In the 16 months from March 2020 to July 2021, business, government, and social organizations in the United States have faced unprecedented challenges to their very survival, as well as vast uncertainty about when there would be a return to normal economic conditions, or even what “the new normal” might look like. But now there are plentiful signs that economic growth is about to take off, although that may unfold at a quite different rate for some organizations and industries than others. Given the many unknown factors and conditions that can affect future revenue and expense (especially labor costs and supply chains,) there is a tremendous opportunity for Anaplan partners to help their current customers build on their existing Anaplan platform to improve profitability, aid in resource allocation decisions, and maximize adaptability to the still swiftly evolving environment.
This is especially true for the higher education sector, which was facing some existential challenges even before March 2020. The good news is that one of the major credit rating agencies in the US recently raised its outlook for the sector from negative to stable, noting improved applications for enrollment, more consistent state funding, and increased revenue from students living and dining on campus.
However, this applies mainly to research and flagship state institutions and may prove difficult to achieve for smaller colleges that have fewer financial resources and weaker demand for their programs. There is an old saying that is particularly appropriate for the higher education sector at this moment: “When you see light at the end of the tunnel, beware that it may be a freight train heading your way.” Many colleges are on thin ice financially. Much of higher education has been struggling for some time when it comes to its financial health. Levels of state funding still have not returned to pre-2008 levels, degree-seeking enrollments are now in their eleventh consecutive year of decline, and the pandemic forced many colleges to draw down on financial reserves. Federal stimulus funding helped support many U.S. colleges the past year. But without large federal infusions going forward, there are a number of colleges and universities that may well face closure in the next 1-2 years.
As many college and university financial managers discovered over the past two years, Anaplan's Connected Planning software and models provide an ideal platform to address both their fundamental planning processes, and the ability to quickly and easily add new features and functionality to address emerging challenges. This is particularly true of the requirement to continuously monitor spending in order to remain safely within the parameters of existing and projected financial resources. A leading expert in higher education has called on higher education leaders (senior administration and governing boards) to optimize spending and prioritize areas such as student success, rather than relying on incremental spending formulas typically used by college and university financial managers.
In this environment, Anaplan partner truED Consulting has an opportunity to help its existing college and university customers to expand their use of the Anaplan's Connected Planning platform and prepare themselves for ongoing financial challenges and evolving into agile organizations. The mini-case study of several truED clients in this blog may serve as a guide for other Anaplan partners who strive to create additional value for their current customers by leveraging the strengths and ease of use of Anaplan software.
The Anaplan platform replaces the patchwork of outdated tools from other legacy enterprise performance management tools that do not interact well with each other and does away with the manual planning processes that are often overly complex, inefficient, and costly. The Anaplan platform can handle high volumes of data processed in real-time. The Anaplan modeling engine—based on proprietary Hyperblock technology—enables thousands of concurrent users to all access a centralized data pool. While legacy planning solutions tend to be focused solely on the finance department, Anaplan’s platform enables collaborative planning across all areas. The technology lets users create detailed planning models that incorporate data down to the transaction level (across university departments, schools, and campuses) to improve decision-making.
The Anaplan platform is constantly being updated with new features and functionality that enable higher education financial managers to model complexity, communicate effectively, and easily prepare multiple scenarios to support and optimize resource allocation in a dynamic environment. For example, the company recently announced that model-to-model import is now available in CloudWorks. Easy to set up and ready to use, model-to-model import helps users move data from one model to another—on the schedule that is right for them and without the need for additional IT resources. Anaplan Extensions for Google Sheets, Microsoft Excel, and PowerPoint help enable agile decision-making and break down silos between online and offline analysis and reporting. And Anaplan’s AppHub enables users to build new solutions and models faster by providing access to proven and tested models and experts with deep insights into workforce planning, revenue forecasting, and scenario modeling.
Anaplan partner firm, truED Consulting, specializes in financial planning and data analysis services exclusively to colleges and universities of all sizes and mission types (i.e., community college, private liberal arts, research university, multi-campus state system). As an Anaplan Partner with a sole focus on the higher education industry, truED Consulting provides institutions with the ability to build a unified planning, budgeting, and forecasting platform across the institution.
In the past two years, truED Consulting helped a variety of colleges and universities to implement Anaplan models for their core annual budgeting processes. Replacing their legacy systems with a Connected Planning platform has helped them to become more agile and survive financially. But with the ongoing challenges faced by the higher education sector, they are ready and able to implement new features and functionality to stay ahead of the curve.
Example Use Cases
A large private research university in southeast U.S. chose multi-year forecasting as the first phase of their Anaplan deployment. Most recently, they have rolled out a new funding request process for departments and a new academic program request process for schools. And now with the help of truED, they are focused on a data hub as Phase 2. Phase 3 will focus on operational and position budgeting, while Phase 4 will add capital budgeting.
A faith-based university in the southwest U.S. went live with its core budgeting process. Now with the help of truED, it is expanding its Anaplan use cases with Position/HR Reporting and Current Year Forecasting. Other potential use cases on the horizon include deploying to their “Online Campus” with monthly reporting and enrollment modeling.
The flagship campus of a university system in the western U.S. recently completed their first cycle in Anaplan for their annual budget process, focused on operational budgeting and position budgeting. Since then, with the help of truED, they have deployed long-range planning. They have more Anaplan expansion plans for the future that include grants planning and medical center planning. In addition, the university system could easily create a new model to help analyze and evaluate the revenue and expense implications of a merger with a small private institution that is struggling financially and may have to close if they are not acquired by a larger, financially stronger university.
A public university in the southwest US completed its second annual budget cycle in Anaplan this year. Since then, our truED team has helped them to deploy long-range forecasting and commitment planning as well.
These are just a few of many examples of universities and colleges that were helped with their initial Anaplan implementation by truED. And now that they have realized the awesome benefits that the Connected Planning platform has to offer, they are capitalizing on the ability to quickly and easily add new functionality and models to stay in front of the continuous challenges before their industry.
Anaplan partners can help their current customers to expand their Anaplan usage and reap ongoing benefits from the power of the Connected Planning platform. This bodes very well for the future growth of Anaplan's Connected Planning software platform and its uses across many sectors of business, government, and society.