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5 Steps to Prepare your Organization to take on an Anaplan Project

Starting an Anaplan project?

We have your back.

Business Planning Consultant Josh Huilar explains how to hit the ground running in the latest from our Akili video series, “Through the Lens”. Watch to learn the 5 Steps to Prepare your Organization to take on an Anaplan Project and find out how Akili and Anaplan can help you with a smooth implementation!

 

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My First 90 Days at Akili: Kevin Boardman

 

By Kevin Boardman | Business Planning Consultant

On my first day with Akili, I immediately picked up on a theme: dedication. Every member of the Akili family is dedicated to their work, their clients, and personal development in betterment of the team.

During my first week in training, everyone from my colleagues to our CEO was asking if I had questions, and extended their time to help me overcome any hurdles I encountered. Akili is full of dedicated people that continue to ensure everyone is set up for success.

It is amazing to be a part of a team knowing that everyone is dedicated to being their absolute best and constantly raising the bar. I’ve noticed it’s not unusual for someone to work well past “normal business hours” to finish a work stream, then immediately share their findings with the team.

The phrase “open-door” policy would imply that sometimes that figurative door is shut. At Akili, there is no door because every door is open and every person is willing to jump in and help the team. That said, there is no “I” in team and that couldn’t be more evident here. Everyone is incredibly dedicated to perform at the maximum level and celebrate together in success.

Our managers are constantly pushing the team to advance their skillset by providing the platform to perform, learn, and then perform again. In my second week on a client project, I was presenting to a senior leader and our client director was right there with me. It was a great learning experience, proving that Akili invests in each of its employees and trusts them to perform.

One thing I’ve learned, is to not be afraid to take a calculated risk. One of the many exciting things about working at Akili is that every day is a new adventure. There will come a time when an idea or potential solution is mentioned in a meeting or casual conversation and then a few hours/days later, we have the opportunity to present our ideas and proceed further down the path. Just know the Akili team fully supports this kind of initiative, even if it doesn’t become implemented on the current work stream (but could be presented in other areas).

I’m excited for future projects with existing and new clients because although it will be challenging, us Akilians thrive and are excited for those challenges.

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Akili PHD: The Musician

 

By Joel Middleton | Business Planning Consultant

Who hears music, feels his solitude peopled at once.”

– Robert Browning

Music. What a powerful force in this world. What else has done the following so successfully?

  • Incited riots
  • Inspired repressed people to infect themselves with a deadly virus
  • Sparked more than one revolution
  • Changed how people get down the wedding aisle

Or, the fact that music also gets us to sing, dance, grieve, laugh, and experience a moment either alone or with others?

As a species we’ve had music before structured and written language. It’s in each of us, like E. Coli or that piece of gum you accidentally swallowed a few years ago.

For me, music has always been a big part of my life. Some of my earliest and fondest memories are about hearing my favorite childhood songs for the first time and repetitiously listening to them to get the rhythm and melody of each one. The swing, jazz, rock, and blues songs were always my favorite. I’m fairly certain my parents might still have PTSD from how many times I watched Jungle Book, Brave Little Toaster, and Aristocats simply because of the jazz, blues, and rock leanings in those movies.

My parents have always had their own love of music, too. My dad plays piano and my mom’s a natural-born dancer. We also attended church every Sunday where music was a big part of the service.

With all of that musical exposure, you’d think I would’ve naturally gravitated towards actually learning music early on, but didn’t find my way into it until I was given a guitar and a set of lessons at the local rec center for my 16th birthday. I didn’t know it then, but this was where a lifelong passion for music would begin. The “not knowing” part is important, but I’ll come back to that in a moment.

By the time college was on my horizon, I decided that I wanted to study music in school and enrolled as a music performance major at the University of Memphis, focusing on Jazz & Studio Music. I showed up in Memphis full of enthusiasm and excitement. Not even two weeks later, I was ready to throw in the towel and change majors.

I had seriously overestimated my level of ability at the time and was in way over my head. Unlike many of the other students in the music program, I never did anything like band, choir, or theatre in middle or high school. I didn’t know how to read sheet music or how to communicate with other musicians in an effective way. I was, musically speaking, illiterate.

Faced with the decision of quitting the music program, I decided instead to lean into the discomfort and resolved to not quit without putting up a fight.

And man, did I hate the slog.

