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Take a deep dive into the perspectives featured in this post. Join us for an exciting live video webinar on Tuesday, October 22 at 10AM PST for “Plan It Forward! A Live Finance Conversation with McAfee and Activision.”
Jeff Brobst, VP FP&A at McAfee, shares how he and his team escaped the “one size fits all” fate of financial planning by tailoring their Hyperion implementation with Anaplan. Patrick O’Brien, Senior Finance Manager, shares how four teams at Activision have easily tailored Anaplan to each of their individual departmental perspectives. Register here!
McAfee, a wholly owned subsidiary of Intel Corporation, is the world’s largest dedicated security technology company. It helps secure systems, networks, and mobile devices around the world, allowing users to safely connect to the Internet, browse, and shop on the web more securely. It has all of the complexity to be expected of a modern multinational organization – one with approximately half of its revenues in North America and the remainder spread throughout the world in more than 130 countries.
In 2008, McAfee implemented Hyperion Planning to centralize the budgeting and forecasting processes of their various business groups in a single, secure system. Over the next three years, the company’s growing and changing operational planning proved increasingly ill-matched to the rigidity of Hyperion’s architecture. Looking for more flexibility, the finance team found themselves turning to Access and Excel. Their dependence was so great that an internal study of usage conducted in 2011 revealed 90% of employees were building models in Excel and uploading them into Hyperion for the sake of compliance. Instead of using the EPM to plan, users had reduced its function to a budgeting and forecasting consolidation tool.
Looking to solve the planning work-around problem, Jeff Brobst, Vice President of FP&A at McAfee, contacted Anaplan. McAfee’s sales operations team had just successfully implemented quota management and territory management applications on their cloud-based modeling platform. Jeff realized, “the team could expand on the applications built for Sales Ops and start replacing our siloed modeling and planning sales compensation solution.”
Four months later, their Excel and Access databases had been retired and replaced with a single, connected data model. This new solution allowed sales finance analysts, sales reps, and executives the ability to review compensation entitlement in real-time. The new process removed the entire consolidation step, eliminated errors, and cut days of work out for the finance team. Kimberly Alfieri, GTM Finance Operations and Planning commented on the incredible increase in efficiency: “With Anaplan, our worldwide commission reassigns were reduced from 20,000 a quarter to 200. People were getting paid the right commission, and getting paid on time.”
But that was just the beginning. With the commissions application up and running, the finance team built another application for deal discounting to optimize revenue yield. More applications followed. Now, two years after the first application went live, McAfee has moved a large number of planning and modeling processes into Anaplan. “Once we move a group to Anaplan for the planning, they’ll spit out models they need to uncover trends and to provide better analysis,” said Brobst. “We don’t tell users what constructs they have to use; they’re planning on their own. By next year the vast majority of McAfee’s planning and forecasting functions will be connected in the Anaplan platform.”
The transition away from Hyperion toward Anaplan’s “Connected Enterprise” solution over the past two years came about for one simple reason: Anaplan provides McAfee what they always needed in a planning solution — user-driven modeling, adaptability on the fly, cloud connectivity, and real-time performance no matter the data volume and complexity. Anaplan is empowering business users all across McAfee to turn the complexity of their business operations into powerful, easy-to-use models one process at a time.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
“In larger corporations every group does their modeling, planning, and forecasting a little bit diﬀerently,” explained Jeff. “Sales does things based on capacity models and commissions, R&D is more project-based, IT is project-based but in a diﬀerent way. The traditional planning tools, Hyperion included, don’t truly cater to that reality. They’ve become IT-centric in terms of administration. But it’s next to impossible for IT to grasp the nuances of business rules across diﬀerent business groups, forcing them into a one-size ﬁts all approach. This always sends the business users back to Excel.”
“For example,” Jeff continued, “an IT person doesn’t know how to deﬁne revenue recognition for software. And they’re not supposed to. It takes a ﬁnancial person to do that. But no ﬁnance person wants to model in Excel and explain to IT how to do it in Hyperion. So they end up doing it themselves in Excel, and then Hyperion has no intelligence other than receiving an upload.”
The one application McAfee allocated to Hyperion was the largest in the company: a process of managing 3000 cost centers with 200 planners. Even here, Hyperion created problematic over-simplifications. “Sales people travel more than ﬁnance people. Some sales people travel more than others. There are too many changing rules for one IT administrator to reﬂect subtle variations in the T&A burden, but Hyperion places the responsibility on IT to model those variations anyway. It’s an impossible task, and assumptions get oversimpliﬁed.”
