Read Time: 15 minutes
Welcome to Episode 50 of Students vs. Startups. This week, moderator John Gilroy talks with the Enterprise Account Executive at Anaplan, Lauren Rhode. Anaplan offers an enterprise modeling and planning platform in the cloud across finance, supply chain, sales, HR and IT to link all company data together and plan more effectively. Learn about it below!
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John Gilroy: Welcome to Students Versus Startups Showdown at the Potomac. My name is John Gilroy. I’ll be your moderator today. Hey, a big round of applause for show number 50! Whoa, yeah. Yeah, maybe one of these days, I’ll be turning 50 down the road somewhere. If you listened to us before, you know we’re sitting in the office of Eastern Foundry, kind of took over a conference room. We’ve got a big table, here. One side of the table, we got some students. One side of the table, got a startup. We have a little 26-minute conversation. Then, we walk out of here yelling and screaming, or fast friends, or something like that.
Like to start off by introducing the students. We have three students. We have I think two people who are in the middle of a program and one graduate of the program from Georgetown University. Phil, why don’t you start off? Tell us about your background, please.
Phil Crawford: Absolutely. Hey, my name is Phil Crawford. This is my fifth semester in the Georgetown University Technology Management Program. I’m a senior consultant, basically helping federal CIO’s do IT better whether it’s getting data center services, identity and access management services, or making their websites accessible.
John Gilroy: Good, good. And Connie, your background please.
Constance Chen: My name is Constance Chen. I work as a clinical data scientist for a pharmaceutical company. I graduated in December so now that I have a lot of free time, I just paint.
John Gilroy: So, Phil here who’s a wannabe and you’re an actual graduate. Matt, you’re background please.
Matt Pearson: Yes, my name is Matt Pearson. I currently work for Georgetown University for their school foreign service, doing data analytics for them. I come from a background in operations and systems management for universities.
John Gilroy: When do you have time to paint?
Matt Pearson: I wish I did.
John Gilroy: Great. We have three students here and they’re going to face off with our startup. Our startup is Lauren Rhode and she works for a company called Anaplan. Lauren, how are you?
Lauren Rhode: Doing well, thanks. Great to be here.
John Gilroy: Well, give us all a thumbnail sketch of what Anaplan is all about, please.
Lauren Rhode: Absolutely. In short, the way that really large companies plan today and link their strategy and execution would surprise a lot of people. The way planning, budgeting and modeling is done is either legacy technology that was coded really before the internet. Your big companies, SAP, IBM, Oracle, or in Excel. In fact, a lot of folks who have those legacy technologies end up pulling their data out into Excel and emailing thousands of spreadsheets around the globe. That leads to, in the biggest companies in the world, really under performance in their metrics and top line, bottom line and in margins.
That translates really well. Right now, we’re focused on some of the biggest companies in the world but it’s really any big organization that can plan. My background is actually in the Department of Defense and we too were emailing spreadsheets around the globe for major budgeting and forecasting and planning exercises.
We offer an enterprise modeling and planning platform in the cloud across finance, supply chain, sales, HR and IT to link all this data together and plan more effectively.
John Gilroy: So if you’re sitting next to someone on the metro and they say, “What business problem does your company solve?” It would be connected planning? Is that what you do?
Lauren Rhode: Connected planning. Spot on.
John Gilroy: There’s a million ways to go from yelling and cursing at Excel spreadsheets. I’ll let Phil start off cursing at Excel spreadsheets here, but keep it clean, Phil!
Phil Crawford: Yeah, absolutely. I’ll limit in cursing. I just want to say I think you left off an option, which is that most companies also just do no planning.
Lauren Rhode: Sure.
Phil Crawford: That’s the first thing. But no, in terms of the question, I’m always curious to know the origin of different company’s names. Is there any sort of significance to Anaplan and how it relates to your overall strategy?
