Anaplan tackles data uncertainty with agile planning solution

David Reed, director of research and editor-in-chief, DataIQ

Anybody working in business intelligence, planning or predictive analytics will be familiar with the scenario. “We come across companies which are being run from spreadsheets, so the decisions being made are only as good as the individuals owning them. Financial analysts use that as a vehicle to prove their value to the business.”

Frank Calderoni, AnaplanThis description by Frank Calderoni, CEO of enterprise performance management vendor Anaplan, is typical of the Excel-driven world of reporting and forecasting which the company was set up in 2010 to tackle. “Our view is that data should be available and transparent so that businesses can react to changing situations and make better predictions. Our solution allows them to manage information faster,” he told DataIQ.

In retail and supply chain management, agility is business-critical, not least because wafer-thin margins mean better stock and pricing decisions have a big impact on the bottom line - adoption by these sectors has been one of the drivers of Anaplan’s growth, with over 660 client companies globally, including more than 50 added last year. “We are definitely seeing a change in the approach to planning. It provides competitive advantage to make quicker decisions in fast-moving markets and to involve everybody in them. Retailers can be more creative in a marketplace that’s constantly being disrupted,” said Calderoni.

Circle K has adopted Anaplan to optimise petrol supply across its international chain of convenience stores and to dynamically adapt pricing to reflect shifts in the wholesale cost of oil. Eat is managing its soup-to-sandwich supply chain from the solution to ensure stock levels and reflect the preferences of customers by individual location. 

Calderoni said: “There have been many different applications for supply chain management over the decades. We are aiming to replace those legacy systems from the likes of Oracle, SAP, IBM and Hyperion with something more flexible.”

The company describes itself as a tech unicorn and has taken $240 million in investment, including $90 million in Series E funding last year. “What I like about that term is the idea of bringing about change and being a disruptive technology. We are a technology of the future,” he said.

Calderoni only joined the business four months ago, but is committed to continual innovation - “we can’t rest on our laurels.” Fresh from a San Francisco client event that attracted 1,500 and another in London with over 300 clients and partners, he said a core objective is to be “customer-first, focusing on their needs, not just a sales organisation.”

The business will accelerate its investment into engineering teams based in the UK and the US. “The next couple of years are about becoming open, continuing to innovate with more open APIs while also ensuring security,” he said. Connectors to Informatica and Tableau have recently been added to support these data flows and ensure information can both enter Anaplan and be deployed into other applications. 

It’s a long way from the barn outside York where founder Michael Gould first developed the solution out of a frustration with the limitations of other planning tools and the Excel fiefdoms he had encountered. But as Calderoni noted, “our customers are starting to talk about technologies like machine learning and AI, so we need to keep at the forefront.”