Planning is absolutely essential in an economic climate where globalisation, technical advance, and the impacts of a global recession have removed all of the old certainties, and the common understanding that we had about the markets in which we operate. The rate of change is accelerating making planning central to success. Traditional planning tends to be performed by one of two approaches. The first is to use a slew of spreadsheets, which interlink to varying degrees, and produce plans that reflect the basic assumptions built into the design of the spreadsheets. More sophisticated users employ more complex tools such as TM1 and Hyperion to build their plans. Both in my opinion are far stronger at building a plan, than they are at supporting a planning process. The problem with plans is that they are only as good as the assumption used to underpin them, and as soon as real world events occur plans are out of date and need to be revised. Due to the sheer complexity of traditional approaches forecasting, planning and budgeting has become for many a once a year activity. The spreadsheets lack comprehensive integration, they are very complex in the operations they use to produce their results and the lineage of how the data is captured and is fed through the layers of spreadsheets is often far from clear. The more sophisticated tools, are far better at integrating the individual models into an holistic model of the business, and are far better at addressing the issue of data lineage, but they remain highly complex to build and maintain. Once something is that complex you do not want to fiddle with it, so the planning cycle becomes a one off, you get an answer and you monitor against it. Hence why these are very good at supporting plans, but are not so good at supporting planning as an on-going business process at the core of a flexible responsive entity. Obviously if you only use a tool once a year, this compounds the problem because you have to relearn how to use it every time you return to it.
Then you have Anaplan, an integrated, visual planning and modelling environment that runs in the cloud, producing results in real time, from an intuitive point and click interface. Anaplan is robust and sophisticated that does all that the more traditional tools can do, but it does it better. In addition it has an Apps Hub, where they and their partners, which includes a number of the big global accountancy based companies such as Deloittes and PWC who spend so much of their time building these models provide prebuilt templates to address many of the use cases that will be required. This reduces the time and risk in deployment and increases the time to return value on the investment.
Anaplan encourages models to be built, and then used for on-going planning, it actively encourages what if modelling and scenario building, not only to test the original model, but also to test assumptions on an on-going basis when real world events do not follow the assumptions made at the start of the year. The results of all adjustments are tracked, versioned and audited, and produce their updates in real time. All elements can be linked and aligned. The data lineage is readily traced via a visual interface. The business rules are likewise held in a central repository, where they are stated in plain English, so everyone can trace, understand and use with confidence. The workflow is monitored and recorded, there is full roll back and logging, so the environment is robust and user friendly to a degree that the competitors really cannot match.
In a world in which the ability to adapt and change to meet evolving challenges has never been more vital Anaplan stands out as the ideal companion with the mixture of capabilities that makes it stand out