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Anaplan: What does the UK’s latest tech unicorn actually do?

Scott Carey | June 24, 2016
Here is how Anaplan grew into the $1bn valued company it is today

"This allows us to run very large structured models with multiple log-ins, in real time," says Gould. What this looks like in practice is a constantly updating spreadsheet or model that can make calculations with enough speed to update in real-time, even with a whole sales team logged in and inputting data.

As well as better collaboration, Anaplan gives managers a more holistic view compared to Excel spreadsheets being dotted around different servers. As Sue Barsamian, SVP of worldwide indirect sales at HP puts it: "Before Anaplan, we were always looking at what actually got deployed in a rearview mirror. This was a spreadsheet-run exercise, and by the time that all got rolled back up, and people corrected minor errors along the way, we were usually at the beginning of Q2."

Anaplan integrates with existing enterprise systems, so customers can link data from other systems, be it Excel, business intelligence or transactional services like Salesforce. "We want to be open and integrate nicely with other platforms," says Gould, "trying to cover everything doesn't make sense so we are primarily focusing on core planning, but then providing good functionality in other areas as needed."

Customer case study: RSA Insurance

Anaplan already counts a solid customer base, from technology to insurance. Mark Laughton, finance director for UK Commercial Insurance at RSA said he started using Anaplan over other ERP options because: "We were impressed by the modelling flexibility of the tool; the speed we could deploy it; plus the cost model that was aligned to our usage with the option to increase our licences and storage space over time as needed."

Laughton uses Anaplan to run RSA's day-to-day expenses and people planning. "We were living in spreadsheet hell prior to that point," he says, "and what we have done is created simplicity to the way we delivered consistency across UK business."

Small things, like an expense model that converts all input currencies to pound sterling instantly, brings cycle times down for the finance team. "That creates a return because finance people are freed up from some of the weeds they would have been in previously and improves engagement with the business," according to Laughton.

RSA was able to deploy Anaplan within six months, with minimal disruption to existing processes. And the system is adaptable enough that changes can be made to the model after each cycle. Laughton does admit that it takes two or three cycles to get the model locked in though, "and then we had a version that works for us and now we're able to add to it," he says.

Laughton is excited to see how the new Powerpoint add-on helps with simplifying business reporting for his finance team as, "that's a nut we still need to crack".


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