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Why Anaplan is Better than Excel for Business Planning & Forecasting

Why Anaplan is Better than Excel for Business Planning & Forecasting

Whether you're a big corporation or a small startup, you need accurate predictions and smart decisions to stay ahead of the game. That's why picking the right platform for business planning and forecasting is an absolute must.

Think of business planning as your secret roadmap to success. It's all about setting goals, plotting out strategies, and breaking down the steps you need to take to reach those goals. When you've got a solid plan, it gives you and your whole team clear direction and focus. It helps you make the most of your resources, use your budget wisely, and make strategic decisions that move your business forward.

But here's the thing: even the most amazing plan can fall flat without accurate forecasting. That's where you peek into the future. Forecasting gives you valuable insights into upcoming trends, market conditions, and possible risks. It lets you predict demand, make smart inventory choices, and optimize your whole supply chain. By spotting opportunities and being aware of potential roadblocks, forecasting helps you adjust your strategies and stay strong in a world that's always changing.

Now, effective business planning and forecasting isn’t just about guesswork. It's all about data, analysis, and playing around with different scenarios. And that's where the right platform comes in.

Two popular platforms used for these purposes are Anaplan and Excel. While Excel has long been a staple for data analysis and manipulation, Anaplan has emerged as a powerful cloud-based platform specifically designed for business planning and forecasting. Each has its own set of strengths and weaknesses, so it's important to know what they bring to the table. By understanding the benefits and quirks of each option, you'll be ready to make a smart choice that fits your organization's unique needs.

Overview of Excel

Let's kick off by talking about everyone's favorite spreadsheet software: Excel. Excel is like the rockstar of the spreadsheet world, and it's been around for ages. People from all walks of life, from students to business professionals, rely on Excel to handle their data needs.

Excel is super popular for business planning and forecasting because it's powerful and widely used. While a major factor as to why it's the go-to tool for many professionals is that it’s familiar, there are quite a few notable benefits.

Some pros of using Excel for business planning and forecasting:

  1. Familiarity: Excel is a widely used spreadsheet software, and many professionals are already familiar with its interface and functionality. This makes it accessible and easy to use for business planning and forecasting.

  2. Flexibility: Excel provides a wide range of tools and functions that allow you to customize and manipulate data for planning and forecasting. You can create formulas, perform calculations, and create charts and graphs to visualize data.

  3. Data organization: Excel allows you to structure your data in a tabular format, making it easier to organize and analyze. You can create multiple worksheets, use different columns and rows, and apply sorting and filtering options to manage and filter data effectively.

  4. Scenario analysis: Excel enables you to perform "what-if" analysis and scenario modeling. You can create different scenarios by changing variables and assumptions to understand their impact on the overall plan or forecast. This flexibility helps in decision-making and risk assessment.

  5. Integration: Excel can integrate with other software and data sources, allowing you to import and export data from various systems. This integration capability enables you to incorporate data from different sources into your planning and forecasting models.

But hey, Excel does have its limitations, especially when you're dealing with a ton of data.

And as your business grows, Excel might start to struggle to keep up. Managing a bunch of interconnected spreadsheets or using more advanced forecasting techniques can get pretty overwhelming and hard to maintain. Excel's scalability can be a bit of a bummer when you need to handle more complex business scenarios and adapt to changing needs.

That's why it's super important to take a good look at your specific needs and requirements before going all-in on Excel for your planning and forecasting. Think about things like the size and complexity of your datasets, how much collaboration you need, how much automation would make your life easier, and how scalable you need your solution to be. You might find that exploring other options or specialized planning and forecasting software could be a better fit for your needs, giving you a more efficient and scalable solution.

Overview of Anaplan Alright, let's shift gears and talk about Anaplan, the dedicated planning and forecasting software that's got people buzzing. Anaplan is like having a supercharged Swiss Army knife specifically designed to tackle the complexities of planning and forecasting. Anaplan is not your average spreadsheet software—it's a dedicated planning and forecasting platform that empowers businesses to take their planning to the next level through connected planning — connecting people, plans, and data across an organization.

Anaplan provides a comprehensive and holistic approach to business planning and forecasting. It offers a wide range of features and capabilities that help organizations navigate uncertainties, analyze data, and make informed decisions. From strategic goal-setting to detailed budgeting, Anaplan has got you covered.

Some pros of Anaplan for business planning & forecasting:

  1. Scalability: Anaplan is designed to handle large and complex datasets, making it a powerful tool for businesses of all sizes. Whether you're dealing with billions of data points or intricate financial models, Anaplan can handle it without compromising performance.

  2. Collaboration: Anaplan fosters seamless and real-time collaboration among team members. Multiple users can work on the same plan simultaneously, making updates and edits in real time. This promotes teamwork, enhances communication, and ensures everyone is on the same page.

  3. Advanced Modeling and Scenario Analysis: Anaplan provides sophisticated tools for advanced modeling and scenario analysis. Businesses can create and test different scenarios, assess the impact of various decisions, and gain valuable insights into potential outcomes. This helps in making informed and strategic decisions.

