Anaplan CEO Frank Calderoni on the future of cloud


Anaplan CEO Frank Calderoni on the future of cloud

State of Cloud: Trends & Predictions

The tech industry veteran reflects on trends in cloud adoption and the challenges and opportunities of taking his company public in a rapidly changing marketplace.

A blog post by Andrew Marks, senior writer, Deloitte Insights

While many private companies have shied away from going public in recent years, Frank Calderoni, president and CEO of Anaplan, felt his 12-year-old company was ready to go public last October. As cloud technologies have gone mainstream, Calderoni says the questions companies ask have shifted from the fundamentals of software-as-a-service (SaaS) to how the holistic, cross-functional application of cloud-based tools can drive value across the enterprise. He spoke with Kirsten Rhodes, an Advisory principal with Deloitte Risk and Financial Advisory for Deloitte & Touche LLP, about the evolution of cloud-based technologies and the role his company’s IPO has played in helping it pursue its strategic priorities.

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Rhodes: What was behind the decision to take Anaplan public?

Calderoni: We see tremendous opportunity in the marketplace for cloud-based enterprise planning, and the time was right to seek funding in the public markets. The funds raised through the IPO will help us scale investment in continuing to grow the business.

We are also leading the connected planning category for enterprise software to highlight how its ability to integrate people, data, and plans makes it dramatically better than traditional planning. The visibility in the public market enables us to better leverage how we have been helping our customers achieve their objectives using connected planning, and to tell our story to a broader marketplace.

Rhodes: With the IPO complete, what are your priorities?

Calderoni: Pre-IPO and now post-IPO, our strategic priorities have remained the same. We want to capitalize on the tremendous market opportunity ahead of us, maintain our focus on putting our customers first, and continue to build an innovative platform. For example, we are a global company—with 40 percent of revenues from operations outside the US—and we are investing both in greenfield opportunities and our ecosystem to extend our reach to global customers. Focusing on a customer-first mentality, we are expanding our capabilities and making it a top priority to collaborate better with our customers—who have multiyear engagements under our subscription model—to evaluate their future connected planning needs and to help them expand their use of Anaplan across the enterprise.

To continue to build an innovative platform—our third strategic priority—we are investing to ensure that Anaplan remains a leader in connected planning through building out our technology road map. We have a unique, proprietary calculation engine called Hyperblock that we use to support new advanced analytics capabilities on the platform that help our customers stay competitive by making better decisions faster.

Talent and culture have been another area of focus for me: building a culture based on diversity and respect, and providing career opportunities so that Anaplan is able to attract and retain the talent with the skills that are critical to the business’s success.

Rhodes: How have views about connected planning and the cloud in general changed in recent years?

Calderoni: I think many of the concerns we heard a few years ago around the security of operating in the cloud and about losing some autonomy by shifting from on-premise technology tools to a SaaS model have largely dissipated as cloud platforms for ERP and other key systems have matured. At the same time, technology advancements have improved the flexibility and ease of implementation of cloud-based tools. In addition, the ability of cloud-based solutions to work across systems of record is providing a new way for companies to run their businesses.

The main questions I get now are about understanding how connected planning addresses the challenges of integrating planning across sales, supply chain, finance, and other functions. I think the key to understanding the value of connected planning is how it works holistically across technologies and enterprise-wide, bringing together data and people from different parts of the organization to enable comprehensive plans for better decision-making.

Think about the supply chain process, which involves supply planning, demand planning, and inventory management. Integrating those plans and people with finance using a common set of real-time data can produce better intelligence with analytics, which drives better, faster decisions. That helps companies respond with greater speed and agility to supply chain disruptions and market events or to industry shifts that call for quick pivots.

Rhodes: How do you see cloud adoption and use evolving?

Calderoni: I expect to see a shift to a more holistic approach to the cloud. The organizations on the forefront of getting the most value from cloud computing are leveraging multiple cloud-based technologies for data collection, analysis, CRM, and planning.

I see the value of an enterprise-wide use of cloud technologies as twofold. First, it provides an extensive environment of cloud-based tools that align with one another and leverage data across systems to more effectively serve business needs. Second, the cloud can positively affect talent. It enables a much lower overhead by providing professionals in the business and other functions—be it finance, sales, or supply chain—with the ability to use technology like a platform for connected planning more independently.

That means that rather than being mired in time-consuming data collection and planning processes or spending time reconciling differences between information from various data silos, people can use their time and talent to perform higher-value activities, such as predicting or modeling. That, in turn, can provide faster and better decision-making insights to empower the business.

Rhodes: As a board director of several companies, what’s your perspective on how boards are viewing the cloud?

Calderoni: I think boards are becoming much more educated about technologies in general and the cloud in particular because of potential issues associated with cybersecurity. The fact that many companies now have not only a CIO but also a chief information security officer and chief risk officer is an indication of the attention they are paying to technology issues. Those issues rise to the board governance level, and it’s a board’s responsibility to have the appropriate discussions on a regular basis to understand how management is addressing those topics in their cybersecurity plans.

From an enterprise perspective, I think the cloud is a major enhancement to risk management, primarily because governance can be embedded in the use of cloud technology. For example, workflow tools allow you to track what information you’re going to allow someone to have, as well as when and where. And there is the ability to track and monitor that information, which allows for much better governance than in the past with different types of siloed, fragmented technology. The full integration of technology with the right type of governance around it can allow for a substantial enhancement to many aspects of risk management.

This article first appeared on the Wall Street Journal.

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