What is Anaplan?

Many visitors to this website are existing users of Anaplan, potential new users of Anaplan, or people who are like us, who make their living by offering services involving Anaplan.

So the more technical how-to guides blogs are great for them.

However, we are now looking to reach out to more potential users of Anaplan rather than get our business purely by word of mouth.

So to the uninitiated, what is Anaplan?

The Origins of Anaplan

Systems like Anaplan date back to a time where you couldn’t hold all of your data in one place, so you would aggregate it to make sense of it. That means you take your raw data and process it to make new data that takes up less space that just gives you what you need to know. In sales this might be removing the details of every transaction but keeping the total sales figure for a region or salesperson for a particular month.

Storing this data in a way that makes it easy to process and run calculations with is where Enterprise Performance Management tools come in. Another or slightly different way to look at the same thing, is that if you are measuring performance, you may be measuring it against milestones that you have set at the beginning of the year to achieve your end of year revenue goal. So you can think of it as a planning tool. You make a plan for what you hope to achieve in the coming year and then you measure performance against that plan.

Still worth working with simplified versions of the truth

As technology has advanced, you now can hold all of your transactions and work with that data, and some people may want to work with that original raw data in some circumstances.

However, working with aggregated data allows you to just work with the bits you need and play around with it and do calculations with it in a way that would be harder if you worked with the raw full data set.


A lot of people will use Excel for this planning process using aggregated data. In a lot of situations Excel is still the right tool, however there will be times that there may be better tools, particularly if you are working with a lot of spreadsheets and a lot of users are working on any one spreadsheet. There may be a process which involves a sequence of people having to do something with it, so the second has to wait for the first to have done their bit. There may be more than one cycle, so it’s getting passed around, and any delays affect everyone else in the process. From being a great flexible tool, Excel starts to look like the wrong tool for an organisation that can afford something better.

I know what kind of companies have bought Anaplan in the past, but maybe I shouldn’t say that only those companies will buy it in the future.

Traditionally these type of tools are used in finance initially, then maybe being rolled out into sales or operations. HR is a possibility too. Anaplan can do all of these, but is stepping out of the finance use cases much more than earlier types of this sort of tool.

Why is that ?

Anaplan has been developed by a team that worked with and designed earlier generation planning tools and knew that it could be done better.

I could mention the specific areas of functionality that make Anaplan different, but the end result is that you can start with a smaller project and it still be viable. You can build your models quicker. I should explain that a model is a bit of the world that you want to capture with words, calculations and logic. In the same way that for a computer game, you create a virtual world with numbers and calculations, a financial model is one that takes numbers, calculations and logic to replicate parts of a business. You may want to follow accepted accounting principles to describe the transactions of your company, or you may want to devise your own measures and calculations to give a completely new perspective on things.

As well as modelling existing processes and planning, you may want to use Anaplan to do completely new things using it’s powerful calculation engine, and ability to work with numbers that have an underlying order but are on a scale that could be unmanageable in more basic tools.

Get in touch

Anyone who wants to know more is welcome to get in touch with me. Particularly people who are getting frustrated with Excel or their existing legacy software. Anaplan can also be used to custom build something to replace business software that is already in place but is starting to look dated and expensive. Anaplan may not be the right tool for all situations, but you are welcome to ask me and I can look into it with our experts. Often the ongoing costs for a legacy product that isn’t keeping pace with requirements can be more than ongoing costs of something built with Anaplan. The functionality developed with Anaplan can then be built on by the client in future without resorting to code (ie programming). colin.wall@mentattechnology.co.uk