  4. Automation and Integration: Anaplan offers automation capabilities and seamless integration with other systems and data sources. It can pull in real-time data, automate calculations, and streamline repetitive tasks, saving time and reducing errors. This enables businesses to work with accurate and up-to-date information.

  5. Centralized Platform: Anaplan provides a centralized platform for all planning and forecasting activities. From goal-setting to budgeting to performance tracking, everything can be managed within the same environment. This promotes efficiency, eliminates silos, and provides a holistic view of the business.

  6. Flexibility and Customization: Anaplan allows businesses to customize and tailor their planning and forecasting processes according to their specific needs. It offers a wide range of industry-specific templates, functions, and modules that can be adapted to match unique business requirements.

So, if you're all about scalability, collaboration, advanced modeling, and automation, Anaplan is a force to be reckoned with. It's a dedicated planning and forecasting software that brings a whole new level of sophistication to the table. If you're ready to level up your planning and forecasting game, Anaplan might just be the platform you've been looking for.

So, how do Anaplan and Excel compare? Let’s dive in.

Anaplan vs Excel

Data Management & Scalability

When it comes to scalability and handling large datasets, Anaplan has a significant advantage over Excel. Excel, while a versatile spreadsheet software, may struggle to keep up when you're dealing with massive amounts of data. As datasets grow larger and more complex, Excel's performance can start to slow down, leading to frustrating delays, crashes, and inefficiencies. So, if your datasets are growing like crazy, Excel might struggle to handle all those complex calculations, and that could slow you down in your planning and forecasting tasks.

On the other hand, Anaplan is specifically designed to handle the challenges of big data and was built with scalability in mind. It's designed to process and calculate data efficiently, so you can work with your data seamlessly. It has a robust and scalable infrastructure that can accommodate vast amounts of information without compromising performance. Whether you're crunching numbers, analyzing market trends, or running complex simulations, Anaplan maintains its speed and responsiveness. No more spinning beach balls or waiting ages for your calculations to finish.

Real-time Collaboration

While Excel does offer collaboration features, it falls short of providing the same level of real-time collaboration as Anaplan. One of the major limitations of Excel is that it is primarily a desktop-based tool, which means that multiple users cannot access and edit the same spreadsheet at the same time. This can lead to version control issues, data inconsistencies, and a lack of transparency in the planning process.

One way Excel has tried to address this limitation is through OneDrive and Sharepoint functionality that allows a workbook to be cloud-based. However, this solution is not perfect since users need to ensure that certain criteria are met in order to function properly. One example is that all users co-authoring a file need to be operating on a version of Excel that supports this feature. Excel's collaboration is more like a group project with everyone doing their thing separately and then trying to piece it all together later. Sure, multiple folks can work on the same Excel file, but managing changes and keeping things organized can be a bit trickier.

With Anaplan, you and your team can collaborate seamlessly, making updates and edits in real time without missing a beat. It's like working together in the same room, even if you're miles apart. This fosters a dynamic and interactive work environment, where ideas can be shared, discussed, and implemented on the fly. Anaplan keeps everyone in sync, ensuring that your team can work together seamlessly and efficiently. You can wave goodbye to the days of sending files back and forth or waiting for someone to finish before you can contribute.

Version Control

One of the significant benefits of Excel's version control is the ability to track changes. It allows you to maintain a clear record of modifications made to a spreadsheet over time. You can easily identify who made specific changes and when those changes were implemented. Another advantage is the ability to revert to previous versions. Mistakes happen, and being able to refer back to an earlier iteration of the spreadsheet can be a lifesaver.

However, Excel is a bit more old-school when it comes to version control. Compared to dedicated version control systems or collaboration platforms, Excel's functionality is relatively basic. It lacks some advanced features that can be found in more specialized tools, such as automatic conflict resolution, detailed change tracking, or the ability to seamlessly merge changes from multiple users.

You can create different versions of your Excel files, but it's up to you to manage them manually. That means it's easy to get lost in a maze of files and changes. Users need to manually save and label different versions of the spreadsheet, which can be time-consuming and prone to human error. Remember those days of appending file names with "_V2," "_Final_Final," or even "_Final_Final_ReallyFinal"? It's time to bid farewell to that chaos.

With Anaplan, you can keep track of changes effortlessly. Each modification made to the model is recorded, and you can easily revert to a previous version if needed. This ensures that you always have a clear audit trail and can maintain data integrity throughout the planning and forecasting process. No more searching through email attachments or wondering which version is the most up-to-date. Anaplan streamlines version control, giving you peace of mind and saving you precious time.

Advanced Modeling and Simulation Capabilities

Anaplan offers a wide range of features that enable businesses to create complex financial models, scenario analyses, and predictive simulations. With Anaplan, you can easily build sophisticated models that incorporate multiple variables, interdependencies, and what-if scenarios. This allows for a deeper understanding of potential outcomes and helps in making informed decisions based on comprehensive simulations.

Anaplan's modeling capabilities extend beyond financial forecasting and can be applied to various aspects of business planning. Whether it's workforce planning, supply chain optimization, or sales forecasting, Anaplan empowers users to create intricate models that capture the complexities of their specific industries.

