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Anaplan is on it's way, but not quite a Hyperion replacement
https://www.trustradius.com/corporate-performance-management-cpmAnaplanUnspecified8.3213101
Joseph Bradbury profile photo
Updated June 09, 2016

Anaplan is on it's way, but not quite a Hyperion replacement

Score 9 out of 101
Vetted Review
Verified User
Review Source

Software Version
Build 3.2.1-SNAPSHOT-r-3-2-1-55
Modules Used
Anaplan for Finance

Overall Satisfaction with Anaplan

We are using Anaplan to do Workforce Planning and Tracking. It is integrated with regional payroll systems to manage employee retention statistics, salary planning, compensation, etc..
We have also just implemented a Long Range Plan that is allowing each individual region to plan for long-term goals and objectives. Growing Revenue, COGS, and expense at specific rates and drivers.
  • Adaptation - It is pretty easy to make minor changes to the hierarchies and calculations within the system. Be aware that major changes could be quite difficult, but the minor changes are so much easier in this system and that of Hyperion or like systems
  • Formula modeling - Anaplan thrives on automating a lot of calculations that would normally be done in excel.
  • Consistency - The beauty of Anaplan compared to modeling in Excel is that you are guaranteed that everyone is using the same basis for calculations. You can create a corporate standard for modelling that is used throughout the company instead of having each region doing their own thing. This forces you to learn more about the other regions, and allows you to be much more consistent.
  • Cloud - having the platform accessible nearly anywhere is a huge benefit for employees that are on the go.
  • Model Sizing - Anaplan doesn't make use of sparse data, as it uses the same amount of space for an empty "cell" in a cube as it does for a full one. A product like Hyperion can ignore an empty cell and have it not count towards the size. When you are paying by size, this can cause a huge problem
  • Shared Hierarchies - when you have multiple models sharing the same hierarchy, the process is to change it in one place, then you have to import those changes into other models. This is cumbersome to do, and allows the potential for errors if you do not update all hierarchies. There needs to be a global hierarchy option, along with local hierarchies only used in that model
  • Ad-Hoc reporting - If it isn't in a dashboard right now, it is difficult to find. This creates problems for ad-hoc reporting, and spotting issues that may not show up on one of your canned dashboards
  • Dimensionality and relational - in the Anaplan world, an alternate hierarchy of the same dataset uses an extra dimension in the module. This makes the size larger, and the navigation clunky. Properly integrating alternate hierarchies and hierarchy property sorting, summing, and filtering would go a long way
  • Workforce Planning efficiency - so much easier than excel to maintain sensitive information planning
  • Long range plan lead time - the old excel model took weeks to update. The Anaplan model takes hours
Modeling and what I call the "brains" is much better in Anaplan. You can create several different model types that can all feed into a single budget or plan.

What Anaplan really lacks is the ad-hoc ability that is in Hyperion. You can't identify your dimensions and find the data sitting in that spot, the data just isn't setup that way in Anaplan. This makes answering some detail questions more difficult than it would be in Hyperion. for that reason, we are using Anaplan for the modeling, and Hyperion for the data storage. It would be nice to be able to sunset Hyperion though....
Small scale, rapidly changing models are the most beneficial to use Anaplan. Large Scale models that change rapidly could be cumbersome to update and maintain.

Make sure you know what you are paying for with size. A "small" model could scale exponentially when you factor in dimension sizes and reporting requirements.

Anaplan Feature Ratings

Long-term financial planning
9
Financial budgeting
9
Forecasting
9
Scenario modeling
8
Management reporting
5
Financial data consolidation
Not Rated
Journal entries and reports
Not Rated
Multi-currency management
Not Rated
Intercompany Eliminations
Not Rated
Minority Ownership
Not Rated
Local and consolidated reporting
Not Rated
Detailed Audit Trails
Not Rated
Financial Statement Reporting
Not Rated
Management Reporting
5
Excel-based Reporting
4
Automated board and financial reporting
4
Personalized dashboards
5
Color-coded scorecards
5
KPIs
6
Cost and profitability analysis
8
Key Performance Indicator setting
Not Rated
Benchmarking with external data
Not Rated
Flat file integration
8
Excel data integration
6
Direct links to 3rd-party data sources
6

Using Anaplan

50 - Financial Planning & Administration
Human Resources
Sales
Operations
2 - Excel or similar spreadsheet modeling
some minor programming skills
Understanding of the business objectives and goals
  • Workforce Planning
  • Long Range Planning
  • Budgeting
  • Capacity Planning
  • what-if scenarios
  • Capacity Planning
  • Sales quota and comp
  • Project planning
I don't think we could function without the collaboration capabilities built into Anaplan that replaced disparate Excel files in the workforce planning model.

