Choosing Suppliers

Broadband nightmares: Unicorn Anaplan talks Northern Powerhouse concerns

7 min read

25 January 2017

Deputy Editor, Real Business

Yorkshire unicorn Anaplan unveils that broadband issues in Britain, particularly in rural areas, could potentially have a wider impact beyond its UK team.

SMEs in the North of England have long been pushing the government for a better approach to enabling broadband connectivity. Michael Gould, the founder and CTO of Anaplan, is no different.

In fact, he’s a firm believer that Internet connectivity – or the lack thereof – is a major obstacle to the government’s Northern Powerhouse ambitions.

The Internet is a fundamental requirement for any business, he told Real Business recently. While broadband speeds within major cities are good, if you have people working from home in the more rural parts of the north, this can prove to be a challenge.

As such, we queried the Yorkshire business on its own broadband journey, especially when it comes to the Anaplan UK team working with staff abroad.

1) Please describe your company in your own words

Anaplan is a smart business platform. Essentially, it helps businesses forecast and simulate scenarios to make better decisions. Our technology allows businesses to be more agile and collaborative, co-ordinating the various pillars of business operations – from HR to finance, sales and so on – through a simple interface for use across the entire organisation.

I founded the company in my Yorkshire barn where we launched in 2010 and I’m now the CTO. We are a privately held company now headquartered in San Francisco with offices in over 25 countries worldwide. In January 2016, we raised $90m in Series E funding to bring total investment in the company to $240m.

2) Where does broadband fit into your business?

As a software-as-a-Service product, naturally the Internet is at the core of everything we do. At a fundamental level it’s the medium through which we supply our product. But in terms of Anaplan as a business, broadband has been a vital ingredient to our success and subsequent rapid expansion into a global enterprise, allowing the team to stay connected with colleagues all around the world. Within the UK, strong broadband also empowers employees to work flexibly from a range of locations.

3) Would you consider it to be vital?

Absolutely. Internet connectivity is a fundamental requirement for the majority of organisations, particularly those above a microbusiness level. Research showed that poor Internet connection affected two thirds of businesses in 2015, costing the UK economy £12.3bn and showing just how integral good broadband can be to the bottom line. As an international business, we are reliant on the internet and cloud-hosted services to connect offices and employees around the globe, but broadband access is an essential factor for many businesses to succeed, around the UK.

4) What type of broadband/supplier do you use?

In the UK, Anaplan uses a leased line with a speed of 100mbps, provided by York Data Services.

5) What difficulties have you faced with it?

Internet connectivity issues can limit productivity and cause a huge amount of stress to businesses, particularly as flexible working becomes more widespread. While broadband speeds within the major cities are good, if you have people working from home in the more rural parts of the north, this can prove to be a challenge. Internet failures can lead to employees working longer hours, through interrupted tasks, reducing efficiency and the ability to work flexibly.

With our UK team working closely with our US and French counterparts, it’s hugely important that internet connectivity doesn’t let us down, otherwise these potential failures could also have a much wider impact, beyond our UK team.

6) Has the speed of it let you down?

As the pace of business and levels of data passing through our networks increases on a daily basis, there is more pressure than ever on broadband providers to maintain quality service to businesses, to help maximise opportunities and consequently revenue. While our datacentres and connection speeds in our central York office are not affected, employees see a significant difference in broadband quality in the more rural areas of the North of England, which can have an impact as we permit and encourage staff to work more flexibly.

7) How do you feel the service could be improved?

Given the range of factors affecting broadband, service providers should ensure measures are in place to restore Internet connectivity as quickly as possible in order to minimise disruption. Concrete business continuity plans are vital to keep businesses running as seamlessly as possible. The government needs to continue to facilitate investment in more rural regions of the country and drive towards complete high-speed connectivity.

8) What do you feel about the state of UK broadband?

While the roll out of high quality rural broadband is a nationwide issue, it is crucial to the development of business in the North of England. Improving broadband standards in this region will go a long way to refuting scepticism around whether the ‘Northern Powerhouse,’ laid out by the government in 2014, will ever become a reality. If this problem persists, it will be difficult for the north to keep pace with better connected southern cities.

This article is part of our Real Business Broadband campaign, which seeks to provide a mouthpiece for business leaders to vocalise the broadband issues preventing their businesses from reaching full potential. We’d love to hear your take on the debate and where you think the UK needs to make drastic changes. Get in touch via email (shane.schutte@realbusiness.co.uk) or join in on the action using #rbBroadband.