The daily routine of honest self-criticism and evaluation that I had to make myself face. Fumbling through sight-reading exercises at a pithy 60 beats per minute. Guessing almost every interval except the right one in-ear training exercises. Slowly transcribing solos and tunes from famed jazz records only to read it back and be wrong in large swathes of the song. Not to mention, wrestling with the heedless voice of self-doubt providing the tempting belief that ability and talent are fixed attributes.

I wish I could say it was passion that pushed me through this time. That it was some kind of supreme love for the craft that fit well with the narrative that anyone with enough heart and passion can succeed despite the obstacles before them. But it wasn’t. If anything, halfway through that first semester, I was less passionate about music and guitar than I’d ever been.

But I kept working and as my first semester came to a close, I wasn’t dramatically better than when I’d began but I was starting to show growth. More importantly, the gains I had made in my musical competency over those 15 weeks had ignited a deeper and broader love for music. The kind of love that I would qualify as genuine passion. The kind of passion that you can only develop from struggle, strife, and honesty. Where the slog transforms from drudgery to something you legitimately get excited for.

Fast forward more than a few years and I found myself in new career at Akili where I’m thankful that we have a culture that embraces passion, heart, and desire. Learning new technologies and creating solutions for our clients’ many business needs is ripe for opportunities to struggle, grow, and deepen the passion I have for what we do!

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Employee Spotlight: Meet Mark Butler

 

Director of Business Process & Organizational Change Management Mark Butler knows Akili all too well, as he’s been with us from the very beginning! This week, we discovered more about this seasoned Akilian and his role.

What’s your role at Akili and the most satisfying aspect about it?

I serve as the Director of the BPM/OCM Center of Excellence. My responsibility in this role is to establish all of the IP, methodology, and discipline necessary to provide a best in-class level service for clients who need help with business process optimization and leading organizational change.

I have told people for years that one of the best parts of my job is that no two days are ever alike. I may provide the same type of service to our clients, or collaborate with my fellow employees around common activities, nevertheless, every case is unique, every outcome is unique, and every project brings new opportunities to learn, adapt, and grow.

How did you become interested in your line of work?

I was working in our data modeling group at American Airlines in 1991 when I received an invitation from the VP of our Division to participate in a special project. It was the first Business Process Reengineering effort at AA. BPR was a hot topic of the day with the recent publication of Hammer and Champy’s wildly successful book, “Reengineering the Corporation”.

For the next nine months, I was blessed to work with nine other peers who also received this invitation. It was a huge project, with major game-changing outcomes for the Saber Computer Services, the Division in which I worked. But more importantly, it was a new path for me. We were coached extensively by four experts in the new field and it was an awesome experience. It was stressful every day for sure, but an amazing opportunity.

By the time we reached the conclusion of the project, it had become apparent to me that a process-centric approach to solving business problems was the best way to make a real difference in the world. I went to our mentor consultants and asked if there was any way I could join them in this work. I could not imagine going back to my former role and ever being satisfied knowing what I now knew.

Long story short, the answer was yes, and the rest is history.

What about Akili made you decide to join?

When I joined in July 1996, Akili was still in its infancy. The “culture” of Akili that is now a hallmark was barely forming, so I had no perspective on that, and Akili had no big reputation of success to speak of. I made the decision based primarily on my brief interactions with Shiek and Andrew and I have never regretted the decision we made that week. Everything good that has happened to me in my career since 1996 has been a direct result of the relationships I have formed at Akili.

What’s a memory that stood out to you at Akili?

Wow… that is a tough question. How do you pick one from among so many? Given the two decades of water that have passed under the Akili bridge, you can imagine those waters have carried an uncountable quantity of memories. On the fun side of the coin, the Cancun trip was no doubt the very best memory. On the work side of the coin, I have to say that my work on the ERP implementation at Samson Resources will always be a highlight of my career.

In your opinion, what makes Akili different?

Every company wants to say how “different” they are in their marketing materials. I give it as my opinion that the real difference is based on two factors. First, our CEO has a very clear and unmatched expectation of excellence in terms of our performance in client engagements. Failure is NOT an option. Secondly, this same expectation of excellence flows right into the character of the people whom we attract, prepare, and deploy to those client engagements; and the same standard of performance for us all is the number one priority. We hire very smart people with a strong work ethic, and we teach and guide them towards the standard of excellence that must prevail in our work.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

If you had asked me that question two decades ago, the answer would be different. We all experience changes in the focus of our lives over time. Gratefully, today my understanding of what is important in life is for more refined. I love being with, and working on whatever project you can imagine with my wife, the center and soul of my life.