To Each His Own Model
By contrast, Anaplan gives every single modeler the flexibility to build models as their business processes dictate in an immensely powerful cloud environment. “Working in the cloud, you get a couple of key things,” said Jeff. “One: you don’t have to gather the data yourself. You don’t have to run reports and load them into Excel. You subscribe to a single source of truth that the corporation provides. Two: you deﬁne, collaborate, and maintain models in the moment through the Anaplan Hub.”
The Anaplan Hub allows the business to rapidly build applications using shared lists from other applications. It is the key innovation behind the rapid proliferation of Anaplan applications throughout McAfee. “The Hub lets you deﬁne as many models as you want. You can delete models just like Excel ﬁles. You can expand on them. It has enabled our business analysts to build individual models representing their unique business processes for their respective groups. We don’t tell them how to plan. They plan themselves.” This is, of course, what McAfee was doing with Excel, but then, as Jeff remembers, “ﬁles were ﬂoating around, there was no collaboration, minimal security, no real-time building, capacity constraints, dirty data – all the Excel issues.”
Big Data – Granular Views
Jeff believes the truly unprecedented aspect of Anaplan’s technology is the ability to combine Excel-like flexibility in a structured, scalable framework with immense processing power. For the first time, users working with massive models can analyze at the granular levels of detail necessary for precision planning. “People can drill through on the drivers without losing sight of the bigger picture, which has made our decision-making much better,” said Jeff. “There’s nothing else out there that gives you the capability to do that with very very large data sets. Every other tool requires you to create a much higher summarized level of detail before someone can start applying rules.”
Anaplanners aren’t just analyzing at the lowest level of detail, they’re doing so instantly. “The calculations are in-memory – so you don’t have to wait for a job to run. As soon as we type any cell – and we have billion cell models – it reverberates through the entire model real time. That’s been huge for the ﬁnance team.” As Jeff recalls, Hyperion never gave them that kind of instantaneity. “When we run a report in Hyperion, it’s not ‘live.’ You have to run a calc script to do the aggregations. And that means if someone that works for me inputs a departmental forecast, I have to wait two hours to see those changes reﬂected in my results. Two hours per change adds up to a lot of lost time.”
“We love the cloud from a usability standpoint, but it’s been just as good for eﬃciency,” said Jeff. “Now we don’t have to spend millions of dollars every three years to upgrade to a new version. On a SaaS model you’re being upgraded all the time. Now, you’re getting new feature sets on a regular basis. You don’t have to wait. And that’s a much more eﬃcient model for IT insofar as they’re not having to maintain software, they’re just maintaining ETLs into the data hub.”
Enhancements on Demand
Anaplan approaches development on a continuous feedback model in two-month cycles. “They’re very proactive about listening to customers and letting those discussions aﬀect the direction of the product. On several occasions we’ve requested critical enhancements and Anaplan has delivered them a month later. It’s been tremendous,” declared Jeff. “And of course, you’re never going to get that with on–premise software. It used to be that if we needed a new feature it was ‘wait till next year’ – and even then upgrades required consultancy to incorporate into the operational system.”
The Complete Business Operations Platform
Like many large enterprises, McAfee chose to implement Hyperion to acquire an all-in-one solution. But the legacy approach to EPM did not match the business sophistication, multi-user engagement, and real-time performance demands of McAfee’s increasingly large and complex plans. Nor did Excel give them the consolidation, speed, and scalability to stay ahead of critical business events and course correct on the fly.
Now, Anaplan is well on its way to being a complete business operations platform for McAfee. Across the board, processes are getting pulled out of Excel and into the Anaplan cloud platform, where they connect to each other and one version of the truth. Jeff predicts that this process will simply continue until the entire planning function is in Anaplan. “We don’t have anyone that’s actually built a model who doesn’t like the platform – and that’s not true of all tools. Once users work with it they all end up loving it.”
Jeff is quick to reel off the list of benefits Anaplan has brought to McAfee’s business groups. “Everyone is on the same page. We’ve got a dynamic understanding of where the business is. We can drill down on the details of multi billion cell models. We’ve got more time for value–add work and we’re making better decisions. All of that is going to add significant margin points to our business over time.” The Anaplan Platform is now the strategic platform to manage all of McAfee’s business planning and operation processes. “People have always talked about ‘integrated business planning’ and the ‘connected enterprise,” said Jeff. “But with Anaplan, for the first time, we’re actually doing it.”