Autodesk transforms revenue forecasting and revenue waterfalls with Anaplan



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Did you know that Autodesk has won 21 Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects? That’s a lot of awards. Whether you know it or not, you likely have seen the company’s product in one form or another—it has a broad portfolio of customers in the manufacturing, entertainment, architecture, and construction industries that use their 3D software to design, visualize, and simulate ideas before bringing those ideas to life. Take a look at their online gallery to see some of the many ways their software is used.

Hampered by spreadsheets

Although Autodesk excelled at creating 3D models, the company’s revenue planning processes were another story. As Nick Hanson, Director Finance – Worldwide Sales Finance, and former Sales Operations Finance Manager, shared at Anaplan Hub16 that Autodesk used to struggle with hundreds of disparate spreadsheets that were incapable of supporting forecasting across multiple dimensions (such as 37 local currencies and 7 different license types) in an ever-growing product portfolio. Equally frustrating was the fact that although the individual worksheets contained a lot of useful information, they were not easily accessible, prone to error and crashing—which was a problem when the executive team needed answers fast.

Smarter revenue planning to support business transformation

Autodesk set out to transform their business model from a traditional perpetual license-and-maintenance approach to a cloud-based subscription model. Not only would this require more accurate planning, it would involve more complex revenue recognition processes in order to comply with new accounting rules that go into effect in most countries in 2018. Under this new accounting standard and business model, there are thousands of more levels of detail and transaction meaning there would be even more pressure on Excel—pushed way beyond its capabilities.

For Autodesk, managing this transition with inconsistent and error-prone spreadsheets when senior managers need an accurate view of revenue from both an internal and external perspective was clearly out of the question. So Autodesk set out to find a planning solution that could scale to cope with the burgeoning amount of data, yet was flexible enough to address its changing business needs.

Implementation: Integrated business planning with seamless revenue recognition

After evaluating various vendors, Autodesk chose Anaplan because it allowed the company to adopt an incremental approach to implementing integrated business planning—one that unified sales and operational planning with revenue planning, which was particularly important due to its demanding revenue recognition requirements. Some of the benefits they gained include:

  • A single solution that spans sales quota and territory planning, revenue planning, sales commissions, financial planning and budgeting, revenue recognition, and financial consolidation
  • A phased implementation that required no external consulting support and that eventually replaced hundreds of siloed and inaccurate spreadsheets
  • An implementation that provided more granular planning and a far more intensive process without having to hire more people
  • The ability to roll up a complete forecasting cycle, from sales updates to consolidated revenue reports, in a matter of hours

Stable and scalable revenue forecasting built in-house

Key to Autodesk’s success was replacing 487 individual spreadsheets with consolidated revenue forecasting on a worldwide basis and the ability to support increased complexity and volume that come with the new SAAS & cloud business model. When done in spreadsheets, this process was laborious to manage, frequently corrupted, and almost impossible to audit—it involved tracking new revenue from contracts secured in the current period and deferred revenues stored in the ERP system by different profiles according to their license types, geography, and currency.

Today, that is all done in a single Anaplan model that assigns revenue from new contracts to future periods by using the profiles functionality from the Formulas and Functions app that can be downloaded from the Anaplan App Hub. Not only is Autodesk’s solution robust, easily audited, and simple to manage, they built it themselves without external support.

Addressing the changing rules in revenue recognition is a challenge facing many companies. But as Autodesk has shown, it is easy to do once you have the right tool in place. To find out more about their implementation, watch their recorded presentation.

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