This article will focus on Forecaster and the options for investing in a new budgeting tool.
Have you been using Forecaster to budget your finances? Microsoft recently made the announcement that Forecaster will not be available or supported for new Microsoft Dynamics GP 2016 customers. There are around 48,000 GP customers of out of 200,000 Dynamics ERP users, and around 2,000 organizations are using Forecaster in their budgeting procedures. Therefore, companies who have used Forecaster as a budgeting tool are looking for an alternative.
Before we discuss the concerns regarding this change for Microsoft Dynamics GP users, let’s go over the brief history of Microsoft Forecaster. Forecaster is a product application, used for budgeting and forecasting, that gives small and midsize businesses, as well as large companies and divisions of global organizations, control over their planning process. It originated from a company called eBudgets.com, located in New Jersey, and was acquired by FRx Software Corporation in 2001. FRx was owned by Great Plains Software (GP), and GP was bought out by Microsoft. This article will focus on this impact of change for Dynamics GP users and the solutions to these concerns.
As many people would agree, Forecaster is not a widely used product in the Business Intelligence (BI) world. Some Microsoft Forecaster users say the application has major integration problems. For instance, the Microsoft Excel links only work with Excel 2007, and the link between Forecaster and Dynamics GP requires that FRx (Management Reporter’s predecessor) be installed. Although Forecaster is a free application which is considered an advantage, there are more disadvantages that outweigh the good. Forecaster has a proprietary user platform that does not work within Excel. Hence, there is a whole set of independent coding and formulas a user has to learn with limited features and functionality. Forecaster users are saying these problems they face send a message to customers that investing in Forecaster is just not worth it. Its initial purpose was to be used as the budgeting and planning part of Microsoft Dynamics in an effort to help corporations move away from spreadsheet-based systems. Leading budgeting and reporting alternatives, such as BI360 and Prophix and more, have made major improvements in saving time in planning and reporting processes.
When searching for alternatives, consider the goals and needs of your company. Some important questions to ask yourself and team when choosing the best option for your company are:
-How large is my organization?
-Does the offering cover unlimited users, or do I have to purchase named or concurrent licenses?
-How many Microsoft Dynamics GP customers does the software company have?
-Can the product support the installed base?
As mentioned in this Go ERP Cloud article, compatibility with Microsoft Dynamic ERP software can be set on the number of product releases and upgrades. When considering a cloud-based application, keep in mind that you are subject to the product releases and updates available on demand, but it’s a different story for users with local installs. When looking for a solution, it will be good to know how often updates are offered for maximum product use. BI360 and Prophix are two products that offer both Excel- and web-based data entry options. These two products offer the exact features of Forecaster and more. Also, there are numerous Cloud vendors that have entered this space of budgeting recently. Nonetheless, there are great options for Dynamics ERP users that need alternate solutions from Forecaster to get involved with a modern platform or that are looking to deploy their first professional budgeting product and replace their manual Microsoft Excel software. The best way to seek out information about a good budgeting solution is from your business partners, forums and discussions within the Dynamics Communities pages, the customer source at the Microsoft Dynamics website, and third party solution teams such as BI360 and Prophix.
Forecaster was designed to help businesses meet objectives and gain competitive advantage with budgeting and planning capabilities that allow business professionals to plan more effectively and make changes efficiently depending on their needs, but truthfully, Forecaster will never triumph over what third part solutions can offer. Now that Forecaster and Management Reporter (MR) are near their respective ends of life, Microsoft can center its focus on their core ERP offerings and ERP cloud initiatives. This will help eliminate the noise and complaints around Forecaster, while leaning on a community of ISVs and partners to give their customers a great budgeting experience than in the past.
As Business Intelligence (BI) and Corporate Performance Management (CPM) are becoming more relevant in the corporate realm, Microsoft should further encourage Dynamics users to explore more robust third party solutions such as BI360, Prophix and more. These offerings may improve users’ reporting needs better than Forecaster, and they may also build a more thorough BI/CPM plan where they can include other BI tools, such as dashboards and data warehouses. If you are interested in learning more about budgeting, stay tuned for our budgeting series. We kicked off the series with Automatic Spreading, and will continue with the topic of budgeting consolidation in multi-entity organizations. Solver, Inc. offers Excel and web budgeting stand-alone solutions or as part of the comprehensive suite of BI360 modules and would be happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s easy-to-use Planning solution for collaborative, streamlined decision-making capabilities, as a powerful alternative to Forecaster.