performance management

Anaplan: A Complete, Connected and Living Plan

A lot of planning can and should happen in any company. It all starts with a business plan, followed by financial planning, budgeting and workforce planning. Then you better have a sales plan, with territories, quotas and incentive compensation, which should tie in with a revenue plan. Of course this leads to demand planning and sales and operations planning. If you want to grow those sales, you better do some marketing and campaign planning. If you sell a consumer product, you might have a trade and promotion plan and you’ll definitely have to plan for inventory. Maybe you need to plan projects. And throughout, you need to watch your cash flow.

But how do you tie all these plans together? How do you stay vigilant, monitor performance and adjust the plan as you move forward? More often than not, you don’t. You rely heavily on spreadsheets and even if you have software tools to help you plan, each department works in its own silo, oftentimes using disparate solutions that essentially ignore each other. This can happen even when you buy these different solutions from a single vendor.

Anaplan has set out to solve this problem by creating an enterprise planning cloud designed to solve any planning challenge across all functions of your enterprise. Unlike most plans, developed at an aggregate summary level, Anaplan’s patented technology supports a level of granular detail that lets you connect all the dots naturally. And because visibility and transparency are built in, you can easily adjust the plan as you monitor performance. Instead of letting your plan lie dormant on the shelf, only to be dusted off periodically (if ever), it becomes a living plan.

The Anaplan Approach

Anaplan takes a platform approach to planning. At the core is its planning engine, built on 64-bit in-memory technology, which facilitates real-time modeling that can handle large volumes of data. As a result, planning can be done using very detailed data that might not be possible without in-memory computing power – think of forecasting for each customer down to the product level, rather than having to make a regional forecast in total or by product category. The planning engine uses Anaplan’s patented HyperblockTM calculation engine. It can perform modeling, including the ability to do simulations prior to making changes. But when changes are made, a full history is maintained.

While this planning engine is extremely powerful, it is useless without data and this data might come from any number of sources, including enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), human capital management (HCM), additional financial applications or any other source of structured data. Therefore data integration is an important piece of the Anaplan Planning Platform. Anaplan has prebuilt many common connectors, but also provides application programming interfaces (APIs) to facilitate building out more custom connectors quite easily.

While the planning engine sits on top of the data, the user interface sits on top of the planning engine. Here is where individual Anaplan customers develop the model map (typically by dragging and dropping elements) and tweak the settings. This is also where the reporting, the analytics and the actual planning gets set up. If you are savvy enough to use Excel, you are savvy enough to set up planning and analysis in Anaplan. In fact the user interface looks and feels a lot like Excel (by design). However, Excel has two dimensions whereas Anaplan let’s you look at your data in any and all of the ways that make sense to your business.

Planning and performance management are business exercises, but all too often it is the Information Technology (IT) department that is required to do the heavy lifting. Plans and actuals often reside in different systems and can only be compared once a data warehouse is built, populated and periodically refreshed. This type of scenario leads to a very common concern among business leaders: over-reliance on IT.

The 2015 Mint Jutras Enterprise Solution Study asked leaders to check off all causes for concern over solutions used to actually run their businesses. Forty-one percent (41%) expressed concern over integrity of data, and an equal number (also 41%) were concerned over difficulty in reconciling different sub ledgers and different systems. This situation is only exacerbated during the planning and performance management process. The last thing you need is to make a plan based on faulty assumptions that come from bad data.

Relying too heavily on IT also means waiting for models to be built, and what happens when the model itself needs to change? Are you able to tweak it mid-cycle? Are you able to perform a “what if” analysis?

Over-reliance on IT also means the results aren’t available in real time and are only as good as the last request for analysis.

Not only does Anaplan provide real-time access to the real data (not one or more copies that must be periodically refreshed), but also it removes IT from the middle of the planning process, except of course in IT planning.

Additionally, you have applications built with the platform. Anaplan (and its partners) provide some pre-built apps, but these are all developed with the app designer, so they can easily be modified and managed. Or you can build your own using model templates, pre-built algorithms and business rules.

A Complete And Connected Plan

Planning means very different things to different leaders throughout your organization. If you are in Finance you think of budgeting, cost and profitability analysis and cash flows. But you also forecast revenue. You probably think first of applications for financial planning, budgeting and forecasting.

