Anaplan Hub16: Collaboration and Intelligence Enabling Business Planning
May 17, 2016
Author: David Mario Smith
With a new pricing model and enhanced features to scale the platform, Anaplan is focused on increased enterprise penetration and building out its ecosystem.
At the Anaplan Hub 2016 conference in San Francisco, CA, May 10-12, there were some key announcements that highlight significant trends in the enterprise software space. My focus here is to personalize and humanize the impact of what I saw and heard for lines of business leaders.
Anaplan is growing at a rapid rate, and I mean rapid! At Hub16, key customers present were Kellogg and Proctor & Gamble, very large consumer packaged goods (CPG) firms. They represent complex environments that require a business planning platform that can scale across the whole business, including IT, Supply Chain, Finance, HR, Marketing and Sales. I spoke recently with an HR professional from a global CPG who explained one of the key issues she faces is workforce planning across a large extended workforce that includes contractors, partners and suppliers. Collaboration with Finance and Operations is critical.
Interestingly, at Hub16, Anaplan announced new predictive analytics capabilities and the addition of in-context social collaboration capabilities to its platform, among other key features. Collaboration features will include activity streams and messaging in context with fully supported mobile applications.
Predictive Analytics and Collaboration
Predictive analytics and collaboration stand out to me, because being able to collaborate in-line enables your planning processes with insights from analytics to improve decision making across all business functions, and provide scale and increased business performance. One of the major problems and roadblocks to efficient enterprise planning is the disconnectedness across business functions and the silos it creates. Also, a major problem with enterprise collaboration tools is that they seldom come down into the flow of how people actually work. People have to leave their business process or application to collaborate and communicate with colleagues. Collaboration has to be in the flow of how people work and with the full context of the business process.
In speaking with business leaders from both large and small organizations, they lament the disconnect between, HR, Marketing, Sales, IT, Supply Chain and other groups that oftentimes lead to blind decision making. Not having visibility across a wide range of business functions leads to poor planning decisions.
Bear in mind, Anaplan already had predictive analytics capabilities in its platform. However, with respect to predictive analytics capabilities announced at Hub16, Anaplan will be including Monte Carlo simulations to enable business planners to perform better risk analysis to understand all possible outcomes and scenarios to improve decision making. This is critical across workforce planning, finance, operations and other planning functions. Other predictive analytics announcements include optimization, already in use by some customers, as well as multi-linear, linear regression, to take into account multiple variables, such as the price of oil, competitive price and economic indicators, to make for more accurate plans and decisions.
Focus on the Platform
The key aspect to the new tools and features Anaplan announced was the ability to connect business models across every area of the company. This is evidenced by the clear focus by Anaplan on its platform. The Platform was a key underlying theme at Hub16, that was positioned as the vehicle for connecting Anaplan models across the company. In fact, in his keynote, CMO Grant Halloran announced it as the “Smart Business Platform.” This is a platform and ecosystem play, that will come with a vast set of services from the Anaplan ecosystem of partners.
While the term platform usually invokes highly technical connotations, it was clear Anaplan is positioning this as a non-technical platform. This is targeted at business leaders. Kudos to Anaplan here, because the idea is to democratize access to insights for decision making in every business area.
In speaking with Anaplan associates, they were all clearly singing from the same hymn book, as everyone focused on the self-service, flexibility and non-technical nature of the platform to empower business users. Users are empowered to create their own apps in any business model. I spoke with one associate in particular, who was proud to demo the app he developed that had massive amounts of downloads in the Anaplan App Hub. That same associate also gave me a demo of the Data Hub application that will enable master data sharing across all Anaplan planning applications.
The Anaplan platform already supports integrations with Microsoft Office applications such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel. Upcoming integrations were announced with Google Docs and Sheets, Box, Office365, Docusign and AdobeSign. Specific timing for upcoming integrations were not fully clear. I believe the success of the platform from the perspective of enterprise penetration will rely on expanding the ecosystem of app integrations.
New Pricing Model
Anaplan is moving to a per user subscription based pricing model, which I believe will help customers better understand total cost of ownership (TCO) and align with the value they can realize from the investment. It’s a three tiered model which will include Standard, Premium and Enterprise tiers. Customers and partners I spoke with agreed this was a simpler model to procure.
Challenges and Opportunities
As Anaplan is growing fast, it has a huge opportunity with its self-service platform approach, which denotes a major trend in enterprise software. However, with self-service, Anaplan and its ecosystem of partners will need to continue providing a growing and effective set of professional services and solutions for customers that will transition them from being just technology providers to trusted advisors. Growing its ecosystem is key here.
Having a scalable platform will enable customers to grow with the platform, as this is a journey. I spoke with one customer at the Hub16 conference, who intimated that his company was drowning in excessive Excel models that couldn’t scale. A major driver for choosing Anaplan against competitors was the flexibility of the platform and the data integration capabilities.
I believe the new pricing model will help Anaplan to better target enterprises with clear tiers to estimate costs versus capabilities needed. Enterprise customers I speak with are looking for simpler and more flexible pricing models.