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BCBS Gets a Healthy Dose of Budgeting and Forecasting with Centage

  Product Review published in DM Review Magazine
February 2006 Issue
  By Ken Knoll
Review of: Budget Maestro from Centage Corporation

REVIEWER: Ken Knoll, financial analyst for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana.

BACKGROUND: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana is a $520 million provider of healthcare insurance services with 700 employees. Headquartered in Helena, Montana, the company has offices in various cities throughout the state.

PLATFORMS: SQL Server 2000 with Windows 2000 SP4 Operating System.

PROBLEM SOLVED: We upgraded our financial system to the Lawson enterprise suite from a legacy mainframe system. Prior to installing Lawson, we used a combination of batch data entry and spreadsheets built on old technology for budgeting - a process that took four months and required four full-time employees. Even with the purchase of Lawson, we lacked a comprehensive, cost-effective budgeting and forecasting component, so we knew we needed to supplement their system with the right budgeting solution. We wanted to change from strict spreadsheet usage because we could not consolidate large amounts of data into formats that senior management could easily review and make quick and relevant business decisions.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: With Centage Budget Maestro working in an enterprise environment, we could quickly upload the information from spreadsheets and produce reports that were ready in the format for management to review. Budget Maestro's reporting capabilities allowed the company to do an analysis by major account category and by department. We could also produce income statements based on these projections. As our initial 2005 budget came in over targets, we could drill down into accounts or departments to quickly find the source of the variances and follow up with the departments for resolution. Our company's budgeting process was reduced by one month and two full-time equivalents (FTEs), and, although Budget Maestro was not the sole factor in this reduction, we credit the product's ability to produce reports in a timely manner so that senior management had the information to make better decisions.

STRENGTHS: What drew us to Budget Maestro was the completeness of the package for the price and the ability to scale from the small business edition to the enterprise version. We received a solid tool that allowed us to forecast five years of data and a system that could also handle the budget entry, consolidation and reporting that we couldn't do with our GL package. Because Budget Maestro can be used right out of the box, it was easy to get nonfinancial managers using the product. Another strength is the product's payroll and fixed asset module. We are able to identify several salary-related expense groups based on health coverage, pension, etc. and to upload more than 700 records in seconds. All of our active assets are similarly uploaded with Budget Maestro, providing a great audit trail to departments on how depreciation is built.

WEAKNESSES: The downside to the product is the inability to save reports as run. Although these reports can be exported to spreadsheets (reformatting is required for ease of reading) or a PDF file, a report needs to be rerun in order to review a summary by account or department. The ability to do additional customization of the dynamic drill-down reports as well as turning on or off certain filters by scenario combined into one report would be beneficial.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Budget Maestro was chosen due to a strong combination of pricing and functionality. Budget Maestro stood out as the best bang for the buck. This has proven true in the three budget cycles since implementation.

DELIVERABLES: Outputs include summary reports in both department and account formats, income statements, FTEs identified by name for departmental verification and counting, fixed assets by department for audit trail of depreciation build and monthly budget to actual reporting combining several different scenarios as requested by departments.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The support staff has been second to none. When we were first installing the software and establishing our chart of accounts, plan structure and income statement formats, several calls were made to the support team. They were very accessible, patient and amiable to ensure that our problems were resolved.

DOCUMENTATION:  The documentation is easy to understand but could be expanded.

Budget Maestro Version 5.8
Centage Corporation
11333 Chimney Rock Road
Houston, TX 77035
(713) 344-2440


For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Corporate Performance Management (CPM).

Ken Knoll, financial analyst for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana.

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