If you are in manufacturing operations you think of material requirements and manufacturing resource planning (MRP and RRP), long and short term capacity planning (CRP). You worry about the demand plan and how that impacts your supply chain. You try to optimize your inventory. You have a sales and operations plan (S&OP), which by necessity includes a workforce plan. You might try to accomplish all this in your ERP solution, perhaps extended with some specialty applications.

In Sales? You think of account segmentation and scoring, territory coverage and quota assignments, as well as incentive compensation planning. Your primary “go to” application might be sales force automation (SFA) and/or customer relationship management (CRM). But does it really support these planning functions or is all the information sitting in spreadsheets?

Meanwhile your human resources (HR) department is building out a workforce plan. Is that tied in with your sales plan and your manufacturing operations plan? If you start running significantly ahead of your sales plan, how does this potentially impact demand, inventory and other operational costs? What if you are falling short? Does that mean you start to cut jobs? What impact will this have on your ability to respond to a rebound in sales? Are you closing the door to recovery? How does all this impact margins, cash flow, debt, credit?

Anaplan makes these connections based on the different data elements that make up the plan. If inventory (at a warehouse, regional or corporate level) is part of the operational plan and also part of the sales plan, these plans are intrinsically and inherently tied together. Actual sales ties the sales forecast to the revenue plan to accounts receivable to cash flow and profitability goals.

The Right Level of Detail

The key to tying this all together is developing the plan at the right level of detail. If forced to plan at too high a level, you may not be able to connect the dots or even spot problems. You may appear to be right on track, hiding the fact that one region is totally over-performing while others are struggling. Will you have enough people and product in place to service that regional demand or will you be facing chronic shortages in that region while you sit on excess capacity elsewhere? Left unchecked, overall performance could take a nosedive. On the other hand, you may be falling short of your goals because of a serious failure limited to just one area. Over-reacting to an overall shortfall can result in blanket cost cutting measures that could make matters worse.

Anaplan lets you plan and manage performance at the lowest level of granularity required, pinpointing failure or success, and taking appropriate action. Anaplan has already built apps to use as a start (or end) point for functions within finance, sales, marketing, human resources, supply chain and operations. No need to start from scratch. Give yourself a jumpstart in launching what can and should be an iterative process, including the analysis of simulated results.

With the Convenience of the Cloud

And oh, by the way, Anaplan does all this in the cloud. According to Mint Jutras research, few companies today are looking to build out on-premise deployments. When it comes to applications, like ERP, that are used to run the business, companies are almost twice as likely to consider a Software as a Service (SaaS) deployment as a traditional on-premise implementation. We ask the question each year, “If you were to consider a solution today, which deployment options would you consider?” Participants are allowed to check any or all options (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Deployment Options that would be Considered Today

Anaplan fig 1Source: Mint Jutras Enterprise Solution Studies
* Option added in 2015
Note: The time span between the 2011 and 2013 studies was about 18 months as Mint Jutras shifted the timing of the study during the calendar year.

This does not mean SaaS will dominate overnight, simply because there are so many of these solution on premise today, and many are reluctant to simply rip them out and replace them. In fact, with the availability of complementary solutions such as Anaplan, companies have the option of leaving solutions in place while they extend functionality and venture into the cloud.

There are many different reasons for this preference for cloud, not the least of which are cost, ease of upgrade and support of increasingly distributed environments. But perhaps most important to the planning functions, the cloud facilitates collaboration. A plan that is made collaboratively is much more easily accepted and embraced. With fewer constituents fighting the plan and more working together, the higher the likelihood of achieving your goals.

Make it a Living Plan

All too often the planning process is time-consuming and painful. The sooner it’s done, the sooner you can get back to your business. But if that’s the way you feel – and react – you aren’t getting the most value out of the process or the plan. And yet most enterprises today separate the processes of planning and performance management. They quickly lose whatever confidence (if any) they had in that plan.

And then of course, there’s change. Business conditions change. The economy changes. Competition changes. New products and new business models enter the market. On the one hand, you need to keep a snapshot of your original plan (and Anaplan does that). After all, you need to see how close you came to predicting outcomes, in order to continue to get better at it. But continuing to operate against a plan that you know is not achievable is like continuing to behave the same way while expecting different results. That is the very definition of insanity. Or, on a more positive note, continuing to blow out sales quotas with the same inventory plan is a sure way to put the brakes on exceeding quotas.

Anaplan takes a different approach. It fuses the two processes together. You essentially manage performance from the plan. All the reporting and analysis ties back to the plan, which remains front and center of reporting and analysis. You don’t put the plan on the shelf and forget about it until you remember your bonus might be affected or the board of directors starts asking the tough questions. You want to make it a living, breathing plan. That’s the Anaplan approach.