Lauren Rhode: Absolutely. Good question and I would actually have to ask. Our founder of the company is a guy named Michael Gold. He founded the company not in a garage in Silicon Valley, but in a little red barn in York, England. As a small startup and really spent the first few years of the company building our underlying core proprietary technology, which is called Hyperblock. Building a database around that engine in the past and legacy software. These things were desperate and led to basically a lot of latency, speed issues and under performance. Then around this Hyperblock concept, which if you take an analogy of how Google indexes data. Basically, we index data in a way that someone comes in and wants to make a change in the model and the model will just change in real time those elements that need to be changed, which again leads to performance enhancements.
Coming back to your question about the name of the company, really ties to planning. I don’t know where the ANA came from. I think I may have heard something about analysis and planning all in one. He was actually, Michael was the leading mathematician and technologist in this space for the past 30 years, saw this challenge in the early 2000’s that still companies at that point were using legacy technologies and Excel, which of course now 10, 15 years later still hasn’t changed a ton, although we’re growing rapidly in this space and providing an alternative.
John Gilroy: Connie, do you trust something that originates in a barn in England? It sounds pretty strange to me.
Constance Chen: Yeah, that brings me to the question of, how do you get clients to be receptive of your solution if they’re so used to Excel or other legacy systems?
Lauren Rhode: It’s really a great question. It turns out, I haven’t had a bad conversation yet, since getting to Anaplan. There’s massive interest because really, we can talk about connected planning across an enterprise, which is the vision of our company, but when we go in and really sit down with planners and modelers, there is so much pain that’s experienced in day to day work, whether it’s dealing with Excel or dealing with old legacy software. You have folks who are in the fastest growing and largest enterprises in the world, our target market is really Fortune 500, Global 2000 companies that are sitting there and saying, “Okay, make this change in the database,” and sitting there for eight hours waiting for that to happen. There’s a lot of pain that’s felt there.
Where I’m finding really the challenge for folks is just in getting the budget allocated in order to migrate to something else. There’s also of course, a massive movement and migration to the cloud, so a lot of appeal there with a purpose built cloud platform. It’s been interesting because there is just so much interest in finding a better way for folks in this space.
John Gilroy: Now Matt, you work for a fairly large organization. How would this work for something as big as Georgetown University?
Matt Pearson: That is a great question. I can know from hearing about different projects, any change requires multiple years and many, many, many people. I’m curious on that point. I think you mentioned earlier before we started recording, that you’re primarily working on companies right now. As you guys like to move into the public space or even into the consumer space, is that going to change how you’re looking to expand, growth opportunities?
Lauren Rhode: Fantastic question. It’s a huge focus for us right now. We’ve got now a team that’s focused on higher ed. We’d be interested in a follow up there, as well. Anaplan is in hyper growth by a lot of metrics. We’re still a startup, a late stage startup but we’ve recently redrafted our territories in the US from 9 to 13 crafted to the Mid-Atlantic regions, specifically some of the first members of our Mid-Atlantic team. Our vice president of our Atlantic team, Rick Klein, also owns public sector and higher ed.
Really, I think a lot of opportunities are there. For me, coming from the Defense space, really interested in mission-driven elements of connecting high level strategy to tactics and execution and being able to make tweaks in the strategy that you can then make in real time and cascade throughout your plans that just aren’t done in that way right now.
John Gilroy: Phil, I’m sure you’re familiar with Don Quixote de la Mancha. I think Lauren here is tilting at windmills. I think this is really, you’re going up against some big, big competition here. I mean, how could she even do that?
Phil Crawford: Yeah, I think it’s interesting what you’re saying. Within your customer base, you’re saying it’s fortune 500’s and Top 2000’s. Is there a specific sector or market you guys prioritize or target first and has been your bread and butter over the years and is there an area where you’re trying to reach out more to?
Lauren Rhode: Great question. We’ve got over 800 customers globally now. Our headquarters is in San Francisco. We’ve got offices and folks in over 15 countries. One of the interesting things in this space and speaking of the competition is that we see a lot of, even the legacy providers really focus primarily on finance and they say they do a lot of other things but have a hard time expanding. In a lot of big organizations, they’re choosing a different system of record for finance and for supply chain and for sales so we’re able to integrate with them and provide a common layer. Feed data in and then be able to model on top of it.