We enjoy serving others in our church work—we teach, mentor, and guide others we love toward lives of richness and joy. We love our 10 grandchildren beyond words and enjoy supporting them in all of their fun growing-up activities. We love the mountains. As a family, we went camping every year. Holiday traditions are important family foundation building work that we are committed to doing. Christmas together is our favorite time of year.

Left: Mark’s yard – they did all of the work! Right: Christmas – their favorite time of year.
Left: Butler family (minus 2). Right: Christmas dinner with the Butler’s.

What keeps you motivated?

Motivating me has never been something anyone else has had to do. My intense internal competitive nature drove me for years. Today, the driver is more based in the search for knowledge about my specific professional focus. BPM and OCM are all about relentless, continuous improvement and about purposeful adaptation to the factors in a dynamic and constantly evolving business environment. I love to learn. The joy of learning drives me.

Tell us about some of the greatest advice you’ve ever received.

It is exceptionally easy to identify the greatest advice or counsel I’ve ever received—if you don’t include the scriptures. Without question, that advice came from Stephen R. Covey and his two best-selling books: 7-Habits and Principle Centered Leadership.

My wife will tell you that the truths taught in his books changed me, for the better.

Anything you’d like everyone to know? 

Serving and helping others is one of the keys to understanding ourselves, and recognizing the blessings in our lives.

Many years ago we received a cup from someone that sat in our kitchen window sill. It had a wonderful message inscribed on it:

“Life is a gift. It’s wrapped in a ribbon woven with dreams, and whether you are very young or very old, life is full of wonder and surprises.”

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My First 90 Days at Akili: Patrick Payne

 

By Patrick Payne | Sr. Sales Executive

My first exposure to Akili was when I was working with a software company in the same building, one floor up, four years ago. I remember doing some research on Akili to see what line of business they were in, after seeing the logo in our building. I found myself intrigued, and I knew that eventually, I wanted to work with a company similar to Akili as I grew further into my career.

Four years later, here I am at Akili, working as an Account Executive managing the central region of the U.S.

In my first few weeks, it was immediately evident that Akili was a unique company. The culture coupled with the company’s twelve core values are sincerely lived out each day. One thing in particular that I’ve been impressed by, is the overall transparency displayed starting with the CEO and trickling down throughout the company.

I’ve also been impressed with the cohesive team approach that is taken in every sales cycle. While some companies might boast this as a differentiator, I’ve experienced first-hand that this isn’t always the case. I was told in the interview process (and more than a few times since) that I would never have to sell alone. This sentiment has more than come into fruition as I’ve already experienced multiple sales opportunities that support this notion.

Additionally, I’ve observed loyalty at Akili on a completely different level than I’ve experienced at other organizations. In my opinion, our outstanding client reference and retention rate has a direct correlation with the loyalty shown here.

Lastly, I’m very grateful to be a part of such an immensely talented and knowledgeable team, and I’m excited about the future direction of Akili. As a contributor to the team, it’s my ongoing goal to help new and prospective clients meet their business planning objectives, while expanding the Akili brand throughout my region.

I feel that this is a really special company, and I look forward to being a part of the many successes that we experience this year and beyond!

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Akili PHD: The Athlete

 

By Ben Wilmoth | Senior Business Planning Consultant

In 4th grade, I started playing football and learned early on what it’s like to be a part of a team.

As a kid, I liked to joke around a lot, so my parents were looking to get me into whatever activity that would keep me from getting into trouble. My mom tells me stories of when I would stack pillows in the living room and pretend the stack was a running back. And in an attempt to stop the stuffed running back from scoring imaginary touchdowns, I would continuously tackle it as if I were starting for the Dallas Cowboys. I’ve always wanted to play and it just came natural.

Add a couple of years and more than a couple of pounds, and I found my fit as an offensive lineman. And as I grew, so did my desire to compete. To be a successful competitor, it meant I had to learn how to be disciplined, fundamentally sound and coachable. Through the variety of ups and downs playing football competitively provides, I had acquired all of these skills and more. Most importantly, I learned how to be a contributing member of a successful and productive team, which would help establish a foundation that would support me in my future career.

Today, I’m on a whole new team with and although I’ve switched from reading defenses to reading user requirements, the passion is still there. As a matter of fact, many of the skills I used in football are apparent in my role as a Senior Business Planning Consultant at Akili.

