Blog post by Jill King, recent Anaplanner
Like so many others, I’m a busy working professional so I’m constantly looking for ways to create efficiencies in my life. I have been able to leverage technology in my personal life to make life simpler… paying bills online, using my iPhone to catch up on emails when I’m away from work, researching home redecorating ideas on Pinterest, keeping up with old friends on Facebook. But at work, the technology was from the Ice Ages. I was frustrated everyday by how much time I spent digging through spreadsheets and how little time I spent doing meaningful analysis. That’s why I was so intrigued by Anaplan. The consistencies it provided in its platform created so many efficiencies in the process. I saw this tool taking out the mundane day to day tasks of the excel model and allowing me to expand my role into more of a strategic business partner than a number crunching MS Excel® whiz. I’ve only been working with the product for a few weeks but am already impressed with its ease of use and ability to take a complicated process and make it look simple.
My history with planning applications
For the past 5 years, I have worked for a Fortune 100 company as a financial analyst/manager in the FP&A group of one of the many divisions. The company tried several tools such as IBM Cognos® Enterprise Planning and Oracle Hyperion® Planning and Essbase to achieve a consistent and efficient forecasting process. However, with every new tool, came obstacles that the analysts and managers could not overcome to complete their forecast and as a result reverted back to the trusty old MS Excel® model. Financial analysts know that MS Excel® gives them control and flexibility of their own forecast which they lose when every change needs to flow through the IT queue. Unfortunately, MS Excel® isn’t a good tool for consolidating data, maintaining consistencies across finance teams, creating dynamic models that can be easily updated, and leaves a lot of room for human error. I worked with about 20 excel models every single forecast… I repeated essentially the same process 20 times for each model. I often spent hours rolling models from forecast to forecast… resolving tie out issues, rolling up files for consolidation and recreating reports for the latest forecast.
After years of jockeying numerous MS Excel® models forecast period after forecast period, I was looking for a better way to manage, model, and analyze my forecast data. In the last year, I was introduced to Anaplan and realized that this platform will revolutionize the way that analysts work and at the same time increase the value of what they can contribute. With MS Excel®, the majority of an analyst’s time is spent cleansing data and updating spreadsheets that were outdated the second that the source data changed. In the end there is little to no time to analyze the data and an analyst’s role becomes labor-intensive struggles that add time, stress, and frustration to each forecast period. What I observed with Anaplan is that there is an easier way. Anaplan enables analysts to create their own business applications using a development language that is familiar to our MS Excel® skill-sets, using an easy to use interface that enables rapid modeling, and without a single call to IT. I went to the 2 day training course and quickly ramped up on how we could now use the Anaplan data model to combine lists (account, product, department, etc.), time scale, and versions to create dynamic models that take a fraction of the time compared to models in MS Excel®. For example I can now automate an import of an account or department list from our data warehouse and use each list in multiple models. When the account or department list changes I don’t need to go into multiple spreadsheets to update- a single list is updated via the automated import and every model is updated. Administrative tasks such as this, is, where I spent a lot of my time when in MS Excel® – in Anaplan I now have time to focus on higher value work like sensitivity analysis around my drivers/assumptions, what if scenarios, and dashboards. The role of the Analyst and the value to the organization is transformed with Anaplan – instantly.
I will share my journey into the cloud with this blog, and help others see why Anaplan could be their ray of sunshine that shifts the day-to-day role of the business analyst from tactical Excel Guru to a strategic differentiator for the organization.