Anaplan: Moving toward always-on Connected Planning with machine learning

About Anaplan

Anaplan’s Connected Planning platform enables organizations to accelerate real-time decision-making by connecting data, people, and plans across the enterprise.

Industries: Technology
Location: United States

To add machine learning capabilities to its Connected Planning platform, Anaplan engaged Google Cloud Professional Services for fast time to value when running TensorFlow models on Cloud Machine Learning Engine.

Google Cloud Results

  • Makes Anaplan more competitive in a market increasingly driven by artificial intelligence
  • Improves time to market for machine learning solutions
  • Demonstrates tangible and quantifiable business benefits of machine learning for large enterprise customers
  • Reduces potential risk and cost of strategic or tactical missteps in decision making

Saving customers millions of dollars

Decision-makers in most businesses today face a host of new challenges: markets are volatile and uncertain, which often makes business plans out of date the moment they are set. Business cycles are getting tighter, making the ability to move quickly from decision to action a powerful competitive advantage. And data is coming from everywhere and in great quantities, making it harder than ever to make sense of it all.

Global 2000 companies that want to overcome these challenges and bridge the gap between planning and execution across the business turn to Anaplan, a cloud planning platform that joins people together with data and plans to accelerate business value. The Anaplan platform makes planning dynamic, collaborative, and intelligent at hundreds of large enterprises around the world.

Anaplan is constantly improving its product and introducing new capabilities to give customers more business value. For example, it recently introduced Optimizer, an advanced mathematical modeling and algorithmic problem-solving tool that helps customers determine pathways to ideal outcomes. The future for Anaplan also includes machine learning (ML), an application of artificial intelligence (AI) that trains models with large amounts of data and uses that data to “learn” to improve its processes. Incorporating ML into its Connected Planning platform will be critical for Anaplan as the company strives to gain market share and drive better results for its customers.

“We want to enable our customers to use ML to make ongoing progress in a world where improvement planning never stops,” says Subrata Chakrabarti, VP of Product Marketing at Anaplan. “But we’re not an AI or ML company; our expertise is in planning. We wanted to work with a leader in ML that could help accelerate our efforts and avoid false starts.”

“We decided to engage Google based on a well-deserved reputation for AI innovation and expertise. The combination of fast time to market and leading-edge ML technology is hard to beat. When we tell our customers we’re running our ML models on Google Cloud Platform, they know we’re serious.”

Subrata Chakrabarti, VP of Product Marketing, Anaplan

Faster time to market for AI and ML solutions

Anaplan chose to engage Google Cloud Professional Services for building two customer prototypes that used ML to enhance predictive planning methods.

“We decided to engage Google based on a well-deserved reputation for AI innovation and expertise,” says Subrata. “The combination of fast time to market and leading-edge ML technology is hard to beat. When we tell our customers we’re running our ML models on Google Cloud Platform, they know we’re serious.”

The Google team assisted Anaplan in identifying the data sets that would be required, then helped deploy and train TensorFlow models using custom machine learning models on Cloud Machine Learning Engine. Because Google developed the open-source TensorFlow library, it’s in a unique position to provide expertise.

“Google Cloud Professional Services helped us get started with ML much faster than we could have on our own, helping us discover which use cases and datasets would be most relevant and useful to our customers,” says Subrata. “It’s been a true collaboration and a fantastic experience.”

“With the help of Google Cloud Professional Service to run ML models on Google Cloud Platform, we identified almost $2 million in savings for a large beverage customer that could be easily achieved through inventory optimization at the local retail level. That’s a 15 percent uplift over any other methods they tried.”

Subrata Chakrabarti, VP of Product Marketing, Anaplan

Proofs of concept demonstrate potential for millions in savings

With Google’s help, Anaplan put its models to work for customers with small scale, proof-of-concept (POC) demonstrations. The first was for one of the world’s largest beverage manufacturers, with the goal of better understanding how products are bought and consumed at the local level, and what’s driving those sales. Anaplan looked at historical data about sales, inventory, and promotions, and also considered external factors such as customer demographics and weather data obtained through BigQuery Public Datasets. The two-month POC was limited in scope to 10 percent of the company’s U.S. market, yet the results were impressive.

“With the help of Google Cloud Professional Services to run ML models on Google Cloud Platform, we identified almost $2 million in savings for a large beverage customer that could be easily achieved through inventory optimization at the local retail level,” says Subrata. “That’s a 15 percent uplift over any other methods they tried.”

Encouraged, Anaplan took on a second POC with a large consumer packaged goods (CPG) organization that sells its cold and flu medications through a well-known brick-and-mortar retailer. Looking at a variety of factors, including point-of-sale and promotions data, promotions by competitors, flu statistics, and sales and health data from other countries, Anaplan was able to use ML to beat the company’s traditional forecasting process by a wide margin.

“Looking at just 3 brands of cold medicine over only a 6-week period, we found more than $4 million worth of potential improvements for a large CPG customer by running ML models on Google Cloud Platform,” says Subrata. “We uncovered missed sales opportunities as well as opportunities to carry less inventory.”

Making business users’ lives easier

Anaplan benefits strategically by working with Google to figure out where ML can help its customers the most. Instead of purchasing ML technology and bolting it onto its platform, Anaplan can be nimble and selective, always striving to address the most relevant use cases. Before Anaplan invests too much in ML applications that will have limited value or makes tactical missteps, Google can provide the expertise needed to quickly change course. As AI continues to grow and develop, Anaplan always has access to the latest technology, and often the minds that developed it.

“Google is helping us make ML useful to our customers without requiring them to understand the tremendous complexity that goes on behind the scenes,” says Subrata. “We can give them more context and assistance to guide their planning and decision-making by building on the offerings of a technology powerhouse.”

“We believe that AI and ML will play a tremendous role in carrying our large enterprise customers forward along their planning and decision-making journey. To be successful, we need expertise and leading-edge technology, and Google gives us both.”

Subrata Chakrabarti, VP of Product Marketing, Anaplan

Moving customers forward

The budget and planning market is as competitive as ever, and vendors that are leaders today can easily be supplanted by new companies that devise better solutions. Anaplan’s ongoing relationship with Google will not only help it compete and retain its leadership position in the market, but also help establish a new category of Connected Planning that is going to be increasingly driven by AI innovations.

“We believe that AI and ML will play a tremendous role in carrying our large enterprise customers forward along their planning and decision-making journey,” says Subrata. “To be successful, we need expertise and leading-edge technology, and Google gives us both.”

About Anaplan

Anaplan’s Connected Planning platform enables organizations to accelerate real-time decision-making by connecting data, people, and plans across the enterprise.

Industries: Technology
Location: United States
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