Just like an offensive lineman, you have to be accountable for your role, but also be cognizant of the roles of your teammates. You have to be decent at making changes on the fly (both literally and metaphorically).

You have to be quick to adapt.

The core of how we implement projects at Akili is based around being agile. It’s about keeping everything in control and taking frequent status checks. It’s also about being transparent and understanding that if what you are presenting to the client does not meet the mark, you need to pivot immediately.

In football, the offensive line doesn’t get all of the glory. As an old offensive line coach once told me, “Your job is to finish your block and get out of the way.” Being an offensive linemen is not a glorified role. In fact, the general premise is that if you are being noticed, you are making mistakes. Similar to Akili, our main goal is to make our sponsors and clients look good. This means that in the end, we’re not always the one who receives the credit.

For us, that’s OK because our greatest sources of pride come from successful implementations and continued business. We perform until the expectations of our clients have been exceeded and at Akili, that’s what truly matters.

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Employee Spotlight: Meet James Cannon

 

From planning business solutions to bike routes, Solution Leader James Cannon puts the pedal to the metal when it comes to personal growth. This week, we learned more about his experience at Akili and even took away some solid advice.

What’s your role at Akili and the most satisfying aspect about it?

Officially, my role at Akili is a Solution Lead within the Anaplan platform. Unofficially, I wear a number of hats. No day is ever the same, which is one really satisfying aspect of my role. I’m able to help drive change within our clients’ organization, as well as help drive change here at Akili.

How did you become interested in your line of work?

I’ve always had an interest in technology and building things, so it’s almost a perfect fit for someone like me. When you add in the fact that I also get bored easily, this industry is fitting because it requires the ability for rapid change. I’m usually rolling on to a new project every 4-6 months.

What about Akili made you decide to join?

The people! When I interviewed, the individuals I met were the real reason I chose to work here. At the end of the day, I’d rather work with people I really enjoy and call friends than make a few more dollars somewhere else and be miserable.

What’s a memory that stood out to you at Akili?

There are honestly too many to list over the past 4 years, but most of them either involve having a great conversation over a drink with a fellow Akilian, or some office shenanigans.

In your opinion, what makes Akili different? 

A lot of the same reasons that made me want to join Akili (the people, the culture, the leadership, the team spirit, etc.) are what I think allows Akili to separate itself from others in our industry and make it a really special place to work.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Anything outdoors, really. I am an on-again, off-again avid mountain biker. In the summer, my weekends are often spent playing golf or going to the lake. In the winter, I’m usually trying to make my way to a mountain to go snowboarding.

What keeps you motivated?

Helping people is a really big motivator for me. I’m a firm believer in continuing your own personal education, so I really like to learn new things. Sharing my knowledge with other people to help either benefit them, or their organization, is my main motivator.

Tell us about some of the greatest advice you’ve ever received.

I wouldn’t categorize it as the greatest advice given to me, but there are two maxims I circle back on when working with our clients. The first one is, “Work smarter, not harder” and the second is, “You can only manage what you measure”.

The first one is something I believe we help our clients achieve with our services. At the end of an engagement, I like to think we have helped our clients facilitate the change needed for their group or organization to work smarter everyday by doing less work through the tools we helped implement.

The second, is an idea that I truly align with. You are not able to fully understand the impact of a problem unless you measure and track it. This idea has limitless applications and is a great way to improve either a personal process or an organizational process.

Anything else you’d like everyone to know?

Don’t be afraid to gamble on making a jump to something new. I knew nothing other than a Google search of who Akili was or what they actually did. Making that leap of faith into this field and this company has been eternally rewarding for me, both from a personal and professional standpoint. It has allowed me to continue to grow and develop as a person and along the way, it has allowed me to meet and connect with some amazing people.

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Akili Ranks Among Best Companies to Work for in Texas for 2018

 

Akili is proud to announce that we were recently ranked 18th among the 2018 Best Companies to Work for in Texas, making our fourth appearance on this list. Our firm was recognized yet again for our unique culture, positive work environment and rewarding client work.

Made up of 100 companies, the 2018 Best Companies to Work for in Texas was designed to identify, recognize, and honor the best places of employment in Texas, benefiting the state’s economy, workforce and business.

“We are humbled to be recognized as one of the best companies to work for in Texas, yet again,” Akili CEO Shiek Shah said. “As a professional services organization, our employees are our key assets. Our management team strives to create an environment where our employees are happy, challenged and produce meaningful outcomes for our clients. This honor attests to our on-going efforts to recruit and retain the best of the best.”

