• Why continuous improvement is crucial if you’re using Anaplan

Anaplan is a powerful business planning platform with a lot of capabilities. One of the benefits many organizations aim to achieve with Anaplan is gaining company-wide short-term financial insights. This takes smooth collaboration – with various business units and departments using the same planning platform. In practice, this is no easy feat.

By Stephan de Wit, March 2023

The journey of a connected planning program

Rome has not been built in one day. The same can be stated for a connected planning program. It is a journey like building the Sagrada Familia cathedral. Even though it has taken over 125 years, you can see the clear vision, ownership, and firm foundation. You need improvisation and perseverance in a continuously changing environment to realize the ultimate goals.

The same can be said for an organization that understands the transition from hindsight, via insight, to foresight. These days, having a competitive advantage requires more than being in (financial) control and having insights. Smart organizations move to the level of foresight with the help of integrated predictions and artificial intelligence. This is a journey for which – next to a clear vision and a strong foundation – a continuous improvement roadmap is crucial.

Various business processes in one Anaplan platform

“If you select a planning configuration platform such as Anaplan, you do so because you have a clear vision about automating your business planning processes. In most cases, we see the vision is to bring various functions and their planning processes into one platform,” said Stephan de Wit, Performance Management consultant at Finext.

Achieving this vision requires a long-term approach, as you’re not implementing one process but many more. Stephan: “Bringing a single business function into the planning platform may only take a few months, depending on the complexity of the processes. Automating multiple functions, however, often requires a multi-year program based on a continuous improvement approach.”

The challenge of multi-ownership in Anaplan

If you want to service your whole organization with the benefits of Anaplan, many different business units and functions will be involved. This raises the challenge of multi-ownership: all these business units and departments have their own vision and purpose for planning and forecasting.

One way to tackle this challenge is to let everyone create their own planning models. And honestly, Anaplan is so powerful that it enables you to do so. Often, however, this approach results in disappointment as you cannot fully benefit from the connected platform’s value. Then, various business functions will begin questioning the use of the platform and maybe even start their own tool selection or stick to spreadsheets.

Avoid stagnation after the first project

Another disadvantage of this ‘freedom’ approach is that the implementation program may stagnate after the first business owner has completed its project. Say finance is the first business owner. Often, this is where the first project is started. Once finance has finished its implementation, is in control, and has access to all the required processes and reports, this team is happy. In practice, we often see that finance has less motivation to promote the program for other business processes. After all, they’re busy enough with their core activities and can use Anaplan for everything they need themselves. The original business case, however, was based on the vision of bringing multiple business functions into the platform.

Organizational issues

These challenges do not only occur if you’re using Anaplan. All robust platform solutions bring these challenges, as they are so powerful that the aim of bringing multiple processes into one solution is technically feasible. The issues are mostly organizational and thus require an organizational solution.

“We’ve seen that it becomes hit and run if you don’t organize the implementation centralized and based on a solid roadmap. Some departments will start projects and successfully implement their own requirements. Individually, these departments will certainly benefit, but your organization will not get the full value out of the platform or achieve the vision of connected planning,” said Stephan.

Continuous improvement and a Centre of Excellence for Anaplan

Continuous improvement helps to tackle these challenges, even more so if organized in a Centre of Excellence. In such a Centre of Excellence, you can centralize all the expertise and in-depth knowledge needed for the implementation. Above all, you ensure that the ambition to achieve the original vision has one central owner: the Centre of Excellence.

Using this centralized approach supports the organization in achieving all the objectives of the business case, and even more importantly, it opens the door to the foresight level that can bring your organization a competitive advantage. Based on continuous improvement, step-by-step, department-by-department, the roadmap will be realized. Connected planning will come alive as your own Sagrada Familia.

How to set up a Centre of Excellence for Anaplan

Want to know more about organizing continuous improvement by setting up a Centre of Excellence? Discover more in How to start a Centre of Excellence for Anaplan.

Planning, Budgeting & Forecasting Anaplan