By: Evan Smith, Consultant at Twelve Consulting Group
Ellen Morley has seen and done it all. As one of the most experienced employees at Twelve, Ellen’s broad business background and deep finance knowledge have made her one of our most sought-after consultants, by clients and peers alike. With that said, it’s hard to believe Ellen hasn’t spent her entire career in business. She earned her undergraduate degree in theater and spent many years pursuing an acting career. Upon reaching the end of her road on stage, she chose to change course, earning her MBA in Finance and Technology from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Ellen is a leader in our new, ever-growing Chicago office, and as a more junior member of the team, there’s a great deal I can learn from her. I was excited to have the opportunity to sit down with Ellen to discuss a range of topics from her career before Twelve to the daily joys of working with Twelve’s clients and solving some of their toughest problems.
Tell us about yourself and your background. How do you think your background has helped you in your career before and after starting at Twelve CG?
“I have spent my career at the corner of finance and technology. I taught myself coding while working in the accounting department of a software company. I am always interested in new opportunities, and have worked as a programmer, a project manager, an IT manager and a senior finance manager. I was at Allstate for 14 years in a variety of roles and then at Astellas Pharmaceuticals for 2 years. At Astellas I was on the team that implemented Anaplan, which is how I was introduced to the tool. I enjoyed working with Anaplan so much that I jumped at the chance to join Twelve 2 years ago.
Having a broad range of real-world experience has taught me to look at problems from many perspectives. My finance and management background helps me understand how leadership uses data to drive decisions. My programming background helps me analyze requirements and design and build efficient programs that can be easily maintained over time. I’m a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), which helps me keep a project on track, balance budget, time and scope, and manage risks and issues.”
What initially intrigued you about Anaplan?
“First, I loved that it was a powerful tool that could readily be used by someone without a programming background. The ability for a non-IT person to enhance models and create new views of data was revelatory. I knew how frustrating it was to have to wait months for a technology request to make it to the top of the priority list when resources are tight.
Second, the connectivity between people and data sources provided a powerful alternative to Excel. Trying to maintain version control with Excel was a Herculean effort. It was fantastic to know that everyone was seeing the same data at the same time.”
Were there any hesitations about implementing Anaplan at Astellas? Was everyone on the team onboard?
“As happens in many companies, people’s concerns were more around the changes to business processes than the tool that would be used. Bringing in Anaplan was part of a larger project to change the way planning was done. People were onboard with the goal, but there was concern about the input they would need to do and how they would be able to view the information. One of the benefits of Anaplan was that we could prototype input screens and report dashboards and get feedback from key stakeholders throughout the process. Even after we went live, we could quickly respond to users’ changing needs.”
What were the biggest hurdles or challenges throughout the implementation as a client, and how did your team overcome those hurdles?
“Data was the biggest challenge. Data came from multiple source systems, wasn’t clean, and wasn’t always at the level of detail we wanted. We needed to spend a lot of time with experts on the source systems and the business to make sure we were pulling accurate information. Once we got the right data in Anaplan, we were able to create mapping modules that allowed us to consolidate the global data into one consistent view across the organization.
Another challenge was that we were learning a new tool while we were building with it. Anaplan recommended that we partner with Twelve on the project, which was a great suggestion. Twelve did part of the build, but more importantly, coached our internal model builders as they worked on the implementation. Working with experts accelerated our learning tremendously.”
What benefits did you see at Astellas after the implementation? If I am a business leader, why should I care about Anaplan?
“Users across the enterprise could collaborate on the budget in real time, without sending files back and forth. Consolidation was immediate, and Anaplan had the flexibility to map and combine data in ways that weren’t available with the legacy systems. This provided leadership with meaningful data more quickly than before.”
What made you want to continue working with Anaplan?
“I appreciated Anaplan from both a business and a technology perspective. On the business side, I enjoyed working with the tool and saw the huge value and power it put in the hands of users. On the technology side, I was convinced that this was going to be a game changer for companies of all sizes.”
What attracted you to Twelve CG? What do you think differentiates Twelve CG from all the other consulting firms that implement Anaplan?
“I did have some hesitation; I had spent most of my career in large companies with lots of resources. But I had worked with Twelve and respected all of the people I had met. They were both highly knowledgeable and a pleasure to work with. I wanted to do meaningful work with a great team and Twelve fit that bill.
Twelve’s knowledge of Anaplan is both deep and broad. We’re focused on Anaplan and have experience in dozens of use cases across a wide variety of industries. Twelve has developed a great deal of intellectual property that allows us to both jump start our clients’ projects and enable them to fully manage and grow their Anaplan investment. We’re committed to our clients’ immediate success with a robust implementation and their long-term success as Anaplan experts.”
How would you describe the work that you do? Do you find it rewarding?
“My goal is always to make it easier for people to do their job well so they and their organization can thrive. I love being able to collaborate closely with clients to develop solutions and empower them to use Anaplan to meet their future needs.”
Do you think your experience as a client has helped with your consulting and client interactions at Twelve CG?
“Without a doubt. I understand the concerns of a client who is coordinating with stakeholders, handling change management, learning a new tool and still responsible for all the tasks of their day job. I have been there! Issues arise and requirements change. My job is to partner with the client to identify the best options at every stage of the project.”