning Officer to help make the path a little easier (more resources to come there soon), if you’re in a position to chart your own course you can absolutely be the change in your organization. And along the way you may even set yourself on the path to achieving this role yourself, along with countless other career opportunities.
Thanks for getting me started on this great topic, I’m sure many of us here could rant on about it forever, hope this is helpful!
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Thanks so much for the detailed question around deployment management, definitely a key area of focus for CoEs that want to prepare for (or currently manage) multiple use cases/departments.
Yes, especially where required by IT I definitely see the CoE as being responsible for providing an ALM deployment checklist. The CoE are likely the ones with the most experience both with ensuring successful deployments, and the internal procedures and politics around working with IT.
It’s also worth not in that we recommend that IT play a supporting role in every CoE (more details here). I mention that because in situations like these, especially where required by IT, somebody from that IT department should already be regularly engaged with the CoE and should help in co-creating this document. In typical business-run CoEs this may be the first SDLC or deployment process they have managed, whereas IT has much more expertise here, so definitely take advantage of their experience.
I’ll specifically point to an excellent CoE forum post by 2019’s Master Anaplanner of the Year @bdeaton, who described her CoE’s very detailed approach to testing and documentation before every deployment.
You make a great point around wondering how formal this process should be, and of course this will be different customer to customer based on internal policies. That said, since one of the primary goals of the CoE should be maintaining agility and providing increased speed to value, the bar really should be set at requiring as little formality as possible to ensure successful deployments while complying with IT policies.
Thanks for the great topic, hope that helps!
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Hi @Agandhi, this is a really common question, thanks for bringing it up!
I’ll start with the fact that it’s alright for an Anaplan CoE to start small. We see very successful CoEs managing several production use cases with 2-3 full time employees. The CoE should grow and scale over time with the Anaplan footprint, so the best way of approaching your question is to pivot slightly from focusing on expanding the CoE team and towards expanding the business impact and benefit of the Anaplan footprint within the company (promise I’m not getting sales-y, I’m not talking about buying more Anaplan licenses necessarily, but more along the lines of building more use cases/models or whoever you can provide additional value to the business). This way the limited resources on your current CoE are seen as a roadblock to additional success, rather than a cost to be minimized.
In order to accomplish this, it’s critical to measure and report the key successes of the current team. We are definitely in the early stages of maturity in terms of CoEs reporting internal ROI metrics, but it’s something we’re starting to see more of, and will share out more examples in the coming months. In the meantime you can review some of the success metrics we report for our customers at anaplan.com/customers, though you may already have a good sense of the benefit you’ve provided.
And if those metrics don’t make the strongest case on their own, I’d recommend peeling away to find some time to build some quick proof of concepts to demonstrate the potential for Anaplan to solve new challenges or use cases to key executive sponsors. When leaders can see the speed and value you can bring to the business, it becomes much easier for them to invest in expanding your team, since there’s a direct benefit to the bottom line (not just the cost of expanding your team).
That said, you may not even have your 2-3 FTEs. If that’s the case, I would recommend reviewing some of the customer CoE success stories that are out there (CPX 2019 SF CoE panel, CPX 2019 London CoE panel, Anaplan Live! customer panel, etc.), or connect directly with a similar Anaplan customer as a reference, to help show your leadership team that you’re prepared to help maximize the value of the investment they’ve already made in Anaplan. Nobody wants to leave money on the table, so finding similar relatable customers who have articulated the value they received from building even a small CoE may help you get the ball rolling.
Wishing you the best of luck with your additional investment, hope that helps!
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Hi @SerenaZ, thanks for the great question, lots to dig into here!
I’ll start with some honesty, I haven’t see a a whole lot of examples of this in general. That said there are some commonalities across the few examples that I have seen, and realistically they all have to do with the actions of the members of the CoE, regardless of team size.