Evaluating Anaplan and Competitors

Yes - We have replaced Hyperion Planning as our planning tool with Anaplan. We were underwhelmed with the overall functionality and ability to model in Hyperion, and wanted a little more Brains behind our planning and forecasting. Anaplan did a great job at that immediately! It has been a slower process to get everything migrated into Anaplan due to the volume of data we have, but we have finally gotten to the point where they are running parallel now as a test to make sure we can turn off Planning.
  • Price
  • Product Features
  • Product Usability
  • Third-party Reviews
Usability to us was huge. We wanted a platform that we could manage without needing an IT team to handle changes. We also wanted a global system that could be easily implemented and accessed across the globe. Anaplan fits the bill on both accounts. The only IT help we have received has been on the data warehouse side of integration...all modeling has been done in the FP&A team.
I think we might have asked for a little more detailed proof of concept when first looking at Anaplan. We quickly ran into sizing issues due to the rushed job we did of completing a POC, but Anaplan was quick to help us out and make sure we were happy in the end.

Anaplan Implementation

I won't rate this low due to the 3rd party consultant, because overall the implementation with Anaplan went great. We had working models in our first month of having Anaplan, and have been able to branch out into multiple facets of the business in the 3 years since our first implementation.
  • Implemented in-house
  • Professional services company
We implemented when the company was very young, so we went with a vendor recommended 3rd party consultant to help get the ball rolling. The problem we ran into was the lack of knowledge from that 3rd party consulant, and we ended up trashing what they gave us and learning it on our own. That consultant has since stopped doing Anaplan implementations, and there are quite a few more now that are much more reputable. Learning it was easy enough, so it is definitely an option to do it all in-house, especially with the help of resources like www.anaplanguru.com
Yes - We went with one use case at a time. This allowed us to focus on finishing out a model before moving on to the next one. I think this is a good approach at the beginning, as it will give you a good foundation in how Anaplan works before you have invested too much time into multiple models.
Change management was a major issue with the implementation - Going from excel or even a well established planning platform like Hyperion, will take a lot of effort in change management. First thing you must have is executive support, or you will end up with very few users and the platform won't take off. Take the time in the beginning to work through the changes with your company, the efforts will be well worth it in the end.
  • weak 3rd party consulant knowledge
  • learning curve of workspace and model design
  • change management

Anaplan Training

  • Online training
  • In-person training
  • Self-taught
The in-person training is simply not worth the cost. After a few weeks of playing in Anaplan, I went to the basic training and knew more than the person teaching it. a year down the road, I was the first person to complete the advance training, and again could have been teaching the class better than the person running the session. Spend some time on your own trying out different things and you will get all the understanding you need to be successful.
I'm giving this a 5 simply for the anapedia outline of calculations. The online videos and trainings leave a lot to be desired, but having anapedia around to help you understand calculations has been helpful. The drawback to anapedia is the depth they go into for calculations, it is lackluster at times. Because of that, I have been working through a much more in-depth look at each calculation on my website for users to reference: http://www.anaplanguru.com/formulas/
I absolutely recommend this approach. Get a hold of the software, build some basic models to play around with, and reference either anapedia or http://www.anaplanguru.com/formulas/ to get started with formulas. You can take a look at some workspace design tips and tricks as well on my site to help you get started with your overall approach to Anaplan. They will try and sell you on some in person training at the point of sale, don't take it.

