Five things we learned using our first Anaplan app

Five things we learned using our first Anaplan app

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Last month, Anaplan launched the Anaplan App Hub, our community where partners and Anaplanners alike can share the apps they’ve found successful in their work.

During this same timeframe, my global enablement team was busy building and testing an app for onboarding new employees. Here are five things my team learned about both building our own app and using the Anaplan App Hub for the first time.

1. There really is an app for that.

Ok, so I haven’t (yet) found the Anaplan App that helps me manage the hockey fundraiser or train for the upcoming triathlon. But there are already dozens of apps – and more coming.

In fact, the app my team built is an Onboarding App that will provide a consistent, trackable, more efficient onboarding process globally. That’s not finance, sales, or operations – the typical planning applications for which Anaplan is known. Yet, in the App Hub, there are apps for construction planning, project management, compensation, onboarding, etc.

Bottom line: if you have a business problem, check App Hub first. There might be an app for it.

2. Think big.

I’m unabashedly stealing this line of thought from our friends at Diageo. Ian Youngman spoke at our Hub event in London this past November, and (I paraphrase here) his advice to new Anaplan customers was to think big when you start – have a vision, an architecture in mind. This was really important for our success when creating our app: we needed to understand how many departments were going to use the app, what our dashboards would need to look like (how to keep them simple for our internal business users), and how to streamline the data we were pulling in from our data hubs in our models – all knowing that we were going to eventually roll the app out to all of our employees globally.

But… we also had to follow the second part of Ian’s advice, which is:

3. Start small.

Youngman correctly points out that moving your processes from wherever they are to Anaplan can be a big change. So instead of moving it all at once, it is probably wise to start with one small process – perfect the workflows, work out the kinks – and then expand.

Apps are a really easy way to start small (we didn’t need to conceive an application from scratch – the App Hub allowed us to use another app as a starting point.) We were able to pilot for the last few months, letting users test drive, figuring out what works, what doesn’t, what is helpful to our internal business users, and what can go. Now, we’re at a point where we’re ready to fine-tune, make changes, and make a big impact on our whole business.

4. You know more than you think you do.

I’m biased on this one (I’m in the business of teaching people new things), so I know that getting out of your comfort zone is often where the goodness is. But App Hub reaffirms it anyway: using an App was a great way for my team to prove their Anaplan software skills. We are enablement, so a finance use case may not be our go-to comfort zone; but apply those multidimensional modeling skills to people instead of money and suddenly, everyone’s talking about how Anaplan can make workforce metrics easier.

5. Unintended benefits of apps include: a new community of like-minded Anaplanners.

This might be my favorite aha of the App Hub—a new, super-smart network for my team to tap into.

As we worked through standing up our app, we’d occasionally run into a question or challenge we couldn’t solve. We’d reach out to our app team for an answer, or we’d push the boundaries of how the original app was built. Together, we solved for problems, documented some best practices, and learned from each other. Now my team has a couple of really smart application builders to leverage the next time we need expert advice (or a brain to pick as we work on apps). Likewise, our app team knows we “think in business apps” when it comes to workforce planning and we’re happy to help solve problems.

The app team answers questions for everyone out there in the App Hub, not just my team. The more users out there leveraging and contributing apps, the better collaboration we’ll all have to pull from.

It’s been a great experience – and at the rate things grow around here, I can’t wait to see what the next few months will bring our app and our new community of Anaplanners.

If you haven’t already, check out the App Hub to see what it’s all about.

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