The first and probably most impactful way to maintain the CoE structure through leadership changes is to have a strong Anaplan technical expert (hopefully a Certified Master Anaplanner, like you Serena!) take responsibility for maintaining the day-to-day consistency of the Anaplan footprint, almost like a grassroots effort to maintain governance regardless of formal org structure. This is even more helpful if there is a visionary CoE Leader on the team to also maintain order (keep an eye out for upcoming resources to launch soon describing this in more detail), though realistically in this situation the technical expertise is more critical than the CoE Leader role.
Then it’s the job of that Master Anaplanner to roll up their sleeves and demonstrate key wins to the new executive sponsor (if one has been assigned), or to take Anaplan on a road show to ideal new exec sponsors. Things I’ve seen succeed are demonstrating ROI from previous implementations, sharing praise and comments from business users who have benefitted from Anaplan, or even just quickly building Proof Of Concept dashboards to demonstrate speed and value in the language of the new exec sponsor(s). This idea of “internally selling Anaplan” to executives is a great way to ensure you maintain control over your CoE structure (by helping your leadership appropriately understand the benefit of this team’s existence and your role in defining the best path forward), and is also a great way to accelerate your career growth as part of this hypergrowth ecosystem. Along those lines, Arjun Rai and Kyle @sakowski27 just finished describing this in more detail in our interview from a few weeks ago around the 17:10 mark, and of course I recommend checking out the whole interview.
If executed correctly by somebody like you, senior leaders should begin fighting over who gets to own the Anaplan footprint and CoE, and your job becomes picking and aligning to whomever has the best strategic vision for enabling Connected Planning at the company, leveraging your past success and role as the Anaplan SME to ensure you have a say in the matter.
The examples I’d reference are from customers who recently underwent an acquisition, where they maintained a leadership role in their CoE by having the more successful series of Anaplan implementations, and also from another Certified Master Anaplanner who moved from one region with a strong CoE to another region with no CoE, who was able to leverage his mastery of the Anaplan platform to generate the political capital necessary to receive approval to build another team in his new region (not that there should always be separate regional CoEs within one company, but that’s a story for another question).
Really great question with lots of room to elaborate further, hope this helps!
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Hi @JaredDolich, thanks for being such a great CoE advocate to your clients!
Great question, and you're absolutely right that the best CoEs have found a balance of removing themselves as a bottleneck to model development while ensuring consistent quality and adherence to best practices.
What I’ve learned from these customers is that working towards this goal doesn’t start by achieving 100% of both, but rather prioritizing enablement of business users (empowering modelers as you said), and working as hard as possible to support them through any errors they face or defects that are inevitably caused, as quickly as reasonable given limited resources.
When done best, success here looks like an exponential increase in the creativity of problems solved within Anaplan by outside modelers, which should be released in increasing speed over time.
Here’s an example of what this looks like in real life. One of our strongest CoE leaders told me that they knew they had achieved success here when they were conducting a model audit one day, and stumbled onto a really complex set of calculations that they didn’t understand. After investigating further, turns out that several months ago the business had used Anaplan to completely solve one of the biggest challenges the company had been facing for years, all without the CoE ever knowing. Of course to get there that particular CoE leader had spent a ton of time cleaning up peoples’ messes first, and there were still some elements of the build that had to be tweaked to come into alignment with best practices, but it was worth it for this solution that the CoE had never even thought to bring into Anaplan!
Hope that helps!
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And we’re live!! I hope you find this brief video useful in orienting yourself towards the most common steps of building an Anaplan CoE. And now I’m happy to dive into the details on any questions you have, either regarding the video, broader CoE development maturity curve, or any other topic you may want to discuss regarding your CoE. Don’t hold back Anaplan Community, Ask Me Anything!
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According to a Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) Study, recently conducted by Forrester Consulting, it was reported that the Anaplan platform can deliver a 3X return on investment. To understand the fundamentals associated with an Anaplan investment, Forrester anonymously interviewed seven long-term customers, then developed a composite organization based on interview data to reflect the TEI that the platform could have on an organization. Based on its 2019 analysis, Forrester determined that the composite company realizes an Anaplan ROI of 324% over a three-year period. To learn more, download the study.
