A beginner’s guide to Anaplan - what it is and how it can help your business

Michael Gould may be a tech giant these days, a multi-millionaire with a reputation for reinventing how we work, but it was a far different story 18 years ago. Back then he was just another software architect who was increasingly frustrated with the inefficiency of handling large sets of data and complexity1. What was different about Gould though was he did something about it.
A beginner's guide to Anaplan | Blog | Innovior

That something was the creation of Anaplan, a cloud-based financial planning software provider that began life in his office in a brick barn in the United Kingdom and has gone on to be embraced by some of the world’s biggest companies. Self-styled as the 'spreadsheet killer'2, the ground-breaking solution enables business planning on a single system and, in its own words, “integrates planning, budgeting and forecasting processes to provide organisations with real-time visibility into data that drives results”3.

Now based in San Francisco, Anaplan was purchased for more than $10 billion in 20224 and remains committed to using its business planning and performance management platform to collectively save its more than 1900 customers5 billions of dollars in time and resources each year. In a world where business dynamics have never been more complex, it is essential for companies to connect key people, data and plans and Anaplan has forged a reputation for doing just that.

It is one thing to adopt Anaplan though and another to do it properly. To ensure organisations get the most out of the solution, we have designed this easy-to-use guide that outlines how it works, its game-changing benefits and why it pays to partner with an experienced technology partner for implementation.

What is Anaplan?

Anaplan is a cloud-based platform for planning and performance management that offers applications across multiple areas including sales, marketing, HR, finance and IT. With a key focus on enhancing decision-making, the solution integrates data sources, crafts simulations and facilitates real-time collaboration to foster improved teamwork and streamlined business operations.

How does Anaplan work?

Anaplan combines quality user experience with leading technology to help users address complex issues. Here’s how it works.

  • Cloud-based platform: Anaplan removes the need for users to install software by operating entirely in the cloud. For access, all users need is an internet connection. In a boost for collaboration, multiple users can also work on the same model at the same time including commenting on specific data points and sharing insights.
  • Data integration: the ability to pull in real-time data is crucial for informing users’ planning processes and Anaplan achieves this by integrating data from sources such as ERP systems (Enterprise Resource Planning), CRM software (Customer Relationship Management) and financial systems.
  • Modelling environment: from sales territories and product lines to departments, Anaplan users can build custom models that represent various aspects of the business and tailor them to their specific needs.
  • Spreadsheet interface: Anaplan may take pride in its reputation as a ‘spreadsheet killer’ but its modelling environment does use a spreadsheet-like interface that makes it familiar to people who typically work with them. Better still, the interface supports multi-dimensional planning, which means users can simultaneously analyse data across different areas (eg: product, region, time period).
  • Scenario planning: the path to better decisions and more robust strategies is built on scenario planning and Anaplan enables users to perform what-if analyses to understand how changes in assumptions or variables may impact plans.
  • Reporting and visualisation: it is all well and good to source key metrics and performance indicators but they then need to be communicated effectively. Anaplan ticks this box by hosting reporting and visualisation tools that allow users to create custom reports, dashboards and charts.

How is Anaplan sold?

Anaplan offers customers the option of choosing a plan that best suits their business needs. They include:

  • Basic: Anaplan’s Basic tier features essential capabilities to support basic planning and modelling. These include an interactive dashboard design, self-service data import and export, integration with Microsoft Office and Cloudworks, and Anaplan’s cloud-based data integration and orchestration platform.
  • Professional: targeted at organisations that require enhanced capabilities to meet advanced planning requirements, Anaplan’s Professional tier combines the previously mentioned features with additional components such as application lifecycle management, audit capabilities and DocuSign integration.
  • Enterprise: for a premium Anaplan service look no further than the Enterprise tier, which offers cutting-edge optimisation capabilities, data connector bundles and world-class support. Specific features include bring-your-own-key functionality, an additional workspace allowance and Hypercare advanced technical support service.

