Choosing between Adaptive Planning vs. Anaplan? We’re here to help.
The world is rapidly changing, and businesses need information at their fingertips to drive decision-making and take advantage of new opportunities. Forecasting and planning tools have evolved to provide business leaders with holistic insight into their organization, empowering finance professionals to create fast, collaborative, and ever-evolving reports and models at a moment’s notice.
Two of the tools aimed at agile, enterprise-level organizations that receive a lot of attention are Adaptive Planning and Anaplan. This article compares them to determine which one is most suited to your business, and also takes a look at another alternative that may be a better fit for small and midsized companies: OnPlan.
Workday Adaptive Planning was founded in 2003. It provides a web-based system powered by a modeling engine they call the Elastic Hypercube Technology (EHT), suitable for running complex and data-intensive forecasts and models. Workday Adaptive Planning can connect to any ERP, HCM, or CRM system and its internal platforms, Workday Financial Management and Workday Human Capital Management. While Adaptive Planning states that it is suitable for companies of all sizes, its clients fall mostly into the enterprise-level category. Adaptive Planning is the larger and more affordable of the two options discussed in this article, though their pricing is moving quickly upmarket, putting them out of reach for smaller and many midsize companies.
Anaplan was founded just three years after Adaptive Planning after they had cornered a great deal of the market. Like Adaptive Planning, Anaplan is a business planning enterprise cloud platform. It’s known for its calculation engine, HyperBlock. Users can quickly organize and analyze enterprise data from various departments (e.g., human resources, sales, and finance). Anaplan includes workforce planning, project planning, budgeting, forecasting, and modeling modules. However, there are some uncertainties among clients about the future direction and innovation roadmap of the company.
In March 2022, it was announced that Anaplan would be acquired by Thoma Bravo. Considering the complexity of the deal, it may take some time before the company stabilizes and provides clear insight into its future directives.
Anaplan and Adaptive Planning are popular options for companies looking for enterprise planning software, but it’s important to examine both in context to see how they stack up against one another.
In terms of client base, Adaptive Planning is the more popular option. The company has thousands of customers around the world. Many of their clients are mid to enterprise-sized, Historically Adaptive had many smaller businesses focused on cost center budgeting, although recent and rumored price increases call into question their fit for small and midsize customers.. Anaplan has roughly 1000 customers in forty countries on their books, but the client base is still enviable, including big names like the NHS, Adobe, Cox Automotive, and Groupon. Anaplan is open to businesses of all sizes, but its pricing places them firmly in the enterprise-level category.
Adaptive Planning is far cheaper than Anaplan and focuses on out-of-the-box functionality. Anaplan is a premium solution and requires intensive custom development to get it up and running successfully. Anaplan doesn’t have a formal Consolidations product (like built-in journals or currency functionality) and requires more investment in IT time and resources over its lifetime. Having said that, while customization delays its implementation, it is much more flexible, as Adaptive Planning may be too limited as their needs change.
Adaptive Planning starts at $15,000 per user, and while Anaplan is not transparent about its pricing, users have said that entry-level licenses start at $50,000 but can go much higher.
In terms of integrated Business Intelligence functionality, Adaptive Planning has the edge over Anaplan with its out-of-the-box, easy-to-use self-service dashboards. However, businesses that are looking for non-templated and more sophisticated BI tools might find both Adaptive Planning and Anaplan lacking in functionality.
Adaptive Planning and Anaplan take very different approaches to their interface. Adaptive Planning uses familiar Excel-like spreadsheets with drag-and-drop functionality and easy-to-use, highly adaptable dashboards. This makes it extremely easy for financial planners and analysts (who are used to working in spreadsheets) to use the software and shortens the learning curve considerably. They also include several useful tools, like a task management system called Process Tracker, built for collaboration.
Anaplan, on the other hand, uses its own proprietary language. Finance teams with no prior Anaplan experience will need to invest time and money learning how to use the system, and onboarding can take several weeks as teams adjust to the unfamiliar interface.
Anaplan’s proprietary Hyperblock technology has a slight edge over Adaptive Insights when it comes to sophisticated scenario planning and modeling. Users can easily add different scenarios to the application to determine their impact. This is especially useful for companies that are reactive or vulnerable to environmental changes.
Adaptive Insights’ calculation engine tends to become unstable when working with large volumes of data, making it far less suitable for growing or enterprise-level businesses.
