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Interview: How Anaplan Delivers Innovation in Real-Time Data Modeling

For many business, the rapid growth of enterprise data has outgrown their capacity to deal with it effectively. Anaplan takes a cutting edge in-memory approach to run highly sophisticated, real-time modeling for the most critical of missions in the enterprise. We caught up with Anaplan’s CEO, Fred Laluyaux, for a better understanding of this technology.

insideBIGDATA: So Fred, I see that Anaplan has experienced triple-digit worldwide growth in 2013. To what do you attribute this incredible expansion?

Fred Laluyaux: Anaplan is growing at such a rapid pace because we are disrupting the world of business modeling and planning – an established market that has been dominated by old technology and legacy vendors. Anaplan brings consumer grade, but enterprise scale to the business user. We are helping global companies (HP, Kimberly-Clark, McAfee, Diageo to name a few) rapidly solve long-standing operations and execution challenges across numerous processes in sales, operations, and finance. Whether the objective is closing sales coverage gaps, speeding up financial consolidation, or optimizing product promotion strategy, Anaplan gives business users across the enterprise the ability to manage massive volumes of data and turn the complexity of business operations into powerful models—in real-time.

We offer a platform that dynamically updates data as transactions happen and displays analytics in a simple drag and drop, drill-down format … an app environment. Business users can perform forecasting on the fly, based on real-time information and without having to call in IT staff. Because Anaplan is cloud-based, thousands of users can collaborate anywhere, anytime on a single source of truth. For our customers, this means that they’ve finally cracked the code on connecting people, plans, and data across their organizations. The result? Plans that work, streamlined execution and faster alignment to market opportunities. 

insideBIGDATA: What does the Anaplan platform do exactly?

Fred Laluyaux: Anaplan empowers companies to plan, collaborate, and act—in real time. Our cloud-based, in-memory platform enables business users to stay ahead of critical business events, rapidly model potential impacts, and course correct on the fly. With Anaplan, users can connect their data, build and maintain models, run complex business processes, “what-if” scenarios, and analytics, and collaborate and execute on plans.

Key to our platform is our in-memory database (our patented Hyperblock™ technology). It was purpose-built to manage and blend transactional data and highly multi-dimensional models. We then gave it a spreadsheet-like interface so that the business users themselves can build and maintain their own models and run immediate calculations. We built modeling and planning essentials right into the platform: time & hierarchy management, version control, collaborative workflow, audit-ability and more. This built-in intelligence combined with a library of over 100+ blueprints and apps means that business users can hit the ground running immediately with the platform. And it’s all in the cloud for easy data integration, anytime/anywhere access, and rapid deployment.

insideBIGDATA: Who are your customers? What segments do you target?

Fred Laluyaux: Our customers are Fortune 2000 companies across all sectors encompassing hospitality, technology, retail, life sciences, manufacturing, healthcare, media and entertainment, and more. The majority of our users are in finance, sales and operations roles at their companies, however we are seeing other departments, including HR and marketing, adopt the Anaplan platform. We work with organizations that face challenges managing massive volumes of data with high degrees of model and process complexity while enabling large numbers of people to collaborate in real-time. For example, Diageo uses Anaplan for demand planning and volume planning; HP uses Anaplan for territory alignment and quota planning; Activision uses Anaplan for promotion optimization.

insideBIGDATA: What does Anaplan offer by way of Big Data solutions?

Fred Laluyaux: Big Data is really a catchall term. Anaplan is changing the way companies analyze, plan, report, and utilize data. Anaplan is highly scalable: it can deal with very large, complex data volumes – up to 1 trillion cells in our models. Yet, it is in the hands of the business users who can build modeling applications and maintain them in real-time. That’s a huge step forward in building forward-looking plans and solving operational and execution problems. In essence, Anaplan is a breakthrough, big-data platform; we rebuilt the whole technology stack for data volume, complexity, and speed. In the case of McAfee, we run through 2.8 million transactional records in less than two seconds. HyperBlock takes full advantage of multi-core processing and technology advances to manage the complexity and immediacy needed for complex, data-heavy model building.

insideBIGDATA: A lot of your growth has been in Europe. Do you see your Big Data solutions growing in Europe as much as in the US?

Fred Laluyaux: Yes. The barriers are falling, especially when you work with Fortune 2000 companies who operate globally. They face the same issues whether they are in the US, Europe or Asia: un-integrated legacy systems that don’t accommodate complex, global processes. They want solutions that scale globally. Before Anaplan, customers considered the adoption process of new planning systems as a painful uphill battle – a process where old ways were reluctantly abandoned to make way for new – and not necessarily ‘better’ – tools. With Anaplan, customer feedback is that they hit the ground running right after implementation. The instant collaboration enabled by the platform also makes them take a closer look at organizational interaction. As more companies see the benefit of having an agile platform that can handle more complex data from varying sources – and they realize the ease of use and implementation – they will surely consider Anaplan as the answer for their big data ecosystem problems.

We already count some of Europe’s largest companies as valued customers including Aviva, Bosal, Miller Homes, Nokia, Prudential and Taylor Wimpey among many others. Our offices in the UK, France, Sweden and the Netherlands deliver on our promise to bring Anaplan to those who need it in their local markets- and there is a need! Large traditional systems hosted on in-house servers are increasingly unsuitable for the modern enterprise, due to their rigidity and inability to process large amounts of data. They result in hundreds of unsupported, error-prone business processes in Excel that are owned by individual users in departments. This is not a smart or secure way of doing business and the market knows it. We see a great opportunity to continue disrupting the space.

insideBIGDATA: What can we expect in a Big Data sense as well as generally speaking from Anaplan as you move forward on this path of proliferation?

Fred Laluyaux: The Anaplan revolution is to provide a big-data engine for business users, removing the need to work with data scientists. The ability to scale your data – 100 billion cells in one model, with 1 billion items in a list – will prove to be the key to proliferation, so long as the data is immediate, useable, consumable via apps, and easy to modify. With Anaplan, business users can build a model with 500 million cells, use it for one hour for a specific purpose, and then throw it away and start on a new one if they want! Ease of use is key. This is the future of enterprise big data.

Along those lines, in a few weeks we’ll unleash a significant visual update to Anaplan with the introduction of our beautiful new Tiles interface. We’re particularly excited about this release of Anaplan as it delivers a cleaner look and feel, improved navigation and faster model interaction. Head over to Winter ’14 Anaplan Platform Release for the full breakdown of features being introduced and a video walkthrough of the new enhancements.

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