Anaplan Hub17 Brings Connected Planning to the Enterprise

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When I attended Hub17 in San Francisco, representing Amalgam Insights (AI), I was looking forward to seeing how Anaplan’s go-to-market approach had changed, kept an eye out for key announcements, and looked for clues from the executive team on where Anaplan was heading next. In the process, AI also got some unexpected highlights and guidance on the future of the company.

Anaplan caught AI’s attention a number of years ago when it officially launched the Hyperblock, originally built by Michael Gould, to provide a combination of cube, cell-based, and columnar database architectures. This approach provided a foundational technology that was well-suited to massive and enterprise-scaled models. Once this technology was combined with a go-to-market productization that allowed business users to access the planning and modeling aspects of Anaplan in 2013, Anaplan became a strong solution in the enterprise planning market.

Since that time, Anaplan has been growing quickly and currently goes to market with a “Connected Planning” focus that represents the multiple use cases that Anaplan often supports.

The majority of Anaplan’s current sales comes from three key areas: finance, sales, and supply chain. More experienced Anaplan customers are aware of the platform’s capabilities for financial planning, sales forecasting, and territory and quota management. However, supply chain planning is a relatively new function that Anaplan to support, and one that Anaplan’s combination of speed and scale is well-architected to support.

Anaplan’s Use Case Focus

At a higher level, Anaplan goes to market as a multi-use planning platform with approximately 200 applications on the App Hub, 660+ customers across 52 industries (with 250 of those customers having come in over the past year), and 130,000 users. Although Anaplan sells as a horizontal product, it does look at retail, banking, high tech, pharmaceuticals, and CPG as key vertical focuses. Of those customers, 45% of them currently have 3 or more planning use cases in place (such as finance, sales, supply chain, workforce management, marketing, IT, and others) and 5% have enabled 10 or more use cases. AI is especially interested in those 30+ customers that have successfully transformed Anaplan into the true enterprise planning solution that it is designed to be, as the vision of enterprise planning as a business-wide and cross-departmental exercise has been discussed at length, but very rarely accomplished.

To successfully onboard customers, Anaplan typically starts with a focused sales and implementation cycle around a specific line of business area such as incentive compensation, territory & quota management, demand planning, or financial planning with a line-of-business sales focus. Although Anaplan is described as a platform, the first step with a new customer is targeted toward deeply solving a problem in a specific functional area. And because Anaplan has a pricing model based mainly on users, rather than the volume of data used, Anaplan’s wallet share growth is dependent on both increasing the adoption of the initial use case and providing an experience that can be recommended for other departments. This involves teaching employees and users to be advocates for change within their organizations, and for the benefits of having data on demand, in a sharable format, and on a near real-time basis. Chief Customer Officer Simon Tucker describes this as “Elegantly landing, beautifully expanding” in translating initial quick wins into a longer-term expansion. This methodology of implementation, requirement specifications, testing, deployment, and training has been formalized into “The Anaplan Way” to help customers understand how to take full advantage of the value of Anaplan. This rapid implementation is actually one of the challenges that Anaplan faces, in that it has to teach clients to work at Anaplan speed to bring up solutions to production level in a two- to three-month time frame. Once clients learn this “Way,” it then becomes repeatable.

Anaplan’s Strategy For Managing a Wide Portfolio of Products

Part of the challenge that Anaplan faces in this support for multiple use cases, multiple departments, and large user bases is in managing a wide variety of products. To better understand how Anaplan sought to maintain a high level of quality across a wide array of products that are often separated into separate financial planning, sales performance management, workforce planning, supply chain planning, marketing operations planning, and IT portfolio planning solutions, AI spoke with Vice President of Global Product Marketing, Folia Grace, who pointed out the most important aspect of making a diverse team productive in executing on the high growth metrics and expansive use cases that Anaplan seeks to support.

Interestingly, Grace did not speak to the importance of the platform or of “scale” or any other buzzwords that often come up in speaking of product marketing. Rather, Grace spoke about the importance of creating an environment that empowered talented people to do their jobs well, both by providing the personal guidance to keep people in touch with key goals and the flexibility to allow them to find the best possible answers and solutions to meet customer needs rather than to dictate what was necessary. As an example, Grace brought up how supply chain had recently taken off at Anaplan due to internal entrepreneurial initiative from sales and modeling professionals to push supply chain as a use case. As basic as this may seem, this realization of providing employees with the space and guidance to succeed is one of the biggest challenges in the startup world where companies are often driven by the singular vision of a founder entrepreneur rather than a shared goal of creating a true platform of multiple solutions, applications, and services. Although this vision is typically crucial in starting a new endeavor, it is this transition that often separates the long-term winners from the flash-in-the-pan technologies that look promising, but ultimately become obsolete over time.

From AI’s perspective, it was this combination of multi-departmental success and philosophy that was most exciting to hear and provided guidance for Anaplan’s near-term future. Ultimately, technology success is driven by a combination of capabilities: foundational performance, trust, collaboration, adoption, and a proven ability to solve problems for clients. This combination is what Anaplan demonstrated at Hub17 and is ultimately what AI ended up taking away from the conference. The combination of The Anaplan Way, focus on community, focus on employees, and continued success in expanding use cases over time all speak to Anaplan’s success in bringing in multiple new executives over the past few years to scale the company. By looking not just at technology, but at people, process, evangelism, and collaboration, AI believes that Anaplan is on the cusp of defining and leading a new market based on holistic business planning based on ease of modeling, ease of app creation, and interconnected models that support collaborative analysis.

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