Summary

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s good to have a plan. But it’s not enough just to have a strategic business plan. Finance, Sales, Marketing, HR and Operations can no longer afford to work in their own silos of data, applications and reporting. They all need plans that pull together in order to achieve the overall company goals. The plan needs to be developed collaboratively; it needs to be complete and connected. But in order to take full advantage of opportunity today, it needs to be a living plan. As many of us are closing the year and looking forward to growth in the coming calendar year, now is the perfect time to scrutinize your plan… and perhaps scrutinize the tools used to develop it, manage it … and get ready to exceed your goals for 2016.

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The Value Proposition for Apparancy is… Well, It’s Apparent

Especially When it Comes to VetApprove

Software companies often struggle to articulate the value proposition of their products. In translating the technical promise of enterprise applications, marketing and sales like to talk about business value. Because the deal gets signed at a very high level in the buying organization those selling the value strive to talk at a very high level. The problem is, in elevating the level of discussion, the value proposition becomes so abstract that it often becomes meaningless. Apparancy, a new business process management (BPM) Platform Company has no such problem.

Many businesses today have multiple enterprise applications that are not well connected, leaving gaps in the data needed for decision-making and processes that are broken. Apparancy fixes this. Nowhere are processes in worse shape than in the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), now currently engulfed in scandal amid allegations that thousands of veterans were denied adequate healthcare because of false record-keeping and long waiting lists at VA facilities across the country. Combining its core strengths with the acquired usage rights to software called “TurboVet,” Apparancy is looking to help the US government fix broken promises and processes for over 22 million veterans with the launch of its new VetApprove ® product.

Apparancy’s Value Proposition

So what exactly is the value proposition of Apparancy and why would any company need its products? Most companies of any size today have many, different, often single-purpose systems. When this results in redundant data and processes, companies will experience a productivity drain. Because this productivity drain often happens gradually, over time, it might go unnoticed or even if recognized, is deemed to be an accepted side effect of growth. But as these solutions age, outdated technologies grow further apart and become more and more difficult to change and update. The result is a combination of fragmented processes and views and it becomes impossible to effectively leverage existing information technology (IT) and to optimize resource efficiencies and build in profitability.

While in the long run, it might be best to rip and replace existing systems and replace them with more comprehensive and well-integrated solutions, this can be expensive both in terms of time and money. And these existing solutions might be getting the job done, albeit not so efficiently. Layering Apparancy on top of these solutions allows you to leverage what you have until a more optimal time to replace. By combining data and processes into a single- purpose, role-based view, you can eliminate redundant efforts and get more value out of what you already have in place. How so?

  • By automating tasks by process or by user
  • Centralizing visibility of all tasks, even those that span multiple systems
  • By building in alerts to monitor the status of each workflow via dashboards
  • By implementing rules to escalate those alerts based on team hierarchies
  • By building compliance verification in for audit-ready accountability
  • By reporting process bottlenecks, employee performance and other improvement metrics

All of this is possible without changing your underlying systems and yet resulting in better flexibility. Let’s face it, you know that as soon as you get processes in place, they are likely to need to evolve and change. These changes, when implemented through Apparancy, can be as simple as “drag, drop and publish.” Process change need not mean code changes. This promotes usability, which is probably the most important key to getting participants to use the system, which enforces the rules.

Apparancy also infuses a level of “social” into the process. While for some “social” has an unfortunate connotation, here we equate it to better communication, collaboration and visibility. Those that shy away from “social” in the context of enterprise applications distinguish between business contacts and social (or personal) contacts, a business discussion versus a social chat. These folks equate “social” to something employees should do on their own time. But doing so misses the importance of a social structure that can be used to integrate users into a process based on roles. “Social” in the business context means aggregating all threads of a communication regardless of format (email, chat, phone, text, etc.) “Social” in the business context means integrating alerts for assigned tasks and delivering them on a choice of mobile devices. “Social” in the business context means structured collaboration, including both internal and external participants.

All these benefits translate to cheaper, better, faster. The cloud-based SaaS deployment eliminates the need to add more servers, software licenses and installation headaches. There is no underlying technology to upgrade, no expensive tool to manage and no additional IT staff to hire. Apparancy combines data liquidity with process fluidity for business improvement and efficiency. This means you work smarter, not harder, which translates to lower costs and higher profits.

