Company believes time is right to tap on market demand for more agile ERP solution
In its arsenal are its HyperBlock Architecture, and the former head of Oracle Malaysia
IT took more than one phone call from Anaplan’s Samir Neji, over the course of a couple of months, before former Oracle senior executive Ganapathy Sirgunavel took a serious look at Anaplan and what the company does, exactly.
Samir had joined the two-year-old Silicon Valley enterprise IT startup as managing director of its Asia Pacific operations in March 2013, after the company had acquired Cloud EPM in Singapore, where he was chief executive officer.
Samir was trying to convince Ganapathy to join the Anaplan team and wouldn’t take no for an answer, beginning his recruitment campaign around the end of December 2013.
Ganapathy was on a break, having stepped down from his position as country manager and senior director of Oracle Malaysia, and was busy travelling. He was also spending his time doing work with local universities, and helping in the development of cloud-based and innovative technology, which included a video-conferencing product with Universiti Sains Malaysia.
“To be honest when Samir contacted me, my first reaction was ‘what the hell is Anaplan?’ So when I finally sat down and had a Skype call with Samir, he insisted I visit the website and initially instructed me to navigate to the resources section.
“I said ‘okay Samir, I’m in Resources, what am I looking at?’ He said ‘Wait, no go to the customer section first!’ ” recalls Ganapathy in an interview with Digital News Asia (DNA).
But while he didn't know what Anaplan did, apart from a rough idea that it played in the area of Business Process Change (BPC), the company’s list of clients made him sit up and pay attention: Names such as Hewlett-Packard, McAfee, Diageo, Kimberly-Clark, Razer, Petron and Air Asia Expedia.
As the story goes, Ganapathy told Samir that he’ll call him back in 30 minutes after digesting the information on the website. “I called him back in 15 minutes and said ‘Okay let’s talk’,” he says.
The Anaplan USP
Fast forward to the present day and Ganapathy (pic) is now Anaplan managing director for Malaysia and Thailand, having officially joined the company in February.
It is a distinct change of pace for the enterprise IT veteran, having worked at large multinational corporations such as Oracle, SAP, Getronics and Nortel Networks, throughout the course of his career.
“I come from a background in enterprise performance management and I immediately saw that Anaplan was definitely doing something different,” he says.
What makes the company different, according to Ganapathy, is its proprietary technology, at the core of which is its patented HyperBlock Architecture, an in-memory modelling and calculation engine built for faster performance.
According to Anaplan, this technology is built to bring the best features of three architectures together, with the first the cube, a multidimensional data representation to express a lot of data in a very compact form.
Another is the columnar database, the database management system that stores data in columns instead of rows and represents transactional data, does inserts and deletes.
Finally, there is the cell, the basic innovation of the spreadsheet; HyperBlock tracks the dependencies of individual data values by cell.
The result, according to Ganapathy, is a technology that enables a single modelling environment for entire organisations and the ability to recalculate massive models at spreadsheet-like speed.
“The problem with traditional vendors is the need for different blocks handling different functions which sit on top of each other. Anaplan eliminates the need for all that, it’s changing the way business planning and modeling is done today,” he claims.
To illustrate, Ganapathy raises the example of a chief financial officer at a regional telecommunications player.
“How is he able to know the health of the company at any give time? Know exactly how the company is performing from a group level then drill it down to country level?
“You are only able to do that with a solution like Anaplan. You can do a top-down drill and vice versa. And the more you use it, the more stickiness you get, which is what you want, for more businesses within the group use the product so that you can see what’s going on in the entire landscape,” he says.
Ganapathy claims that companies are unable to do that with traditional software solutions, whose technologies do not have that kind of flexibility.
In addition, unlike traditional vendors which typically require approximately eight months to get a solution deployed, Anaplan offers a shortened deployment time of four weeks.
When asked about how the company deals with issues of data privacy and protection, as the solution involves leveraging on Anaplan’s cloud infrastructure and compute power for analysis, Ganapathy says that it only deals with planning data.
“We also have a tool, Anaplan Connect, which allows planners to run operations such as import of data and lists, export and other actions from the client, so that sensitive data can be brought into Anaplan for analysis, and then cleared without ever being stored on our database,” he says.
In addition, compliance management in Anaplan is an integrated process with selective access, hash algorithms, and data block storage where users are able to complete their work in an environment that enforces compliance without getting in their way.
The security and audit tracking integrated within the platform allows model administrators to audit who has viewed and edited models all the way down to specific cells within modules.
This granular security empowers administrators to see how data is manipulated and accessed. In addition, models can be returned to a previous version in seconds.
The pricing model for Anaplan is based on two metrics: The client’s storage needs; and second, the number and level of user licences, which depend on organisation, size and use case.
The plan for Malaysia
Despite Ganapathy having only joined the company three months ago, and the Malaysian office having been launched only in March, outreach efforts for the local market have already begun.
Anaplan hosted an industry roundtable and briefing session for prospective clients on April 16 in Kuala Lumpur to introduce itself and its offerings.
Ganapathy claims that the team initially expected only 30-35 attendees but over 70 showed up for the event, which signals an appetite and demand for a more agile and comprehensive solution for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) needs.
“Anaplan does have global blue chip brands already in its portfolio, but we have yet to tap the potential of the Malaysian market -- for example the telco companies and other home-grown large enterprises,” he says.
Plans for expanding its footprint in the market, in addition to embarking on a recruitment drive to add to its ranks, include the addition of strategic partners.
Globally, Anaplan works with professional services firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited and management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, Accenture.
In Malaysia, partnerships have been reached with three boutique-consulting firms: Astrums Consulting, Magnus Consulting and Goldbury Communications.
“In the last two months, we’ve managed to convince them to do business with us and I was really impressed that our partners have already managed to bring on board customers with them,” Ganapathy says.
In addition, the company is looking at setting up a development centre in the country and Ganapathy shares that he is talking to national ICT custodian Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC).
He also plans to work with local universities -- creating connections and offering Malaysian graduates training and education on Anaplan’s solutions, along with helping them with options and possibilities when it comes to developing tech skillsets.
There are also plans to set up a community of 'Anaplanners,' the term used to refer to Anaplan users trained in the software, with an Anaplanner competency centre being considered.
“I believe that Anaplan has its own space in the wider landscape of cloud-based solutions for organisations; there is no need to compete with existing players be it SAP or Oracle,” says Ganapathy.
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