But to your question, that’s lines of business within companies. There are a number of point solutions there that have chosen to just work on one problem set in one industry. We have really intentionally over the course of the last five years since we launched product to market, decided not to do that. At multiple points we could have said, “Okay, we’re going to hone in on finance and on financial planning analysis.” We haven’t done that. We could have said, “We’re going to hone in on retail and on supply chain.” We’re doing a lot of work there with Kimberly Clark, Del Monte customers and doing some really interesting stuff connecting finance and supply chain but then willing to continue to expand because this really applies to any enterprise around the world.
John Gilroy: I went to your website. Anaplan, A-N-A-P-L-A-N because I’m a radio guy. You’re listed Forbes 2017 one of the world’s best 100 cloud companies. Who knew? I didn’t know that. Really?
Lauren Rhode: That’s right. Yeah, absolutely and some great accolades recently coming in from Gartner as well on Forrester. If you think about, does anyone here know when the spreadsheet was invented?
John Gilroy: Dan Bricklin, 1983.
Lauren Rhode: So, even a little bit earlier than that. Really, 1965 or so timeframe.
John Gilroy: Earlier?
Lauren Rhode: Fast forward 1980’s spreadsheets proliferating for folks personally using the spreadsheet concept for their work. In the 1990’s the number of businesses sprouted up. Comshare, Datum, Hyperion, in order to provide spreadsheets two-dimensional and then also to branch into multi-dimensional planning, but still on a desktop model.
Internet really started to proliferate in the late 90’s and those companies all basically webified their applications with multiple servers that needed to be managed, an internet security layer. I see some nodding in the room, here. A massive infrastructure that they had to support on prem. So, we were really one of the first companies to be a cloud-built platform for this kind of planning and modeling.
John Gilroy: Connie, you work for a big company. Someone like Lauren waltzes into the door of a big pharmaceutical company and says, “We’re going to change the way you’ve done things for 20 years!” Do you show here the door? How do you think it’s going to be accepted?
Constance Chen: It’s hard. There’s a lot of competition, a lot of noise out there. Even to get recognized as a potential solution, how do you aggressively market yourself?
Lauren Rhode: Absolutely. I’m coming from a much smaller, much earlier stage startup where I was working across the entire business and wearing many hats. Here, I am thankful and grateful that we’ve got a fantastic marketing team. I think in terms of thinking about a new customer, I come from a product and operations background. For me, the most important thing is coming in and really understanding the customer’s problem sets.
Sitting down with folks and understanding what are the challenges that they’re facing day to day, we can talk, it’s interesting, in the C-Suite and the higher levels across the organization. But then, what’s most interesting to me is sitting down with an analyst, whether anyone on the business side and saying, “What are some of your challenges in this space that you’re facing daily and how could we potentially help?” And then from there, there’s a lot that follows in terms of solution design and implementation. But that’s probably the most fun part of the job for me and how I would think about anyone in pharma or otherwise.
John Gilroy: Matt?
Matt Pearson: You mentioned this earlier and I’m sure it is a giant thing that keeps you up at night. How do you guys think through cyber security? You’re cloud-based. How do you protect against that?
Lauren Rhode: Yeah, really great question. We’ve got a phenomenal technology team. We’ve clearly really started on the technology side. Anaplan owns and operates its own cloud and hardware. We’re constantly looking at ways to continue to improve security. It’s a multi-tenant cloud. We also have a bring your own key or BYOK offering to clients that’s helpful from an encryption standpoint. This is something that our tech team is really continuing to work on and watch the space closely as we move ahead.
Phil Crawford: You mentioned I think some recognition by Gartner earlier this year. I was noting that I think Gartner had said Anaplan is one of the best sales performance management systems, a leader. I was just wondering, is that also presenting its own challenges in that, do you ever want to encourage these companies or clients who are using it for sales and it’s doing really well, to use it for all the other functions like in HR, IT, supply chain management?
