Autodesk encountered multiple challenges by managing sales planning in Excel, including file size limitations, file corruption, and a time-consuming forecasting and territory planning process. The sales team couldn’t answer simple questions for the executive team because data was spread across numerous systems and multiple geographies. With hundreds of spreadsheets dispersed around the world, Autodesk’s forecasting process had hit its limit—and it was time for a change.
Facing frequent crashes, data integrity issues, and the inability to efficiently answer questions, the Autodesk team decided to look for a better planning solution that could connect and integrate disparate spreadsheet files. In the midst of a complex shift from a perpetual-license revenue model to a subscription-based model, Autodesk greatly needed a new planning platform with the scalability and flexibility to meet its ever-shifting business conditions.
Autodesk streamlined sales forecasting and territory planning with the Anaplan platform, replacing 100 percent of what the company previously used Excel for, in many cases. Before Anaplan, forecasting took five times as long. Now, the team can consolidate its forecast within hours. Anaplan provided the Autodesk team with the confidence and agility to make better-informed decisions with fewer headaches and huge time savings.
What set Anaplan apart from competitors was its flexibility, scalability, and structure. Additionally, Autodesk chose Anaplan for the benefits that a platform (vs. a point solution) can provide the business in the long term.
Nick Hanson, Director of Sales Finance, and J.R. Matheson, Sales Operations Finance Manager, detail how Autodesk uses Anaplan for multiple use cases, including forecasting, consolidation, and territory and quota planning.
Nick Hanson: My name is Nick Hanson, and I’m the director of sales finance at Autodesk.
J.R. Matheson: My name is J.R. Matheson. I work in the sales finance team at Autodesk.
NH: Autodesk helps people design and create a better world. We use 3D modeling, and our products are engineering, architecture, media, and entertainment.
JRM: We had a revenue waterfall system, and it was just running out of its ability to be managed in Excel.
NH: We had a lot of challenges with Excel—size, files corrupting, people not sleeping on weekends, seemingly simple questions not being able to be answered because data is across hundreds of Excel files in multiple geographies—people couldn’t seem to answer quick, easy questions from our executive team. So we really wanted to go out and find a solution that can integrate all those files into one place.
NH: We have hundreds of spreadsheets that are gigantic and dispersed around the world. So our vision for Anaplan is to bring those spreadsheets together in Anaplan and to have an integrated planning solution.
JRM: We want to do a lot of forecasting at various specific and granular levels. We do stuff on license type, constant currency, local currency; we want to do by geography, we want to by product, etc.—and quite frankly, Excel gets so limited, it just can’t be managed anymore. We’ve run into a lot of Excel crashing and data integrity issues.
JRM: So the big thing about what we’re doing right now at Autodesk is that we’re going through a big business model transformation. What that means to us is we’ve been selling our product via perpetual. Think about Windows 95: You buy a warranty so you don’t have to pay for it again. You attach maintenance, but you’re not required to. So we go from a model like that where we have a lot of inconsistencies in terms of our revenue base and is sometimes lumpy, and we’re shifting over to a more predictable cash flow model—which is a subscription model—so we really needed a tool like Anaplan. Something that is scalable and something that is flexible to really be able to meet the needs.
NH: We ended up looking at several of Anaplan’s competitors—different solutions. We really liked Anaplan because of the platform solution it gave us. It gave us the flexibility, but also structure in the tool that we couldn’t get from other vendors.
NH: We’re using Anaplan for a couple of things—we are using it for forecast and consolidation, and we’re also using it for quota and territory planning.
NH: On certain new cases, it’s replacing 100 percent of what we were doing; for example, our revenue waterfall replaced all the Excel in that instance.
NH: We’re using Anaplan in tandem with QlikView and Qlik Sense. So we take our data from QlikView, put it into Anaplan, and then put the Anaplan data back into QlikView for reporting solutions. It works really nicely.
NH: We’ve been able to scale Anaplan and not have to hire more people to support an intensive process because Anaplan has been able to come in and give that stability, give that level of comfort. Now, we can roll up our forecast in hours when it might have taken five times as long in the past.
NH: It’s really been one of these “aha” moments for different groups to see how we’re using Anaplan and how they can start integrating into Anaplan.