Anaplan Implementation Tips: What To Consider When Moving Off Spreadsheets

Makrand Jadhav 📋 blog 📅 June 24, 2024

In a short span of time, Anaplan has leap frogged most legacy vendors to achieve pole position in the business planning domain. With its connected planning proposition and the unique patented Hyperblock technology it has helped organizations address complex planning challenges in diverse areas such as Financial Planning & Analysis, Sales & Operations planning, Sales &  Marketing planning and Workforce planning. Today more than 2,300 organizations rely on Anaplan for their planning needs.

For organization moving from spreadsheets to Anaplan is an important milestone. They now get the flexibility of multi-dimensional modelling, analysis & dashboards, access control & auditability, source data integration, multi-user collaboration, and extreme scalability. 

However implementing Anaplan solution effectively requires careful planning and execution. Creating effective Anaplan models requires consideration of design principles and best practices. Here are tips to help you navigate the process. By following these tips, you can increase the likelihood of a successful Anaplan implementation:

Clear Objectives: Begin with a clear understanding of your organization's goals and objectives for implementing Anaplan – is it for revenue planning or corporate budgeting or forecasting or costing? Define what success looks like and align the implementation plan accordingly.

Engage Stakeholders: Involve key stakeholders from various departments early in the process. Their input will be crucial for designing models that meet the needs of the entire organization.

Start Small, Scale Up: Begin with a pilot project or a smaller implementation to demonstrate quick wins and build momentum. Use this opportunity to fine-tune your approach before scaling up to larger models.

Understand the Business Process: Before diving into model development, thoroughly understand the underlying business process or problem you're trying to solve. This understanding will guide your model design and ensure it aligns with business needs. Peek into the future 18-24 months and envisage the future state before finalizing the business requirements.

Simplify Where Possible: Keep your models as simple as possible while still addressing the complexity of your business requirements. Avoid unnecessary complexity that can make models difficult to understand and maintain. Decide which of your spreadsheet templates will be taken forward and which ones need to be aborted. Remember that everything is spreadsheets can be modelled but not in the same way.

Use Lists and Hierarchies: Leverage Anaplan lists and hierarchies to represent structured data such as organizational units, products, or geographic regions. Hierarchies simplify data management and enable powerful roll-up and drill-down capabilities.

Optimize Module Design: Design modules with performance in mind by limiting the number of dimensions, avoiding overly large modules, and using selective access where appropriate. Break down complex calculations into smaller, more manageable modules for easier troubleshooting.

Iterative Approach: Embrace an iterative approach to model development and refinement. Solicit feedback from users regularly and incorporate it into ongoing iterations to continuously improve the solution.

Implement Version Control: Establish version control practices to track changes to your models over time. This allows you to revert to previous versions if needed and ensures transparency and accountability in model development.

Make the model future-proof: All businesses evolve over time, so should the Anaplan solution. New business units, territories, segments will be introduced. Pricing model, allocation rules, business definitions may change every year. Avoid hard coding, define business rules centrally, maintain consistent definitions are just some of the ways which will ensure that the model will be able to support the organizational requirements going forward.

Document Your Model: Document your model thoroughly, including explanations of assumptions, formulas, and module structures. This documentation will help new users understand the model and facilitate knowledge transfer.

Validate and Test: Like any other enterprise application, validate your model inputs and outputs to ensure accuracy and reliability. Test the model under various scenarios to identify and address potential issues before deploying it in a production environment. Ensure that the period close cycles are included in your test cases.

Iterate and Refine: Model development is an iterative process. Solicit feedback from users and stakeholders, and incorporate their input to refine and improve the model over time. Be open to making adjustments as business needs evolve.

Data Quality is Key: Ensure that your data is accurate, complete, and consistent before importing it into Anaplan. Invest time in data cleansing and validation processes to prevent issues downstream.

Consider Performance: Optimize your model for performance by minimizing calculation times and optimizing data imports. Use Anaplan's performance tools and guidelines to identify bottlenecks and optimize model performance. 

Model Design Best Practices: Follow Anaplan's best practices for model design, such as using proper naming conventions, organizing modules logically, and leveraging hierarchies effectively. This will make your models more scalable and easier to maintain.

Plan for Scalability: Design your model with scalability in mind to accommodate future growth and changes in business requirements. Anticipate potential expansion of data volumes and user base, and plan accordingly to ensure the model can scale effectively.

Performance Optimization: Monitor the performance of your Anaplan solution and models regularly and optimize them for speed and efficiency. This may involve streamlining calculations, reducing unnecessary data imports, or optimizing dashboard design. Determine the optimum amount of history data to be maintained – 3 or 5 years is usually sufficient.  Do not overload the system with transactional data, unless absolutely essential to the use case.

Governance and Security: Establish clear governance policies to ensure data integrity, compliance, and security within Anaplan. Define roles and responsibilities, access controls, and audit trails to maintain accountability and transparency.

User Training and Adoption: Invest in comprehensive training for end-users to ensure they understand how to use Anaplan effectively. If your users are medium-to-advanced spreadsheet users, they are 30-40% ready for Anaplan. It’s a good idea to have one of your team members take up Anaplan model builder level-2, or level-3 certification. Use the model map to onboard new users quickly. Ensure you hold separate training for end-users and admin users, preferably before starting the UAT. Foster a culture of continuous learning and provide ongoing support to encourage adoption.

Change Management: Implementing Anaplan often involves changes to existing processes and workflows. Develop a robust change management plan to address resistance, communicate updates, involve all relevant stake holders early and facilitate a smooth transition.

Select an Anaplan implementation partner with Master Anaplanner skills: With the growth in Anaplan’s market presence, its partner community has also grown. But separating the excellent ones requires you to dig deeper – do they have the right skills, certifications, experience and team. While most partners have Anaplan model builders and solution architects, only select few have the most advanced Anaplan certification i.e. Master Anaplanner. Have they implemented for similar segments and use cases. Are their Anaplan implementation consultants technical experts or do they also possess sound business and use-case understanding. 

By following these tips, you can build Anaplan models that are efficient, reliable, and aligned with your organization's business objectives. And thus increase the likelihood of a successful Anaplan solution implementation that delivers value to your organization.

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