Configuring Anaplan

Anaplan is a platform that lets you build your models out as you see fit. The number of use cases you could tackle with Anaplan is staggering, just take a look at their app hub to get a feel for it. It's your design, so the configuration possibilities are nearly endless.
I have written out what I consider to be the best practices for worskpace design at http://www.anaplanguru.com/anaplanners/
The key points are to centralize a data hub to handle your integrations and data transformation, flatten your ragged hierarchies where possible, and use consistent organization throughout your models to allow anyone to come in and understand them.
Yes - we have customized the interface extensively - I'm going to answer this as if you are talking about the end user interface. You can't really customize the overall Anaplan interface, but you can build dashboards to customize how your users interact with the data within the models. Overall it isn't too hard to customize these dashboards, but there is still a lot of functionality the user base is asking for.
No - the product does not support adding custom code

Anaplan Support

I feel like the support team is a little lacking in product knowledge. Several times I have contacted them to get help, and ended up finding a solution to my own problem before the team could get back to me with anything useful. I have also submitted a few bugs, and never got updates to when they were fixed in later releases.
ProsCons
Good followup
Kept well informed
Support cares about my success
Quick Initial Response
Less knowledgeable
Problems left unsolved
Difficult to get immediate help
Need to explain problems multiple times
Yes - I'm not sure. They were documented, and I was told they were getting worked on and a potential release time...however I never received any communication beyond that. I had found workarounds to the bugs I did submit, so I have not gone back to retest since I have it working at this time.
unfortunately, no. The only time I feel like I am talking to someone that fully understands the product is when I am interacting with the product development team directly.

Using Anaplan

For the most part, if you are good with excel and have a little understanding on how databases work, you can build nearly anything in Anaplan. It is pretty easy to pick up and handle most of the simple modeling, but takes a bit more training to get into more complex models. On the user side, it functions much like an array of pivot tables to get to your data points, so should be familiar to any excel user.
ProsCons
Like to use
Relatively simple
Easy to use
Technical support not required
Well integrated
Quick to learn
Convenient
Feel confident using
Lots to learn
  • Hierarchical aggregations...using lists to aggregate is very easy
  • sumif and vlookup type formulas
  • alternate hierarchies
  • data linking between modules
  • data integration
  • formatting
  • complex nested formulas

Anaplan Reliability

It's going to handle most of what you can throw at it. The problem lies in the sparsity of some datasets. When you have over 5ish dimensions of sparse data, the size of the model gets bloated for not much value. In several cases, I have had to adapt my model to account for sparsity in a way that minimized use of space, but also made interacting with the data more cumbersome.
In nearly 3 years, I have only had 1 issue of being unable to access my model for an unplanned maintenance. Even planned maintenance windows are handled during low traffic hours on the weekend.
Everything is calculated in memory in the cloud. It's nearly instantaneous updates when you make changes. The only time things get a little slow is when you have a massive model with very intricate calculations...but "slow" for Anaplan is not what I would call "slow" for something like Hyperion. We used to have Hyperion calcs that ran for 60 mins before you could use data. The equivalent would be 60 seconds in Anaplan.

Integrating Anaplan

started with a 7, but would probably rate it an incomplete at this point on our end since we haven't gotten deep into it at this point. Look for me to update this part of the review in the future when we are using more integrations to get data into and out of Anaplan.
  • HFM
We used Anaplan Connect and HFMcmd to automate our data flow from HFM into anaplan for actuals. It wasn't easy on the HFM side, but the Anaplan side was pretty easy overall. We are in the process of a data warehouse restructure in our company, so most of our data integrations to this point of have been manual while we wait for that to be completed.
  • Snowflake Data Warehouse
  • Ultipro HRIS
yes, they do.
  • File import/export
Anaplan Connect

Relationship with Anaplan

It was very early on in their development as a company, so they weren't quite up to speed with how to answer complex questions. Overall it was a good experience, but their lack of understanding of sizing estimates left me with a fairly low rating overall. I hope they have fixed that in the last 3 years.
Being one of the early adopters, we have had a little more access to product development teams and upper management than most companies are afforded. This has helped us get a little more insight on upcoming releases and direction they are going with the platform. I do still feel like they need a stronger support team, which knocked the grade down a bit.
their pricing strategy has changed multiple times since we contracted, so it would not be relevant at this time.
Ensure you understand model sizing, and try to get as much space as possible for your budget. Not having to worry about how much space your models use will help make the model building go much smoother. It's a lot easier to reduce model size after it is working than thinking through your design with space restrictions.

Upgrading Anaplan

Yes - They typically have 4 updates a year. Being a SaaS model in the cloud, everyone gets the update at the same time. It takes a few hours during low traffic times on a weekend to perform the upgrade. I enjoy being able to come into work on a monday after the upgrade process and start using new functionality without ever having to lift a finger.
  • New charting capabilities
  • centralized security and user management
  • predictive analytics
  • more charting capabilities
  • new dashboard grid