Anaplan also allows users of all tiers to pay for additional features including PlanIQ (create business forecasts via integration with machine learning and statistical algorithms) and HyperModeling (aggregation of large data sets for easier analysis). Professional tier customers can also access Enterprise-level technical support for an extra fee.

What are Anaplan’s key features?

The Anaplan platform has several key features that support organisations and users including:

  • Embedded intelligence: Anaplan combines embedded optimisation, cutting-edge predictive algorithms and artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities to transform complex inputs into actionable recommendations. This includes its trademarked Optimizer tool and embedded algorithms that enable statistical forecasting.
  • Patented engines: an in-memory calculation engine, Hyperblock facilitates multi-dimensional scenario modelling with unlimited contrasts to allow businesses to model complicated scenarios and stay ahead of market changes. A further two calculation engines – the Classic engine and the Polaris engine – are also designed to solve business problems at scale, while Hypermodel capabilities allow users to feed vast amounts of data into use cases and effortlessly adjust forecasts.
  • Enterprise scalability: imagine being able to scale your business planning across trillions of cells, hundreds of models and use cases, thousands of users and multiple versions. The Anaplan platform makes this a reality as calculations stay consistent and rapid for all datasets and any number of users.
  • Robust security: few things are more important in today’s business landscape than data protection. With this in mind, Anaplan offers industry-leading security capabilities that guarantee organisations transparency, visibility, access and control. Be it BYOK, single sign-on (SSO) support with SAML 2.0, audit functionality that tracks user activity or data encryption at rest and in transit, Anaplan is a safe bet.

What are the pros and cons of Anaplan?

Anaplan undoubtedly offers users more benefits than negatives. These include:


  • Ease of use: there is a lot to be said for a solution that allows users to make data-driven decisions without requiring a qualification in data science. This is certainly the case for Anaplan, which blends clear workflows and Excel-style functionality to make life easy for all.
  • Collaboration: as a cloud-based solution, Anaplan ensures collaboration lies at the heart of its offering. Remote teams can work together in real-time, while audit trail, model restore and selective user access features ensure security for collaborative activities.
  • Increased visibility: Anaplan not only allows users to analyse data but ensures their colleagues can seamlessly review findings. Representing data down to the transactional level means more precise business decisions can be made, while staff can also view metadata associated with different business plans and the relationships between them to gauge potential impacts they have on each other.


  • Learning curve: Anaplan’s modelling environment will be familiar to spreadsheet users but newcomers may find themselves initially overwhelmed by understanding how to build models, create formulas and navigate the interface. For this reason, there is a lot to like about partnering with an expert technology partner that can guide such education.
  • Complex integration: Anaplan offers countless benefits once implemented but reaching that stage can be a struggle, especially for businesses with legacy systems or intricate planning processes. It is highly recommended to dedicate additional resources and tap into expertise during this phase to ensure optimal configuration and customisation.


Anaplan operates under a license-based pricing system that depends on various factors. These include the tier chosen, a customer’s user count, line of business, use plans and number of workspace gigabytes the customer buys. Pricing can also increase significantly as application complexity increases. While Anaplan does not offer free plans or trials, product demos are available. For further information on pricing, visit the company’s website.


Anaplan is a game-changer but far too many organisations fail to realise its true potential as they adopt the platform without a clear strategic vision. While it offers its own training and resources, the truth is the greatest Anaplan success stories are told by organisations that have partnered with experts not only during the implementation phase but for ongoing optimisation.

At Innovior, we take pride in guiding clients on their Anaplan journeys. Our experienced consultants take the time to look at the individual needs of an organisation and devise implementation and optimisation plans that are unique and deliver long-term success. The reality is most companies do not boast the skills or knowledge to optimise purpose-built technology solutions such as Anaplan - and that is where we come in. Best of all, taking the first step is only the click of a button away.

One cannot blame businesses for pursuing their own generative AI projects but too many are wasting considerable time and money that would have been better invested elsewhere. Learn how to best approach generative AI adoption and the risks to keep an eye out for.

Let's start a conversation

Don't just gain an edge. Leap ahead and evolve your business.