In the Forrester conducted research, Centers of Excellence (CoE) were specifically identified as critical for the success of maintaining and scaling your Anaplan footprint across the organization. Whether you call your team a Center of Excellence, Anaplanner Council, Anaplan Community of Practice, or anything else (see: Alternative Names for an Anaplan Centers of Excellence), the results are clear: Connected Planning cannot be achieved without the underlying team of Connected People.
As a result, I’d like to take this opportunity to connect the findings from the recent TEI study to our repository of best practices on how to build an Anaplan Center of Excellence.
From the study:
“In Year 1, the center of excellence is composed of four model builders, growing each year… The Anaplan center of excellence may include more than six model builders.”
While a new Center of Excellence can be stood up with as few as two dedicated resources, the average size of an Anaplan CoE is four to six full-time people. What types of individuals should take those roles, what are their responsibilities, and where should they sit in the organization? We have thoroughly documented the most successful approaches to the structure of this team in the Center of Excellence Roles and Responsibilities article within the CoE section of the Anaplan Community. To get started, your team should have representatives for the following roles.
From this chart, you should begin with the three most critical roles, which are the Solution Architect, Executive Sponsor, and Business Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). Starting with the Solution Architect, this is your strongest in-house Anaplan expert, who should either currently be or have applied for and be working towards becoming a Certified Master Anaplanner. Next up is a strong unified Executive Sponsor who will oversee the current and future Anaplan footprint. This individual is responsible for connecting corporate strategic objectives with tactical planning and execution, and we are beginning to see the adoption of the Chief Planning Officer as a role suitable for fulfilling these responsibilities.
Lastly, and most importantly, the Business SME(s) must represent each group of end users. These SMEs are typically embedded within the business group using Anaplan and are responsible for defining and validating that the Anaplan models fully meet their planning needs. They are also tasked with identifying opportunities to evolve current-state planning business processes into future-state transformational processes by leveraging the full power of the Anaplan platform. In many cases to get started, two or three individuals will represent all of these roles, and further role differentiation occurs as the group matures over time and the Anaplan footprint expands within the organization.
From the study:
“One interviewed customer also included representatives from each business function including sales, finance, supply chain, and human resources.”
Once you’ve identified these individuals, where should they sit within the organization given the broad reach of Connected Planning? We recommend that the Anaplan CoE be located as close to the business users as possible (organizationally, politically, and even physically where possible), which usually ends up meaning many different people separated across many different functions.
Many CoEs embrace a more informal organization structure, especially at first, where the members of the CoE share a “dotted reported line” to each other and the CoE lead and executive sponsor. Any reporting structure can be successful so long as the group retains a strong meeting cadence and remains in constant communication with the business. For example, your model builders may not be located in the same departments, lines of business, or even physical offices, like in the following typical example. The important part is that there is a centralized core group of at least one or two people who are dedicated to the governance, scalability, and consistency of the entire Anaplan footprint across all of these federated teams.
From the study:
“One of the interviewed organizations included two FTEs responsible for extract, transform, and load (ETL) in the center of excellence.”
What is the role of IT in your CoE, and how much should external technical resources be included? As the image above shows, IT plays a critical role in the successful implementation of your Anaplan models. Connected Planning also requires Connected Data, which is typically where IT plays the most important role. Similar to your model builders, whether these individuals are formally reallocated to a full-time Anaplan CoE position is a decision that will vary by customer. A key element to success will require that these individuals be identified and have their responsibilities to the Anaplan CoE formally recognized.
From the study:
“The center of excellence also provides central oversight over the development of models.”
Now that you’ve identified and put together your team, what exactly should they be working on, and how do they help maximize the value of your Anaplan investment?
