5 Tips to Success with Forecaster

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By Lisa Suggs, Senior Consultant, InterDyn - Artis
With BRL licensing for Microsoft Dynamics GP, many companies are thinking about harnessing the power of Microsoft Forecaster for budgeting.  Forecaster is a powerful application that can make the budgeting process more accurate and controlled.  In Forecaster, your real data is used as a basis for the budget – real salary-related expenses based on your real employees.  Unit based models – how many units at what price? The built-in workflow controls the budget approval process.  No more linked spreadsheets!

With all of the flexibility, there are a few pitfalls.  Following these suggestions can make a huge difference in how successful you are in using Forecaster the first year.

  1.  Take time to plan. Review your existing spreadsheets.  Stay as close to your existing formulas as possible.  You are learning a new software package.  Don’t try to learn a completely new budget methodology at the same time.  You want to keep the process as familiar as possible for the first budget.  You need to think about what you need – what is critical, what degree of accuracy is needed, what are the primary challenges with the existing processes.  To the extent possible, know the result you want before you start.  This will enable you to define the process so that you do not have to start over.  Think about who will be using the software, how often the budgets change, who needs the reports, etc. 
  2.  Use known ID’s.  Do not be creative when assigning codes for existing data.  Use the real account numbers.  If you are importing employees, use the ID’s from your payroll software.  You will inevitably need to update the data, so don’t make it difficult to find.  If you have to cross reference the ID’s, you greatly increase the likelihood of making a mistake.  Vlookups are great, but not foolproof.
  3. Get some training.  Two to three days of training will make a huge difference in your satisfaction with the project.  Forecaster is very flexible because it starts as a blank slate.  It is also very detailed.   That combination can drive you over the edge…and virtually guarantees failure if you decide to try to figure it out as you go.  Microsoft offers 49 Forecaster eCourses because it is a complex product.  You can invest 2 weeks learning the product and still not be sure how to apply it to your business.  Or, you can spend some time with a consultant who has applied the software multiple times and will likely have some good suggestions on how you might be able to use it.  At InterDyn – Artis, we have implemented Forecaster for several clients and will be glad to help you. 
  4. Start with a few people.  I have clients with 50 users entering budgets and routing them to the appropriate managers for approval.  People are endlessly creative in how to use an unfamiliar software package, so be sure that your Forecaster administrators are familiar with the software before unleashing it to the masses.  A little practice – either in submitting their own budgets or in a pilot program with a few savvy users will pay big dividends.  Your managers will be much more confident if the administrators can readily answer their questions – and that will translate into better user acceptance.
  5. Don’t duplicate accounts.  In Forecaster, you need an “account” to store a balance, whether the account is in the General Ledger or not.  One of the most common mistakes is trying to perform 2 operations on the same account.  Create as many as you need to hold calculation results, HR-related expenses, etc.  so that the real account (in the General Ledger) holds the final balance.  For example, if the total budgeted bonus amount includes both a percent bonus based on the employees’ salaries (HR) and a percentage of profit for the manager (balance calculation), you need a separate account to hold the HR-generated balance.  

Say that the GL bonus account is 5510.  Create an off-budget account HR5510 to hold the HR-generated amount.  The HR bonus is $10,000.  The manager’s bonus is $2000. Then use a calculation to calculate 5510 = (net profit percentage) + HR5510. [$2000 + $10,000 = $12,000]  Otherwise, the balance in 5510 will be either $10,000 or $2000, depending on which process just ran. 

By InterDyn – Artis, North Carolina Microsoft Dynamics GP Partner.

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