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September 22, 2014updated 21 Oct 2016 3:52pm

Traditional enterprise planning tools don’t deliver, are slow and over the hill

Q+A: Founder and CTO of UK software firm Anaplan on growing a UK-based enterprise planning application business from Yorkshire

By Sam

When you think of Enterprise forecasting and planning applications Yorkshire doesn’t always – or ever – spring to mind. But after his time in Silicon Valley, Michael Gould decided to set up his software shop closer to home.

CBR: What is Anaplan?
Michael Gould CTO Anaplan: Anaplan enables businesses to run their whole planning forecasting operations on a cloud based platform to align to their market and execute against opportunities.

What are its attributes compared to competitors?
MG: Key strengths are where you have large scale data volumes, large collaboration requirements – so lots of users needing to interact with that data – and complexity. Many systems that are available can deal with one or two of those but when you get to a point where you get to having to deal with all three, that’s where we shine.

You describe it as Excel on steroids – what do you think of Excel?
MG: It is a really great tool. It is a good personal productivity tool. It is not a tool for driving large scale enterprise applications. It was never designed or that. And the reason it is being used for that is that the other tools that are out there don’t deliver on what has been promised over the last 10 or 20 years.

Describe the current state of the market – in the context of the type of tools that are available for forecasting.
MG: There’s a whole range of products mainly delivered by large vendors that have been around for 20 or 30 years. In the market there is a real appetite to move on, to move off the spreadsheet based solutions and so what we see is people waiting for an alternative.

Companies investing in enterprise grade applications what to be assured of stability of their suppliers – who do you assure them that you’ll be around?
MG: We have a number of VC firms investing $150m in total. Recent round was backed by DFJ Growth, early investors included Meritech Capital, we’re very well funded.

What’s the geographic base of the company?
MG: Founded in the UK. That’s were our core development team is. And we have 10 offices around the world with presence including San Francisco, Singapore, Malaysia and Russia. We have 250 people, of which around 25% are software developers.

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How do you segment the addressable market?
MG: For direct sales our focus is in finance and sales performance management at the $1bn plus larger end of the market. For others we use systems integrators such as Deloitte and Accenture and work with up to 100 smaller partners.

Who in an organisation will use your product?
MG: Right from C-level executive for integrated business planning. Right down to first line sales managers planning quotas for their sales reps.

Describe the integration with other products.
MG: We do the planning and forecasting piece but the data is being fed in by other sytsems. We have close partnerships with Salesforce and with Workday, who are both investors. We integrate with other platforms. Downstream people will use Anaplan for reporting and visualisation but if a company is standardised on a particular reporting solution they will continue to use that with Anaplan in the mix and feed the data into systems such as Oracle BI or Tableau.

What language was it built in?
MG: The back end is built in Java. It is an in memory calculation engine and delivered over the web as a hosted service.

What’s your development cycle in product terms?
MG: We use an agile development methodology. We Domain release once a quarter with intermediate releases with new versions every four to six weeks. We have very fast iteration time so new features are released when they are available. One of the great things about running a hosted service is you can roll out a release to a global customer base over a weekend.

What do your customers say about Anaplan?
MG: That they gain immediate visibility on what’s going on in the business and are able to action the information. There is a fast implementation cycle – traditionally it would take a year. We’re up and running within weeks with a particular application and the software is being used and we’re looking at other issues to be solved.
I think the final thing is once they have deployed in 3 or 4 use cases, they start to connect them up and have a system for running their whole business, in sales, in finance in HR – those pieces start to connect and that’s really the end game for us in terms of success.

What’s on the roadmap?
MG: A lot of work on reporting functionality, lot of work on data visualisation and we’re continuing to invest in scale in new data centres and improve the scalability of the solution to tackle larger and larger problems.

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