At its core, the CoE must ensure the production stability of deployed models. Anaplan is a business-owned tool, so the business owners within the CoE should take a page from the IT playbook on “business as usual” to ensure consistent system functionality and uptime. From there, the CoE is responsible for pivoting from a supporting reactive role to a proactive role of driving value for the business and advocating for and bringing Connected Planning to broader organizational audience. We like to think of this group as the individuals who hold the sledgehammers used for breaking down traditional siloes of legacy planning processes. Once there, review more details about some specific functions that many of our customers have assigned to their CoEs to take active ownership of driving the most value from the Anaplan footprint.
From the study:
“At the time of interview, at least one organization had not yet formed a formal center of excellence but had plans to develop one in its connected planning roadmap.”
If you don’t have an Anaplan CoE yet, when and how should you get started? While the specific next steps depend on where you are in your Anaplan journey, the correct answer is to start now regardless of what phase you are in. If you are in the beginning of your first Anaplan implementation or are just starting to build your first large-scale use case with broader impacts requiring a CoE, we recommend leveraging the User Accepted Testing (UAT) cycle of your implementation following The Anaplan Way to get started.
If you’ve been using Anaplan for a while with several use cases in production, the best place to start is by identifying your core team members and formalizing their roles and responsibilities and then setting up a regularly recurring meeting cadence. From there, every CoE can take its own shape, and your Customer Success Business Partner is there to help based on your unique situation, including providing feedback compared to other similar successful customers and pointing you to the latest and greatest resources and best practices within the Anaplan Community.
Do you have a Center of Excellence in your organization? How can we help you build one? Let us know your thoughts on developing a CoE in the comments below.
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Thanks @wquan! For the first launch the primary goal was introducing the model and providing more details on the specific engagement opportunities (more details than just the tile names that we shared when we launched the maintenance requirements). Currently the data load is very manual and time-intensive, and while we're still working out the kinks we're targeting a monthly data refresh, with the next one coming in the next week or so. The goal is to move this to a more automated process, which won't happen for at least the next quarter or two, but in the meantime move toward more regular data refreshes as we streamline the process. Hope that helps!
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Regarding your question on APIs, for those tools you can either build your own REST API, or learn more from our cloud integration partners like Informatica Connect, Snap Logic, Dell Boomi, or Mulesoft. Here's the link to all of our integration documentation.
On your model synchronization and ALM question, I recommend you work with your implementation partner and/or CSBP to dive into your more specific details, as situations like this are highly dependent on your individual implementation of Anaplan. That said, regarding updating your imports across development and production-deployed models, I recommend learning more about how the Production Import setting may be useful in some of your use cases.
Hope this helps!
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Hi @Shweta, I can provide a short- and medium-term answer, to supplement YY's long-term strategic vision.
Short-term, there is the mailto function that you can explore in Anapedia and the Community, which lets end users click a button to generate an email directly from within Anaplan.
Medium-term, there are some creative advanced solutions within the Master Anaplanner community on automating this through Anaplan Connect. I’d recommend to either find a Master Anaplanner to brainstorm with for your business, or become a Master Anaplanner and join the conversation.
Hope that helps!
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@tristan.colgate Really great article! Here I was thinking I had the right solution by using a boolean in a CALC module with the formula ISNOTBLANK(FINDITEM(Sales Rep, CODE(ITEM(Employee)))). Your solution here is a much more elegant formula, AND limits sparsity by only applying the calculation where the result would be true (though sparsity issues are already minimal for booleans). Love this idea to optimize this calculation event further, thanks for sharing!
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For me, the most enjoyable part of being a Certified Master Anaplanner continues to be participation in the tight-knit community of Master Anaplanners. I love our private User Group and all of the amazing ideas that people much smarter than myself share, and I've noticed a huge uptick in engagement within our group over the last few months compared to prior years, really driving the future and pushing the boundaries of what can be done with Anaplan!
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Thank you @Ameneh and @Beauram! This was a huge effort throughout the year that you took very seriously. Your commitment to thoroughness and transparency will go a long way in ensuring the stability and success of this prestigious program, and I'm very proud of the work we've done here!
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