Prior to joining Anaplan, I was a Director of Strategic Planning. My responsibilities included driving my company’s long-range plan, three-year annual operating plan, and country plan. I also ensured all strategic planning aligned with the annual plan and quarterly forecasts owned by corporate FP&A. One day I was tapped on the shoulder by the Vice President of Corporate FP&A and told I was volunteered to be the FP&A representative on the Oracle r12 team—so for the next five months, I spent my time with a cross-functional group of employees across IT, Finance, Procurement, Accounting, Tax, and Operations, along with a third-party consulting vendor.
As part of the Oracle upgrade, we revisited the charts-of-accounts string, as well as the business requirements of all the represented teams. The key questions we wanted answered were: What needs to be fixed? And can the Oracle upgrade help?
I interviewed my FP&A colleagues in San Francisco, Europe, and Asia to collect minimum requirements. Ultimately, I gathered over 300 requirements, of which 80 percent were deemed “mission critical” for the FP&A team. Specifically, my FP&A team was asking if the Oracle upgrade could help eliminate some of the spreadsheets that were causing inefficiencies and preventing collaborative planning. They also wanted to know whether it would enhance our Hyperion Essbase instance for the FP&A team.
Unfortunately, at the end of the five months, I received bad news: Given what was budgeted for the project, the resources available, and the go-live timeline, less than 20 percent of the FP&A “mission critical” requirements could be met. I delivered the news to my Senior Vice President of FP&A. Her response was simple, “We are not replacing Hyperion Essbase at this point, but I cannot have our FP&A team operating like this, with disparate data across hundreds of spreadsheets. We can’t agree to a single source of truth with all these spreadsheets, and we’re not collaborating well to make timely, smart decisions. There must be an alternative if we can’t solve this under the umbrella of the Oracle upgrade project.”
So my quest began. I conducted a bake-off among on-premise and cloud vendors, in which I provided a couple tabs from spreadsheets that we could not replicate in our Hyperion Essbase due to complex formulas, and provided the following instructions: “Replicate my formulas. Show me I can eliminate the spreadsheets and get our FP&A team collaborating and planning on your platform with a way to feed data into our Hyperion Essbase instance.”
Two vendors took my driver-based formulas and changed them to run-rate percentages. It was a good attempt, but I wanted to replicate my formulas “as is” with proper drivers for a SaaS business. Another vendor kept telling me not to look “under the hood” and tried to distract us with smoke and mirrors. However, my team and I pushed back. “We want to see how you built the formulas. What if we want to make changes later? Do we have to call you or pay for professional services? We want to own the formulas like we do in spreadsheets.”
The last vendor I met with was Anaplan. The Anaplan team sat with me in a conference room for an hour and used shortcut keys like “Control + [“ to trace the formulas in my spreadsheets to understand my business logic. Then, I sat and watched as my formulas came to life in Anaplan’s planning platform and resembled natural syntax. Anaplan handed over the cockpit to me and my FP&A team so we could test how to build formulas like we do in spreadsheets. The Anaplan team also showed us how to get data out of Anaplan and into our Hyperion Essbase instance without having to compromise our Oracle r12 upgrade or what was previously deployed in Hyperion. We were speechless.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is a valid assumption. Our Hyperion Essbase instance was not necessarily broken, so it didn’t need to be replaced. At the same time, however, it also couldn’t be enhanced for the needs of our FP&A team in a timely and cost effective way. We needed to reduce all the spreadsheets that were floating around our Hyperion instance. Anaplan enhanced our Oracle upgrade without compromising what was built in our Hyperion Essbase instance.
I was so impressed with Anaplan that I decided to join the company. Now, as a four-year veteran at Anaplan, I can confidently attest that my experience as a finance professional with Anaplan was not an anomaly. Hundreds of finance customers have enhanced their on-premise planning solutions with Anaplan when those systems proved to be cost prohibitive to enhance or lacked the flexibility to replicate complex modeling functions for large amounts of data.
That’s not to say Anaplan can’t replace those on-premise planning solutions, too. But sometimes it’s best to implement in phases. Identify critical spreadsheets that should be in your on-premise instance but cannot be because the formulas are too complex, and let Anaplan enhance your strategic planning software capabilities. Later, when you’re ready, you can replace your on-premise solution. It worked for me and my FP&A team and, since then, I’ve seen it work for many of our customers.
Are you ready to eliminate your cumbersome, disconnected spreadsheets? Download our whitepaper to discover seven common reasons for why companies chose to replace their spreadsheets with an integrated planning platform. And if you want to see Anaplan in action for yourself, register for our upcoming live demos.