Model Building Excellence & Application Lifecycle Management

Community Manager

Model Building Excellence & Application Lifecycle Management

David Smith has become a household name around here, well versed in all things Anaplan. For those that haven't had the pleasure of interacting with him yet, let us introduce you! 

Tell us about your experience here at Anaplan. How long have you been here?

Four years. A lot has changed in that time!

Four years is a long time. What areas have you worked in? 

At Anaplan, I’ve worked in a variety of roles, but before that, I started life as an accountant.  However, I was never really interested in the technicalities of accounting; I always favored modeling and started my journey at the time Excel was taking off.  I moved from spreadsheets to the multi-dimensional world in 2000 with Adaytum (one of Michael Gould’s first products).  I’ve used a number of different platforms during that time and worked as a system administrator, trainer, pre-sales consultant, and solution architect, so I bring all of that experience to bear in my new role. My current role provides a bridge between product development and customer success, and I am currently leading an initiative to re-define and evolve a new standard of Anaplan modeling (PLANS). This will define the best practices of model building, balancing performance, usability, and sustainability.

What is your area of expertise, and how did you achieve it?

My passion is planning, and I always want to find the best, most efficient way to model.  I am an expert in most things Anaplan, but my specialty has to be model design; I bring all of the techniques learned from the different platforms I have worked with to build efficient, well-structured models that are easy to maintain.  I am also expert in Application Lifecycle Management, having overseen the enablement of this fantastic feature since its launch in 2016.

What is your favorite thing about Anaplan?

I can model the way I think! I can build (and amend) models so much quicker than ever before. As an example, I recently worked with a colleague to re-configure a model by changing the dimensionality of all major modules.  We did that in four hours.  That’s just not possible in most other systems.  I’m also so excited about the forthcoming Dynamic Cell Access.  I’ve personally championed this feature, and it will change how we model (in a very, very good way).

Tell us one fun fact about yourself! 

I’m right-handed, but I deal cards left-handed. Apparently, I was left-handed as a baby, until the age for four, or five, and only when I started copying my elder brother did I switch; so I guess there are some things left over that I instinctively do “the wrong way round.”

Note: The live Q&A session is now closed.

Below you'll find a quick reference guide to specific questions featured in the video. Don't forget to check out the BONUS question from our expert to hear more about the DISCO planning methodology.

  • Introduction 00:05
  • Protecting data in a version when a formula changes 00:33
  • Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) and best practices 02:27
  • Balancing agility and governance using ALM 04:45
  • Formulas to avoid 07:43
  • Best practices in multi-tiered accounts 10:15
  • New features and functions and Dynamic Cell Access 11:24
  • Keeping models clean 13:32
  • BONUS: David’s DISCO 14:56
New Contributor

Hi David,

In a environment where we will regularly need to:

  • Update switch over dates for versions (once a week)
  • Run larger model developments that will take multiple weeks to complete
  • & have the agililty to implement minor fixes as required
  • where work is completed by more than one model builder

What do you think is the best approach to environment structure to support a good balance of agility and governance with Anaplan?

E.g: how many models? How many workspaces? How is ALM used? Different user access to different workspaces?

Frequent Contributor

Hi David,

Would be interesting to get your opinion on which formulas to avoid.

EG some of them can slow down the performance, others can corrupt the calculations (like ROUND does) etc..



Certified Master Anaplanner

Hi David,

For organizations that don't have ALM available, what is your opinion on best practices around continuing development and model transitions?



New Contributor

I am not a model-builder myself but liaise with a team of model-builders. I ask my question as the business owner of Forecasting data.

We have closed previous Forecast version in ANAPLAN (e.g. March FCST) but when a formula is changed ( e.g. for a live April version), all past CLOSED versions automatically update and the $ in the closed versions change.

This is not acceptable as the older versions were published and now if we refer to them live in ANAPLAN for variance analysis, the $ are different to that published in the past for management reporting. Data has to be manually tweaked in excel for prior versions.

How do we avoid this?  


Hi David,

In the US, Income Statements typically display both Revenue and Expenses positively.

For example:

Sales 100

Cost of Goods Sold 50

Gross Margin = 50

Since Anaplan's default aggregation behavior is to sum all children to derive the parent, it becomes challenging to calculate totals correctly while also displaying values that conform to customer Reporting standards. Assuming a multi-tiered Accounts list (likely ragged), what are some best practices to work around this issue?

I've used Line Items before for each Account, which allow for some more flexibility around display and formulas, however the line items are cumbersome to update as new Accounts are added to the source system that must also be included in Anaplan's account list.

I've also seen instances where 3 different line items are used, dimensionalized by an Accounts list to come up with a proper display. Line Item 1 = where data is input, both Revenue and Expenses input as positive. Line Item 2 = Converts expenses from positive to negative. Line Item 3 = For Level 0 list members, take the value from Line Item 1 and for parents, calculate the proper total by subtracting Line Item 2 from Line Item 1. 

Curious if you've seen anything in your experience that gets around these issues.

Occasional Contributor


From a builder perspective, what new features or functions on the roadmap are you the most excited for?  What and how can this improve model building in Anaplan?


Community Manager

There's still time to ask your questions! We're wrapping up tomorrow morning, so get them in today. 

Community Manager

Thanks for all the great questions this week! Watch for the video to be posted by end of day on Friday. Any questions that didn't make the cutoff for the video will be answered directly in the forum. We'll also leave this topic open for a few more days for any follow-up questions. 

Occasional Contributor

I know that it's good to keep your Anaplan Models clean so that they are easier to manage over time... removing fields that are no longer used, removing old import actions you no longer need, deleting old archived models, etc...

 In your job, do you follow a schedule to clean your models on a regular basis or do you do it simply as you notice something that's no longer needed.


Thank you.