But that’s not all! Anaplan takes forecasting to the next level with its powerful add-on, PlanIQ. PlanIQ harnesses Amazon's intelligent forecast engine and Anaplan-native algorithms, such as multivariate linear regression (MVLR), to help businesses make more informed predictions while optimizing resources.

According to studies, in 70% of cases, machine learning (ML) or statistical-based forecasts are as accurate as or even more accurate than expert forecasts. PlanIQ incorporates ML capabilities to deliver precise predictions, requiring less manual effort and expertise. By ingesting up to three types of data, PlanIQ not only forecasts based on one data set but also learns from additional data to tailor forecasts for specific scenarios. The intelligent capabilities of PlanIQ continuously learn and train forecast models, increasing accuracy while eliminating the need to retrain new models for each prediction.

Excel, with its extensive formula library and calculation capabilities, also offers advanced modeling and simulation features. Users can create complex formulas, perform intricate calculations, and build models that incorporate multiple variables. Excel's "What-If Analysis" tools, such as Data Tables and Goal Seek, allow for scenario testing and sensitivity analysis.

However, it's worth noting that Excel's modeling capabilities may require more manual effort and expertise compared to Anaplan. Building complex models in Excel often involves extensive formula writing and cell referencing, which can be time-consuming and prone to errors.

So, both Anaplan and Excel have their strengths when it comes to advanced modeling and simulation. Excel is like the seasoned mathematician with powerful calculation abilities, while Anaplan is the slick planning expert with a user-friendly interface. It's up to you to decide which tool suits your needs, whether you're a formula maestro or someone who prefers a more intuitive modeling experience.


When it comes to automation, Excel is a handy tool with various options. You can create macros to automate repetitive tasks like data entry and formatting, saving you time and effort. With its built-in functions and formulas, Excel can perform calculations and update data automatically.

However, more advanced automation tasks, such as real-time data integration or automatic updates, may require additional expertise or custom programming in Excel. It can be a bit time-consuming and complex, as you'll need a good understanding of VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) programming language to implement such automation.

With Anaplan, you can seamlessly integrate real-time data from various sources, ensuring that your plans and forecasts are always up to date. This real-time data integration saves you from the hassle of manual data entry or importing/exporting data between different systems.

Anaplan takes automation a step further with its workflow automation capabilities. You can automate routine tasks, and set up notifications, reminders, and approvals, keeping everyone involved in the planning and forecasting process on track. This automation not only improves efficiency but also enhances collaboration and coordination among team members.

Another advantage of Anaplan is its cloud-based platform. It automatically applies updates and changes across the system, eliminating the need for manual updates or version control. Everyone stays on the same page, reducing the risk of errors or inconsistencies in the planning and forecasting process.

So, while Excel offers automation options like macros and functions, Anaplan takes it up a notch with real-time data integration, workflow automation, and cloud-based synchronization. Depending on your needs, Anaplan's advanced automation capabilities can provide a more efficient and streamlined solution for your planning and forecasting tasks.

Enhanced Data Security and Governance

Anaplan prioritizes data security and provides robust measures to safeguard your sensitive information. As a cloud-based platform, Anaplan leverages industry-leading security protocols and encryption technologies to protect your data from unauthorized access or breaches. It has comprehensive access controls and role-based permissions, allowing you to control who can view, edit, and share data within the platform.

Anaplan also offers audit trail capabilities, which enable you to track user activities and changes made to the plans and forecasts. This audit trail helps ensure transparency and accountability, making it easier to identify any unauthorized or suspicious activities.

In terms of data governance, Anaplan provides a centralized data model and governance framework. This allows you to establish standardized processes, data definitions, and business rules, ensuring consistency and accuracy across your planning and forecasting activities. You can set up validation rules and workflows to enforce data quality and integrity, reducing the risk of errors or discrepancies.

Excel offers some security features but may require additional steps to ensure data protection. It's important to implement strong password protection for Excel files and restrict access to authorized individuals. However, sharing Excel files via email or other means can pose security risks, as it's challenging to track and control who has access to the data.

When it comes to data governance in Excel, it relies on manual processes and practices. You need to establish and communicate data governance protocols to ensure consistency and accuracy. However, enforcing these protocols may be more challenging, as Excel doesn't provide the same centralized governance framework as Anaplan.


To sum it all up, when it comes to business planning and forecasting, Anaplan and Excel each bring their own pros and cons to the table. Excel, the old faithful spreadsheet software we all know and love, is great for its widespread availability and familiarity. But let's not overlook Anaplan, a powerful platform built specifically for enterprise-level planning and forecasting. With its cloud-based setup, extensive modeling features, and user-friendly interface, Anaplan offers the agility, accuracy, and collaboration that businesses crave. Of course, if you're a small to medium-sized operation or just looking for a budget-friendly option, Excel still gets the job done. But if you're aiming for the big leagues and want to scale up your planning game, Anaplan is the way to go.

The final choice ultimately depends on your organization's specific needs, size, and how much you're willing to invest in specialized planning software. So, take a moment to think about your goals, data requirements, and long-term scalability before making your decision. Whichever path you choose, make sure it aligns with your planning and forecasting objectives. Happy planning!

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