Applying the Value Prop to the VA

You might think the high profile news breaking over the VA scandal was what drove Apparancy to try to solve the problem, but the initial push was more of a personal story, as told by Karen Watts, Apparancy’s CEO. About three months ago Karen was trying to arrange a family vacation but was running into obstacles caused by the uncertainty experienced by her mother in attempting to schedule a surgical procedure through the VA.

As a pragmatic businesswoman, Karen thought, “How hard can this be?” After all, the administrators must know how many operating rooms are available and how many other procedures are scheduled. Surely they could give her an estimate of the date of the surgery. Apparently not. The deeper Karen dug, the further away she seemed from an answer.

She said, “I have a family member veteran who urgently needed surgery and was surrounded by wonderful Veterans Administration people who wanted to help. But both the VA folks and our family couldn’t clearly understand the next steps and the process of trying to get my stepfather help became mired in incorrect actions and wrong forms that led to dead ends and do-overs. It became clear to me that this problem of complex processes we are hearing about to help veterans is no different than the problem I am trying to solve for companies and healthcare organizations. This is something my platform is designed for and this is a way I can make a huge immediate impact on the lives of many millions of deserving veterans.”

Karen’s experience was quite similar to one I too experienced. Back in 2008 it was clear my 93-year-old mother could no longer safely live alone in her own home. We began looking into assisted living facilities near my home in southern New Hampshire and found these facilities to be outrageously expensive in the area. But we also discovered a little known VA benefit: As the widow of a World War II veteran, she qualified for assistance.

While there was never any question of her qualification, the process for approval took a grueling seven months. One step in the process was a medical exam that had to be conducted at a VA facility, by a VA doctor. Although the doctor had been working at the VA for many years, it came out during the appointment that this was the first such exam she had conducted for this purpose. Her mother-in-law was herself a veteran who was confined to a nursing home. Neither the doctor nor her mother-in-law was even aware she was eligible for this benefit, leaving me wondering how many qualified veterans and surviving spouses were not being granted benefits for which they clearly qualified. And of course, there was always the question: Why did this take seven months?

Fortunately for the 22 million veterans today, Karen immediately set about investigating how Apparancy’s platform could help. In the course of her investigation she came upon Ned Hunter, a graduate of the US Naval Academy, former Naval Aviator and former CEO of Stratizon Corporation.

Even before the scandal broke, Stratizon had developed and piloted a software solution that catalogued thousands of VA forms and created a series of questions to be asked of a veteran. The answers were used to further refine what was needed, asking additional questions where appropriate and then auto-populating every applicable form.

Ned, a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt had worked with a partner to get inside the walls of the VA to map the processes between the veterans, state benefits representatives and federal adjudicators. Ned and his team meticulously sourced and verified every benefit form relating to a veteran, available from all the federal agencies they could find, and then built out the questions from the forms. They found the redundancy between all these forms mind-numbing.

The team also discovered that it took an average of seven years to train a veteran claims representative. As absurd as this length of time seems, it is further aggravated by the fact that these reps were retiring at a faster rate than they could be trained. No wonder a process that should have essentially been a “rubber stamp” took seven months. No wonder Karen couldn’t get an estimate of when her stepfather’s surgery could be scheduled. No wonder the media is having a field day over the death of veterans who are not being attended to adequately.

The result of this effort was a piece of software, called “TurboVet.” Ned and his partner pitched it to the VA, which expressed interest, but took no action. Without the backbone of a workflow engine and business process management, TurboVet wasn’t a complete solution and the VA did not feel the urgency to change.

With the recent scandal, the VA is now feeling more urgency. Apparancy has been updating and integrating these forms into the Apparancy platform. The end product, called VetApprove ® will help guide veterans through the process of navigating, sorting and downloading the correct forms for their required need within minutes, versus the months or even years currently being reported in the news.

As part of the process of bringing this to the public, Apparancy has begun a sign-up and crowd-sourcing option for U.S. veterans to participate in signing up for (and eventually optionally funding) VetApprove. The link for veterans can be seen at https://www.facebook.com/VetApprove and a demonstration can be viewed at http://vetapprove.com/video/vetapprove-demonstration/.

Apparancy has also decided to move its corporate headquarters to the Washington D.C. area by year-end 2014 to keep a closer pulse and proximity to critical compliance-centric regulations. It also hopes that the Veterans Administration will automate VetApprove into its ongoing process operations.

Mint Jutras and 22 million veterans join Apparancy in this hope.

