Anaplan vs Excel

Do you constantly tell yourself that Excel is “good enough” even though you’re feeling extremely frustrated by its limited functionality?

There’s a better way. In this demo, we look at a typical scenario in which a finance organization does its planning in Excel. We will uncover many common issues of planning in spreadsheets and contrast these limitations with Anaplan’s capabilities.

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Hi everyone, I’m going to take you through a little demo today to show the average finance Excel user exactly what Anaplan is in the context of something they understand (which is Microsoft Excel) and start to demonstrate some of the differences between planning in Excel versus planning in Anaplan. For users who don’t understand why they look at something like Anaplan or think Excel is good enough, I will walk you through some of the deficiencies of a typical Excel-based model and then build out in real time a similar Anaplan base model and show some of the benefits that can come about. To do so I have created a little mockup of a typical scenario in a finance organization that user’s planning in Excel.

Here’s a consolidated income statement that pulls from different constituents in the organization that submits information into an Excel file that then gets rolled out. Here, we’re looking at North and South America, APAC, and EMEA. These different constituents will probably sit in a shared folder someplace, holding anywhere from few to dozens to thousands of spreadsheets. Problems are magnified as you consolidate more and more spreadsheets—it’s fine if you want to look at these finances globally, but if you want to go in and make some changes, you will run into some problems like breaking Excel due to formulas. In this case, you have a couple of options: you can copy this and create a new version or you can email the contributor who created this document to drill down further. These processes take a while, and what I really want to do is create top-down adjustments and I can’t do that here. That is our first issue: top-down adjustments are not possible.

Another apparent issue is that when looking at a global view of my company—I’m also seeing every little detail beneath this—with Excel I do not have the ability to restrict access to any individual cell, intersection of data, or sheet. At best, I may have a password to control access to the entire workbook, and that workbook relies on the security of the share drive that it’s on to prevent access to those who should not been seeing in. That’s a big concern for me running a global organization because people may be getting access to the sensitive information. So the second issue is data security, perhaps the biggest problem that I have with this is the rigidness that comes from having created the sort of Frankenstein of worksheets. It’s difficult to change the view of the sheet; if I want to look at this on a weekly basis instead of monthly, or roll up North America in a different fashion, or break out software in a different way. I need to modify every single spreadsheet, push it out, and make sure people are using the right spreadsheets when I upload it to the server or my links in consolidations won’t work. It creates a very rigid environment that is difficult to maintain.

The third issue is a rigid maintenance issue. Now, let’s try to envision this in Anaplan. It took me an hour to build this in Excel, but only takes a few minutes to replicate on Anaplan. Let’s start by logging in to Anaplan; let’s create a new model.

Anaplan is a multidimensional version of Excel, except that we’re in the cloud with Hyperblock technology behind us. What does it mean to be multidimensional? We plan across many dimensions like time, months, years, geography, regions, and global rollup, like North and South America and products. The problem comes from doing multidimensional planning in a two-dimensional planning environment like Excel, so we have to commit some unnatural acts to achieve, for example, how can you create a hierarchical representation in Excel? It requires coordination of multiple sheets across multiple workbooks to do so. It’s an organizational nightmare just to get your geography accommodated because it spans multiple workbooks.

In a multidimensional environment, it becomes very easy. If I look at time, I can choose the calendar start date, the years I’m looking at. I can look at version, I can choose multiple versions with my forecast, actuals, budget variants analysis, operational view, sandbox environments, and more. If I look at security, I can control who has access to what to get some security around those data points. For now, let’s start modeling. The first thing we notice in our Excel model is the organization or how we roll up from different regions into a global view. Organization is one of the default settings in Anaplan. Let’s choose our organizational dimensions; let’s type these in: “North America, South American, EMEA, APAC, North, South, East, West.” We can type these in free form and handle hierarchical relationships later. “UK, France, Germany, Japan, China, Australia.” Let’s move these around quickly to their appropriate groups. Now, this is my hierarchy within Anaplan.

It’s worth noting that I can set the dimensions of my business in one place in Anaplan, and it will be used everywhere I reference in my organization. In Excel, I need to make these changes everywhere because it will span multiple worksheets in multiple workbooks, creating an organizational nightmare. In Anaplan, this happens in one place. I want to add in Chile, Argentina, and Brazil as well. Now that I’ve got my organization set up, I can start modeling right away. Let’s go into the modules and create my income statement view. This should look familiar to anyone who has created pivot tables and used similar tools. This is a real multidimensional version of my plan here. Let’s drag versions in organization to pages, time to columns, and line items to my rows. I can type this in free form, import them from a source system, or copy and paste these line items from Excel into Anaplan. Notice how similar it looks to your Excel model, except here you have a hierarchical representation of your geography that you can manipulate. In Excel, you have to move across different workbooks in different worksheets. Here, you can consolidate them into a single view.

Let’s go into blueprint mode to enter in some formulas to pull up some numbers. For example, let’s enter these formulas for gross revenue. We want to pull in software and services. For total expenses, we’ll want to pull advertising, cogs, SG&A, and building leases. To get net income, we want to pull the difference between gross revenue and total expenses. We can also adjust the formatting under the style column to set up your table however you like. You are currently viewing total company, but you can adjust these based on your access settings; you can go to the configure tab under organization to adjust the viewability settings. If I set this up to only view North America, you will only see this region going forward.

Let’s focus on North America for now. In Excel, we see this broken up by North, South, East, West. If I want to recreate the West version in Anaplan, I can copy and paste from Excel directly into Anaplan. It will figure out the formulas as I’ll expect, then I can do the same for all other regions. Anaplan summarizes these numbers as you compile them. Let’s compare the North America view for Excel and Anaplan—it should look the same, let’s check the totals first. Something’s off about the total numbers. If we look into the formulas for the North America rollup in Excel, we will notice that we are not including one of the regions in the total. In Excel, there’s no flag to notify you that there’s a syntactical error that renders a bad number because you have to enter in a formula for every intersection of data. There are few checks in place to notify you when something is off. With Anaplan, you do not have this issue; that issue is Excel is error-prone.

Okay, so everything rolls up nicely in Anaplan. Let’s go back into modules the blueprint mode to enable something new: break back. Break back lets you create top-down adjustments you couldn’t make before in Excel. I can look at North America that comprises all these different regions. I can look at the total company that is comprised of all these different regions. Now I can see how it looks over time; let’s say I want to change my year forecast to some other number. It will automatically adjust all the numbers historically for all the constituents that contributed to it in exactly the seasonality that’s been determined here when I roll these numbers up. Now, you can do top down and bottoms up adjustments immediately; you cannot do this in Excel. One of the earlier issues had to do with hierarchies—in this case, we’re looking at geography to see how we can make modification there. In Anaplan, we can adjust this into pivot with a drag and drop, we can swap organization in line items to instantly change your view. This is the benefit of viewing things multidimensionally: you can pivot things around for different views, you can roll up your different regions up to your total company.

Let’s peel the report off and pop this out. In the background, you’ll notice the organizational dimension in real time. Any changes I make to my organization dimension will automatically change the numbers on my income statement—this is huge. This would normally take weeks in Excel but with Anaplan, it’s literally as simple as a drag and drop. In a typical environment, we will make a business decision by reorganizing our geographies and then spend several weeks modeling an environment like this to catch up to that change. Here, we switched it around to use our modeling as a decision point to see if we want to make that change for our organization. We can do “what-if” scenarios on-the-fly without a lot of administrative nonsense to deal with. And this is just a brief overview of how Excel compares to Anaplan. Thank you for your time.