Time Ranges: What Model Builders Need to Know
Author: Matt Carlson
Time Ranges, aka Time Subsets, is one of the more exciting recent Anaplan updates. Located in the time section of the cog wheel, Time Ranges are customizable time scales that can be created and used within the same model, separate from the Model Calendar. This gives model builders time dimension flexibility that, previously, has only been achievable through creating fake time lists. Many experienced model builders, including me, have been waiting for this feature for a long time. If you’re eager to use this new feature to enhance your models, here’s what you need to know to get started.
The Superset is an all-encompassing time range that begins and ends with the earliest and latest periods of the Model Calendar, or any Time Range that exists in a model, including any aggregations – Quarter Totals, All Periods etc. It also includes gaps that may be present between any time ranges. Understanding that there is a Superset working behind the scenes will help you better understand how your model and various functions will behave.
How Can Time Ranges Improve Your Models?
- Decrease Model Sparsity
Time Ranges can be used to avoid one of every model’s biggest enemies, sparsity, or cells with no data. The key is to remember that Time Ranges can vary in size and be used in place of the Model Calendar in any module. This may be helpful when you’re looking to perform short (1 year) or long-term (10 year) planning. Previously, you’d be forced to create multiple models with dedicated Model Calendar’s for each time period (1 and 10 years), which creates sparsity and wasted space. Now, with Time Ranges, you can create the exact time periods you want without occupying valuable space.
- Period() Function BLANKs – A Thing of the Past
Time Ranges can enhance your model by enabling the Period() function, as long as the date falls within the Superset. This means you can configure your model so you no longer have to worry about the Period() function returning a BLANK. The best part about this is you don’t even have to use the Time Range as a dimension in a module, the date only needs to fall within the Superset.
Words of Caution
Although Time Ranges are an exciting new way to enhance your model, there are some shortfalls of which you should be aware:
- Time Ranges are Static
You may have noticed that when you move the current fiscal year of your Model Calendar forward, the entire calendar also shifts forward. This is because the Model Calendar is dynamic and shifts around a moving benchmark. This is NOT the case with Time Ranges. Unfortunately, with Time Ranges you choose a beginning year and the number of periods it will extend – no benchmark option available, at least not yet. This requires a bit of added maintenance when time scale shifts are needed.
- Be Aware of Potential Data Loss
Similar to the Model Calendar, the adjustment of Time Ranges can cause data loss. Always be cognizant of this possibility whenever making any kind of time scale adjustment.
- Time Functions Don’t Work
It’s true, while many functions will work between two modules with different Time Ranges, most time functions will not. The exceptions to this are Previous(), Next(), and when the offset argument is hard-coded and falls off of the result time range – Lag(), Lead(), Offset(), Post().
- Time Period Formatted Dropdowns
Time period dropdowns use the Superset. Therefore, I don’t recommend immediately creating a Time Range that begins in FY-1950 and ends in FY-2050, for example. Many of your users may attempt to scroll through the past 100 years, encompassing the entirety of their Anaplan experience. Either manage the Superset wisely or become familiar with fake time lists.
The Bottom Line
Time Ranges currently have some shortfalls, but if used wisely, can decrease sparsity, decrease Period() function BLANKs, and enhance your model. Now go forth and Anaplan!