Palo Alto Networks (PAN) is a global provider of cybersecurity services, focusing on next-generation firewalls, appliances, cloud, end-point and analytics products. The company was approaching the end of the license period with its then-current software-as-as-a-service (SaaS) provider, and needed a new and improved solution by the time the agreement expired. The new tool needed to replicate the capabilities of its existing system — including demand planning, forecast disaggregation, supply planning and component forecasting — while improving its integration of sales, supply chain and financial processes. And it needed to achieve this transition within a tight (and non-negotiable) timeframe.
After evaluating numerous candidates, PAN chose Anaplan Inc., whose SaaS platform connects teams, systems and insights for scenario modeling, forecasting and planning. To the customer, Anaplan offered flexibility, scalability and an intuitive user interface, all on schedule and on budget.
Implementation of Anaplan’s system proved just as critical as the solution itself. As part of the user acceptance testing process, the company chose to involve the software’s users as early as possible.
“We started by training all the users in Anaplan,” says Nikalaus Satish, senior sales and operations planning (S&OP) analyst with PAN. “This helped them to get really familiar with the tool as we went. Even though we had consultants, we tried to do the model building with our in-house developers. And we made sure that we were constantly doing demos and getting feedback almost daily.”
Involving in-house users from the get-go reaped benefits both during the implementation process and as the company approached its deadline. PAN ultimately avoided last-minute surprises and was able to make a smooth transition to go-live and deployment, thanks to early-stage feedback and user familiarity.
Jonathan Morgan, senior director for demand, inventory and spares planning at PAN, recalls the lessons learned from the process. “One of the key things we took away was to not replicate functionality that existed in an Excel model or a prior tool, and just copy and paste this into the new tool,” he says. Instead, PAN followed the Anaplan method and let the technical experts develop new solutions that would serve the right business outcomes.
“Don't just build something that satisfies you for the next two quarters of the fiscal year,” Morgan advises. “Think about where the business is going to be a few years out, and try to build that scale.”
Satish cites the importance of foundation-building as another key takeaway from the transition to Anaplan’s software. “It's important to build a strong backbone, because as you keep using the tool, you're going to keep building more modules, add more data, and your processes are going to change,” he says. “If you build a strong backbone, you save time down the road.”
Once the deadline was met and Anaplan’s software was deployed, the benefits of the transition became evident. For Morgan, improved flexibility was pivotal. The ability to adjust models quickly, adapt to business changes and automate previously manual processes opened up a host of new opportunities.
“Over the two and a half years or so that we've been running Anaplan, we've added a ton of functionality,” Morgan says. “We actually run our S&OP forecast meetings in Anaplan. We don't do it offline. We don't do slide decks and everything else. We just do it live in the tool.”
As PAN continues to grow as a company, Anaplan’s solution will likewise expand. Planned improvements include business connectivity.
“Connected planning is something we haven't taken advantage of yet across the business,” Morgan says. “Connecting into finance and sales operations and budgets is definitely on the roadmap to keep scaling.”
On the tech end, Satish looks forward to using CloudWorks, Anaplan’s data-integration software, which he believes will streamline certain processes through automation and improved scheduling, as well as continue to improve the overall user experience.
All of the principals consider the relationship between PAN and Anaplan to be a huge success. “Since the transition, PAN has been able to drive from a single S&OP use case to basically full end-to-end advanced planning,” says Evan Quasney, vice president of solutions marketing with Anaplan. “That's what we believe is really compelling about this — that the software helps our clients and customers enable the business outcomes they're looking to achieve.”
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