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The Changing Manufacturing Landscape: Why Corporate Performance Excellence is No Accident

Excellent corporate performance seldom happens by accident. In order to excel in performance you need a good plan; you need to monitor, analyze and manage performance against that plan and you need the agility to adjust as business conditions change. This is tough in any type of business, but the complexities of manufacturing are even more challenging, where you are likely dealing with global supply chains, pressures to reduce cost and cycle times, and a new competitive landscape.

This requires planning and reporting applications and analytics. And if you operate in any sort of distributed environment (and most companies do), you need to consolidate across multiple sites/divisions/operating locations.  While most manufacturers have been forced to implement applications like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) just to survive, planning and performance management largely remains buried in spreadsheets. With more choices for solutions and the option for convenient cloud deployment today, there is no longer any excuse for ignoring this need.

Sound Familiar?

Do any of these scenarios describe your current state?

  • Are you operating across multiple manufacturing plants, but only have tools that allow you to plan and manage at a corporate level?
  • Or are you planning and managing at the operating level but unable to consolidate to get the big picture? Does this cause redundancy of capacity even as you struggle to meet customer demand?
  • Are you completely reliant on IT for consolidation and reporting and therefore unable to simulate the potential effect of different scenarios?
  • Is your “plan” still in spreadsheets?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the above, it may be time for a change. While Mint Jutras research indicates the vast majority of manufacturers prefer a suite-based approach to their enterprise solutions, 61% will be cautious before sacrificing functional requirements for either ease of integration or to stay with a single vendor (Figure 1). Planning, performance management and analytics are likely candidates for these “add-on” solutions providing they can effectively interoperate with ERP and the data residing within.

Figure 1: Preferences for a Suite?

Adaptive Fig1

Source: Mint Jutras 2014 Enterprise Solution Study

Most manufacturers today operate across multiple locations, requiring the need for a consolidated view. While rolling up financials is a one-way street, relationships between manufacturing locations can be far more complex and therefore it may actually be easier to plan in a corporate performance management system that is ERP neutral.

While these types of tools used to be only within the reach of very large enterprises, with deep pockets, the good news is that today there are many more options. The overriding goal is to put the right tools directly in the hands of the business decision makers responsible for formulating and executing the plan. Because these solutions may potentially need to interoperate with a variety of different solutions at the corporate level, as well as at various divisions, a cloud-based solution may be the best way to go.

In a study dedicated to understanding perceptions and preferences for SaaS solutions (the Mint Jutras 2012 Understanding SaaS survey), we asked survey respondents to prioritize the various potential benefits of SaaS.

Cost savings remain at the top of the list of perceived benefits, by a significant margin. Reducing the cost and effort of upgrades is second. Next is the support of distributed environments. Sixty-six percent (66%) of manufacturers participating in our Mint Jutras 2014 Enterprise Solution Study operate in a distributed environment with the number of different operating locations increasing with annual revenues, so this is a very common need. It is an aspect particularly relevant in the context of planning and performance management, especially during the process of planning and executing a merger or acquisition. A cloud deployment breaks down the barriers created by existing (or nonexistent) on-premise solutions at remote locations, including those newly acquired.

The fact that no hardware purchase is required, and the on-going maintenance associated with that hardware, is marginally more important than the need for less Information Technology (IT) expertise and staff.

So….

What’s in your plan? Is it a pure macro financial plan or does it dive into the realities at the operational level? Does it incorporate plans for growth? Are those plans just a result of a board level decision to set goals or are they reflective of the capacity required to deliver against the plan? The planning and performance management of a manufacturer requires a delicate balancing of many different moving parts across a potentially distributed environment:

  • Actual and forecasted demand
  • Supply from trading partners and sister divisions
  • Logistics and cycle times
  • Headcount
  • Travel and expenses
  • Facilities and equipment, including factory automation
  • Etcetera….

What level of confidence do you have that you will be able to roll with the punches thrown at you through the course of the planning period? What tools do you have at your disposal to boost that confidence, along with your ability to deliver? If…

  • If your plan is just based on numbers handed down from the top…
  • If it is not reflective of operational realities…
  • If it doesn’t allow for change that is bound to occur during the planning period…
  • If you are still working in spreadsheets…
  • If you are waiting for added features and function from your ERP solution provider…
  • If you assume you can’t afford better tools…

Then you are leaving a lot to chance.

Interested in learning more? Click here to register for an informative webinar sponsored by Adaptive Insights.

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