Lauren Rhode: Yeah, absolutely. One of the biggest things, and we were just talking about it, how we have initial conversations with new clients. Thinking about with the power and the connectivity that we can offer with connected planning, how do we then hone in on a specific? In sales, whether it’s revenue planning, trade spend management, account segmentation, territory and quota planning, incentive compensation model, a number of offerings that nest under sales performance management? And then, how do you have the conversation about would this actually be useful to collocate that data in a place where you can actually then feed your sales forecast back into finance?
Turns out that the CFO really cares a lot about that and CRO and CEO probably do as well. Ultimately, it’s about really having those conversations. When a company, if we’ve started working with them in one space and they say, “Hey, this is really working very well,” which luckily has been a lot of the feedback, really strong product offering. Then, there are other things that we can do to make this even more effective.
John Gilroy: We’ve been doing this podcast for over a year. About a year ago, we had a company in the studio here called DocuSign. I don’t know if you remember them. Guess what? They’re one of your customers!
Lauren Rhode: They are.
John Gilroy: Are you familiar with that company? How would they use your services? The guy’s name is Dan Tangherlini, if you remember him. Federal government guy and company based up in New York and everything. It’s interesting that I can’t imagine a small company taking advantage of Anaplan. That’s a relatively small company. I mean, there must be 50 or 60 people. I keep thinking of IBM or Xerox, being huge companies for you but it’s small.
Lauren Rhode: DocuSign is fast and growing. We are primarily at this point working with large enterprises but also with some hyper growth companies. We are out in San Francisco so there are a lot of companies that are a bit earlier in their development but are looking at their major planning and forecasting, especially as they’re experiencing double digit or even triple digit in some cases, growth and need to forecast that. What does that look like? How are they going to make planning and resourcing decisions for head count, for physical space, et cetera, given that? They would fall into that category.
John Gilroy: Well Connie, you’ve taken a course in digital strategy, haven’t you? Perhaps this is a tool that some of the smaller companies can use as well?
Constance Chen: Yeah. Are there some key performance matrix that your company has in terms of whether it’s a small company or a big company?
Lauren Rhode: Sure. In terms of market segmentation and targeting, we generally work with multi-billion dollar annual revenue companies, but we also have now expanded into the mid-market. We’ve got a whole field team that’s focused on the mid- market as well and I think we’ll see that expansion continue. Then of course, we talked a bit about higher ed and fed. As we are continuing to see growth, that’s fueling our ability to bring on folks to be able to expand our market focus as well.
Matt Pearson: I’m curious to hear about your partnership strategy. I’m thinking of similar organizations that might have other companies not connected to them that support them in change management or cloud hosting. Do you want to be a one-stop shop or do you have a lot of partner organizations?
Lauren Rhode: Brilliant. We have over 80 partner organizations. We really are focused on technology. We’re a SaaS offering in the market. We’ve got our own customer success and business partner team internally within Anaplan that work very closely with our customers on implementation. But on almost everything we do, we will work with one of our partners. We’ve got a number of them listed on our website but they range from global systems integrators to national partners. We’ve got some that also at this point exclusively work on Anaplan implementations.
All of that said, one of the keys to having such a flexible platform is figuring out how to actually use that. That fundamentally has to start with a great, really solid design and thinking about process. There are some places that say, “Hey, we’re going to entirely keep our current process and we’re going to mold Anaplan to fit us.” And there are other places who say, “Hey, there are some small tweaks we want to make to our process,” and others who say there are big tweaks. As Phil you know, from a consultant perspective, really important to start with that process and get that right up front or else, everything else in technology implementation can be pretty hard.
John Gilroy: About a block from here, there’s a Starbucks. One block down is a little company called Deloitte. I’m sure that if you were to compete against Deloitte, they’d say, “Well, yeah. We can do it too!” It seems like a lot of concepts you’re discussing … Now, they don’t have the awards or the accolades you have. It would seem like Accenture the usual suspects, yeah we can do that too. Is that the objections you get sometimes from customers?