To be eligible for this recognition, companies have to meet the following criteria: Be a for-profit or not-for-profit business or government entity, a publicly or privately held business, have a facility in the state of Texas, have a minimum of 15 full or part-time employees working in the state of Texas, and must be in business a minimum of one year. Best Companies Group conducts a two-part company assessment to gather detailed data for each participating company. Part one includes an employer questionnaire and part two is a survey for the employees to complete.

Akili fosters a strong culture of investing in our employees and developing an environment that values our employees as individuals, provides the support of a team and enables employees to pursue their career goals without restraint. Our vision is to create a work environment that gives our people the opportunity, encouragement, and recognition they need to truly excel at what they do.

Anyone that spends time in the company of the Akili team realizes that the core values on which the organization was founded on are present in day-to-day business. These values guide all of the key decision making processes and are present within every layer of the organization.

About Akili

Akili (pronounced (uh • kē’ • lē) meaning “knowledge” in Swahili) is a niche information technology consulting firm founded in 1992. Akili is headquartered in the Dallas suburb of Irving, TX, with locations in Houston, TX and Denver, CO. We have over 20 years of precision implementation design and trusted delivery services to small regional companies, mid size national companies, and multi-national Fortune 5 companies.

Akili is focused on Industry solutions for Oil and Gas, Telecommunications, Finance, Chemicals, Hi-Tech, REIT and Retail. Functional solution areas include Enterprise Performance Management (EPM), Business Analytics (BI, EIM, DW), ERP (Including PRA, JVA, Asset Management), HANA, and Cloud Services (Finance, Operations, Sales).

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How to Navigate SAP BPC’s Changing Solution Roadmap

Join Akili February 28 at 10AM CST for a live demo on SAP's BPC v11.

 

By Alan Boyer | VP of Delivery

SAP announced BPC Version 11 for BW4/HANA, the next generation of the Business Planning and Consolidations (BPC) product, on June 15 at the SAPinsider Financials Conference in Amsterdam. This is the first significant update to the standalone version of BPC since 2014.

So, let’s explore a little of what this new version means.

What’s new?

  • When SAP released BW4/HANA last year, one of the glaring omissions was the lack of a planning or consolidations solution. That gap has now been closed as BPC 11 runs on BW4/HANA, providing complete planning and consolidations functionality to SAP’s new enterprise data warehouse platform. BW/4HANA is a very open solution and all methods of bringing data into BW4HANA are, of course, available to get information into BW. Getting master and transactional data from S4 is still very easy, but it is also easy to load data for other non-SAP sources. This diagram provides an overview of the integration approaches available:

  • Tight integration to Analytics Cloud is also a highlight of the new BPC version, including user initiated data synchronization that includes delta loads. Analytics Cloud also supports live connection to BPC for enhanced analytics capabilities. This opens the use of the Predictive capabilities in Cloud Analytics to be used to create forecasts/plans that can be synched to BPC.
  • BPC 11 also provides the ability to enhance the performance of the system even with large sets of data. Fox formulas can now be “pushed down” into HANA to speed execution times.
  • Interface – The homepage and navigation have been redesigned to the latest Fiori standards. Enhancements include the ability to capture favorites, easier navigation between tasks and an enhanced “My Activities” section.
  • Improved Modelling tools in BW4/HANA makes it much easier to create the planning structures for embedded models. Of course, these models can be connected to the BPC admin tools, which allow users the ability to use BPC Admin functions to manage the system.

What happens to other versions of BPC?

The BPC 10.1 NW and the 10.1 MS versions will be supported for some time. However, these versions will receive maintenance only. Enhancements will no longer be delivered for these versions. BPC Optimized for S/4 and BPC for BW4/HANA will be the primary versions of BPC going forward. The chart below depicts the product history and path going forward:

It is important to note that BPC 11 for BW4/HANA is a new legal version. Customers that plan to upgrade to this new version will need to acquire new licenses.

What’s the same?

  • Both standard & embedded are still available in BPC 11.
  • The EPM add-in will still be available and will be the proper interface for standard models. Analysis for Office will be the proper interface for embedded models. (Note that EVDre will no longer be supported in BPC 11).
  • BPC will still provide a single unified platform for Planning and Consolidations.

That gives you a quick preview of what’s coming in BPC 11 on BW4/HANA. Stay tuned for additional information coming soon.