Implementing a new software solution is not easy. There are numerous horror stories where implementations went massively sideways, like when a German retail company spent seven years and almost €500 million on a new inventory management system before they declared the project a failure.
Planning Guru with several years of experience in Sales, Demand & Supply Chain Management. He is also a passionate engineer, certified Master Anaplaner and former leader of an Anaplan Center of Excellence.
Now, what can we learn from these horror stories? Most of them have one thing in common — they focused too much on the technical solution and lost touch with the actual end-user. In addition, the organization will most likely have evolved since the early days of the implementation. Hence, it is crucial for the long-term success of the software solution that it is adapted to organizational changes along the way.
When starting with your first Anaplan project, Bluesprint generally focuses on delivering a workable product in the shortest time possible. This makes sense because your investment needs to provide a return and it’s easier to add complexity at a later stage. However, when you continue to race through release 2, 3, 4 etc., there is an increasing risk that the organization will not keep up with your pace. This is where the Center of Excellence comes into place.
A Center of Excellence is a diverse cross-functional team working together toward the same strategic goal, while focusing on the balance between solution maturity and organizational development. But what does that mean?
Solution Maturity can be described as the number of features added to Anaplan models, increasing the general complexity but also connecting pieces of information together with each other. It’s also the visible output of the project.
Organizational Maturity is focused on the people within a company, including end-users, model builders, leadership etc. This also includes processes and the means of communication between individual people. Ultimately, a mature organization will have a strong resilience and a high level of innovation.
This development can be described in 4 phases:
Phase 1: Getting comfortable
It’s natural that it will take some time to adopt a new solution and implement the necessary changes within the organization. This should neither be neglected, nor be done in a hurry. A strong focus during this period has to be on training and user adoption.
Phase 2: Building the organization (or game over?)
This is the magic moment, where the future is determined. Continuing with exclusive focus on the technical solution will eventually end in a situation where user adoption is low, the model complexity is very high, but there is also nobody within the organization that understands the model. These are just a few reasons emphasizing the importance of investing into the development of your organization — otherwise, it’s game-over!
The establishment of a Center of Excellence will guide you through a number of principle questions that will ultimately increase your organizational maturity, like:
- What roles & responsibilities do we need?
- Which skills do these individuals require?
- How do we define the priorities for new user stories & projects?
More details on this topic can be found in the CoE charter offered by Anaplan.
The balance between the development of the organization and solution can also be measured through a few metrics, such as:
- High user adoption & satisfaction
- Short delivery time of new model features
- Clearly measurable value uplift through, for example, shortened planning cycles
These are indicators that you are on the right track and can start to increase the pace again.
Phase 3: Exploring new territories
With many of our customers, we see that they become more opportunistic once they have successfully implemented 2-3 Anaplan models and established a robust Center of Excellence. New user cases come in regularly, and the initial model builders quickly become the bottle neck. Your Center of Excellence needs to be the guiding compass in this phase, by managing priorities and balancing them with resources throughout the organization.
Phase 4: Mastering Connected Planning
Connected Planning is a journey — not a state. You have clearly mastered this journey when connecting new people, data and plans becomes a friction-free process.
At Bluesprint, we recommend starting your Center of Excellence early. Best practice is to begin the design process already during the first implementation.