Lauren Rhode: You named some of our biggest partners, actually.
John Gilroy: Partners!
Lauren Rhode: That’s right. We work really closely with Deloitte and Accenture, to name two of the GSI’s, as well as some smaller players locally and nationally. Again, we’ve got teams in Europe and Asian and elsewhere who are working with some of the best partners there as well.
When we talk about enterprise performance management, some of these big consulting firms and smaller have been very focused in the space for decades. We work closely with them on implementations.
John Gilroy: Phil’s just killed me on that question. I want you to tango with her.
Phil Crawford: I was curious about Anaplan’s website and its overall strategy. A lot of companies, they’ll use their website to generate leads, they’ll use it to post technical blogs, white papers. Tech, that’s a big part of what they do is showcasing their knowledge. What is your overall strategy with Anaplan’s website? Do you get leads from it? Do you post information like white papers?
Lauren Rhode: That’s a great question. I would be interested to ask our team that runs our website. It’s a phenomenal resource for me in terms of when I’m having new conversations with folks and they say, “Hey, I want a demo.” We’re happy to come in and do a custom demo but in the meantime, if they want to go check out and say, “Hey, what would this look like in any of our tens of use cases to implement?” And also, for some customer stories, about really what have they gained quantifiable metrics of their transformation with Anaplan.
The other thing that I think is cool on our website is we have something called the Anaplan App Hub there. These are some application templates that are built on top of our platform and now, there are over 100 there on the website. Partners can also build apps for the App Hub and enter them. So in a lot of cases when we’re doing a new implementation or a new use case, we’ll take the shell of that or other folks can come in and contribute to see what’s in the realm of the possible.
We also have folks who are on board either as new customers or prospects or customers who have 26 Anaplan models in place, who will come on and say, “Hey, what else might be in the realm of the possible? Where else may I want to take this platform?” Because once you have access to the platform … We have some customers who we know about 12 of the models that they’ve built and we know that they have 30, but we don’t know other 18 even are because they have at this point the experience in house to go and apply this to other problem sets.
John Gilroy: Connie, they have a conference called Hub. Is that what’s it’s called?
Lauren Rhode: That’s right.
John Gilroy: I wrote down realm of the possible. Do you think this is realm of the possible for larger companies?
Constance Chen: Oh, I think so. I think they’re always looking for different solutions and there’s a lot of discontent with what’s already out there. I do definitely think it’s possible.
I was also wondering where Anaplan will be in the next five years? Do you have any ideas?
Lauren Rhode: Good question for our leadership team. But from my humble perspective-
John Gilroy: You could be the leader of that! Hey, come on now.
Lauren Rhode: Really a the company, we want to be the planning standard for the largest companies in the world. A single connected planning platform, that’s the vision. The outcome of that is really creating immensely more creative and profitable global companies and governments and educational institutions because they can plan on a collaborative platform that scales to suit their needs.
I think along with that, as we see data becoming more important every year and exponential growth curve as you all know being able again to be able to take increasing amounts of data and not be limited by your technology and applying that and gaining insight from that.
John Gilroy: Well, great job students. Great job Lauren. Lauren, if people listening to this want to have a bit more information, is there a website that they can go to?
Lauren Rhode: Absolutely. www.Anaplan, A-N-A-P-L-A-N, .com.
John Gilroy: Great. We’re running out of time here. If you would like show notes, links or a transcript, please visit the TheOakmontGroupLLC.com.
I’d like to thank our sponsor, Radiant Solutions. If you are interested in getting involved in geospatial projects, contact Radiant Solutions.
We are hosted by Eastern Foundry, a community of government contractors who are bringing innovative solutions to the government marketplace. For more information, go to eastern-foundry.com.
If you would like to participate as a student or a startup, contact me, JohnGilroy@TheOakmontGroupLLC.com. Thanks for listening to Students Versus Startups Showdown at the Potomac.