Why Pandora ripped out its old financial planning software

discarded computer
Credit: Scott Teresi

And what they used to replace it.

When Pandora's VP of Financial Planning and Analysis Jared Waterman came on board at the company in June 2010, his predecessor had chosen the company planning software and Waterman wasn't pleased. One of his first actions in his role at Pandora was to look for a replacement. 

"When I started we had already signed a contract with Adaptive Planning. My predecessor had] implemented it and it was not great and after a year we ripped them out in favor of Anaplan," Waterman told me. 

He said there were problems from the get-go, but they tried to work with Adaptive to get it right. Finally, it came to a head when Adaptive Planning representatives came to Waterman and asked, "We think we have the model [right], but the balance sheet doesn't work. Is this a problem?"

Waterman's reply? Let's just say it's not safe for work.

It didn't help that Pandora was about to go public and was under pressure to get its financial information exactly right. He added, that to be fair, Adaptive Planning was geared toward smaller customers and they just couldn't handle the needs of an organization like Pandora.

During that year, Waterman found Anaplan at a trade show and liked what the company had to say. By June 2011, almost exactly a year after he started, Waterman ended the relationship with Adaptive Planning and signed on with Anaplan.

He said going to the cloud for this type of service was a no-brainer because on-premises solutions required engineers and IT assistance and he didn't want to deal with that level of complexity. That meant the on-premises vendors like IBM/Cognos didn't have a chance. Waterman explained he had used TM1 at a previous job and found Anaplan much easier to use, and the fact it required so much less care and feeding as a cloud service only added to its appeal.

What's more, he found Anaplan was an easy transition for users who are already accustomed to Excel.

Waterman explained that companies typically start by using Excel for this type of job, but as a company grows Excel becomes too unwieldy to handle financial planning tasks in a big team and companies typically turn to planning software. In fact, financial planning employees are so comfortable with Excel that it's not unusual for them to push back against using planning software, but Waterman was pleasantly surprised to find that even his most ardent Excel advocates happily moved onto Anaplan and even started to do more than he had expected early on.

"With Anaplan I was surprised, we put the basics in Anaplan, and the team without me pushing them, started putting more and more data of what we do into Anaplan," he told CITEworld. "I thought I would have to push them to use it rather than Excel, but they actively jumped on board with it."

Waterman has liked that while his core team can use Anaplan on a more advanced level, it's still accessible for occasional users too. He has a team of a dozen users who get into it on a daily basis, but there are groups like human resources who use it on an occasional basis to look at information such as planned hires organized by manager, so they can help the managers start planning for their new employees. 

Waterman says Pandora really hit the ground running with Anaplan, partly because of its superior customer service and training. In contrast to their old vendor who offered someone with little experience in training, the new one understood training to the extent he offered a history of planning software since 1990, a depth of understanding that impressed Waterman and his team -- and the training team has been there to help smooth the transition to the new tool.

Waterman actually sounds a little giddy when he talks about Anaplan. "This solution solves the problem so completely that I wish there were other solutions out there that solve other people's problems as much as Anaplan has solved mine."

I think he likes it. 

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In a statement, an Adaptive Planning spokesperson told me, "While we don’t comment on specific customer situations without the customer’s approval (past or present), what we can tell you is that we provide complete linked financial statements to nearly all of our customers and have done so for years." 

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