Out of the two platforms, Anaplan is the most flexible. It’s highly modular and can connect different planning models with ease, making it easy to adjust to changing business structures or relationships. Use cases are seamlessly unified for dynamic planning purposes, making them suitable for rapidly growing and expanding businesses.
Adaptive Planning is much less adaptive than its name suggests; businesses may struggle to handle or adjust to non-financial use cases.
Anaplan is the more scalable of the two options. It’s geared toward high-growth clients, and because of Anaplan’s options for customization, it can adjust very easily to changes in structures or the operating environment. Adaptive Planning has limited scalability as they are focused on comprehensive (but still limited) out-of-the-box functionality. The software has restricted dimensionality and runs into calculation performance issues, making it unsuitable for companies eyeing growth and expansion in the future.
Anaplan is able to handle large data sets, even for complex planning and analytics, whereas Adaptive Planning can store a large volume of data, but unlike Anaplan, Adaptive Planning can’t support complex international, multi-currency scenarios, complex use cases, or significant calculations.
Anaplan is well-suited to a number of different planning models across business units and functions, including ERP, HRIS, CRM, and others. Anaplan can integrate with a number of ERP/GL platforms/source systems. Adaptive Planning runs on Elastic Hypercube Technology and requires that integrations conform to the Workday platform, making it slightly more rigid than Anaplan. Integrations with solutions like NetSuite or Intacct are hard to handle, and even spreadsheet file imports can be complicated.
If your business is looking for an enterprise planning tool and is considering either Anaplan or Adaptive Planning, you have to consider the trade-offs as well as the benefits between the two.
If you operate a mature, enterprise-level organization or a mid-sized organization with plans to scale, Anaplan’s customization and robust modeling capabilities (particularly for scenario planning) make it a good fit. However, there are cons to consider. Anaplan’s customization capabilities and proprietary language come with a long time to value realization period, complex implementation, and a very steep learning curve for finance professionals used to spreadsheets. Smaller and mid-level organizations may benefit from Anaplan too, but the pricing probably won’t suit the average SMB budget.
Smaller organizations will find Adaptive Planning a far more suitable alternative in terms of pricing. But while Adaptive Planning’s pricing is favorable and its platform user-friendly, it’s limited and constrains users to the Workday system. Adaptive Planning may be perfectly suited to your immediate needs, but will that still be the case a year or three down the line when the business (or the volume of data you work with) has expanded and changed?
If you are an SMB with plans for expansion and growth, a forecasting and modeling tool like OnPlan might be better suited to your business than either Anaplan or Adaptive Planning. OnPlan was built by FP&A professionals. It’s a good solution for companies that need the ease and familiarity of Excel (like Adaptive Planning) but the robust scenario modeling capabilities previously restricted to enterprise-grade tools like Anaplan.
OnPlan integrates with most ERP, HCM, CRM, and other systems and comes with powerful what-if scenario planning capabilities to test opportunities and threats and conduct variance analysis. Unlike Adaptive Planning, OnPlan remains stable and fully functional, even for complex and data-heavy calculations. OnPlan also has the edge over Anaplan. Its forecasting and analytical capabilities are powerful and customizable, but teams can be up and running in a matter of days. Because the vast majority of users are already familiar with the spreadsheet format, the learning curve is much reduced.
OnPlan is the right solution for your business if you want the powerful forecasting capabilities of Anaplan, the ease of use of Adaptive Planning, and a price point that beats both. OnPlan has all of the features of Adaptive Planning and many of the enterprise-grade capabilities of Anaplan, but at a much lower cost of software, implementation, and training. While it’s aimed at smaller and mid-sized businesses, it’s robust enough to grow and scale along with your business.
There’s no budgeting and financial planning solution that’s perfect for every company, but you can find one the one that’s perfect for your functional needs, usability expectations, and budget. It’s important to find a solution that can grow with your business and its evolving data and forecasting needs over time. On the surface, Anaplan and Adaptive Planning have a lot in common. In reality, they couldn’t be more different when it comes to meeting customer needs.
Anaplan is more complex to use but was designed with evolving enterprise needs in mind. Adaptive Planning is far simpler to use and faster for users to adopt but is very limited in its capabilities. To make a decision between Adaptive Planning vs Anaplan, weigh up the pros and cons and the trade-offs for each solution. And consider other options that may be an even better fit, like OnPlan.