Founded in 1906 in Texas, Abilene Christian University (ACU) is a private, non-profit university affiliated with Churches of Christ and committed to transformative, energized learning. ACU is home to 4,500 students, 253 full-time faculty members, and 450 staff; it operates one campus in Abilene and an on-line campus in Dallas.
- Create long range driver-based budget based on previous year budget, actuals and various business assumptions for ACU
- Analyze and predict Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) related to finance, HR and student data to improve efficiency
- Centralize metadata and transactional data in one Data Hub
- Fragmented and complex FP&A procedures using various software solutions across campus
- Decentralized data across the colleges and divisions
- Time-consuming, labor intensive, and manual processes impacting efficiency and productivity
- Difficult to analyze data and generate reports without a central-data storage repository
Like many higher education institutes, ACU was facing challenges including limited budgets, increased market competition and ongoing pressure to produce more with less. The traditional FP&A process at ACU requires various administrative offices to gather data from several software solutions (Excel, Talisma, Banner). Consolidating data required manual operations and an increased workload and complexity to perform analytics. ACU was searching for a tool that not only consolidates data, but also with the capacity for planning, forecasting, reporting and analyzing data.
Anaplan was selected at ACU for the following reasons:
- Anaplan brings together actuals costs and various budget drivers to create a 10-year rolling forecast in one central solution. With roles and selective access, end users can work on their own at the intersection of Fund, Organization, Account and Program dimensions. In addition, Anaplan’s potential for robust dashboards and easy-to-use reports was highly desirable for ACU’s senior leadership.
- Anaplan’s HUB and Spoke architecture in one workplace will allow ACU to centralize their data that can be used for future use cases to drive more value. In addition, using Anaplan Connect enabled seamless data loading into Anaplan from various systems.
It is important for ACU to have an application that has Excel-like familiarity, easy to maintain, an optimize data structure that will allow for the implementation of additional use cases for other areas of the university. ACU Adopted Anaplan after extensive research and learning success stories from similar institutions.
Implementation & Deployment
Clarity Partners leveraged the “Anaplan Way” implementation methodology. From requirements gathering to design, we developed ACU user stories, business needs and requirements. With both high-level prototypes and attention to detailed customer specifications, we accommodated complex functionalities including block tuition, “what-if” scenarios, and version comparison.
In addition to implementation, we provided launchpad training to ACU users. This instructor-led course was designed to teach model-building fundamentals and ad-hoc reporting. The key users became Anaplanners and gained confidence in the Anaplan platform, as well as adoption into their day-to-day operations.
- Implementation in 6 weeks
- FP&A Model for budget creation and reporting using 5 years of actuals and various drivers
- Reporting Model to analyze, visualize and forecast finance, HR and student data
- Enhanced customer experience with Data Hub and Anaplan Connect; up-to-date to reports and dashboards facilitate analysis and “what-if” scenarios
ACU quickly recognized Anaplan’s core strength in areas such as connected planning, visualization of real-time modeling results, security with selective access and semi-automated processes. This is the first tool ACU has used with such robust capabilities. The key users involved during implementation were very engaged and highly satisfied with Anaplan because of its ease of use and flexibility.
- Significantly reduced time spent on budgeting with one central application
- Anaplan is used to perform analytics and reporting at both high- and detailed-level
- Customers own the models and can maintain the models
Currently ACU is using Anaplan for the planning and reporting of Finance, HR and Student Data. Realizing Anaplan’s power beyond traditional areas of planning, ACU is exploring the use of Anaplan to schedule classes, assign Faculty, classroom scheduling and project management, thus bringing Anaplan’s benefits to all levels of the university.