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Stahls' Inc. Hits a Home Run with its Reporting and Budgeting Practices Using FRx Software

  Product Review published in DM Review Magazine
February 2006 Issue
  By Jeff Coates
Review of: Microsoft FRx and Microsoft Forecaster from FRx Software, a part of Microsoft Business Solutions

REVIEWER: Jeff Coates, financial applications specialist for Stahls'.

BACKGROUND: Stahls' Inc., headquartered in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, designs, manufactures, markets and distributes complete graphic systems, equipment and apparel. Stahls' graphic systems are used by businesses to deliver in-house numbering, cresting and logos for athletic jerseys, t-shirts and other personalized merchandise.

PLATFORMS: Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and 2000, Microsoft SQL Server 2000 and Microsoft IIS 6. Hardware is Dell PowerEdge Servers.

PROBLEM SOLVED: We turned to FRx Software for a more effective financial reporting and budgeting process that would give our company real insight and usable projections, which ultimately helped us drive performance and achieve our business goals.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The team and I use Microsoft Forecaster every month to analyze each office and department's budget to actuals. Microsoft Forecaster is Web based, and all the data is hosted in one location, allowing our department managers to look at their specific cost centers, multiple divisions and accounts, and lines of business. Microsoft Forecaster provides easy-to-decipher monthly reports so our managers have more accurate information and a clear view of where expenses, profits and budgets are going, allowing for more ownership. I believe Microsoft Forecaster has greatly shortened our budgeting cycle and improved the quality of the overall budget. We are no longer forced to hire an outside consultant for two months to manage complex allocation formulas within Microsoft Excel. This saves the company several weeks and thousands of dollars in extra expenses. Because all the data is hosted in one location, it's easy for managers in charge of multiple divisions and accounts to track their progress from a centralized area.

STRENGTHS: We like Microsoft Forecaster because we can assign security privileges to each manager, ensuring they see general ledger (GL) accounts and line items they are responsible for. From a budget management standpoint, Microsoft Forecaster helps us manage changes by automatically calculating any updates or changes made to a division budget or cost. We also now have greater financial visibility. For instance, with Microsoft FRx, our company's senior management can see the numbers in a way that is most valuable to them, allowing them to analyze the company's profitability based on various product divisions or geographic locations. This gives management a 3-D view that wasn't available to them before and allows the team to quickly evaluate the business structure to optimize resources and save money as factors change.

WEAKNESSES:  Microsoft Forecaster's line-item detail provides the ability to more accurately plan for expenditures during the year; however, a user cannot open more than one account's line-item detail at a time. This proves to be limiting when printing the input screen. Though the application provides deep insight into our business, Microsoft FRx only pulls data from the GL system. However, because Microsoft FRx can access data from a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, we take non-GL data and place it in a spreadsheet for Microsoft FRx to read.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We attended an FRx Software road show event where we viewed a demonstration of Microsoft Forecaster. We were immediately attracted to the solution's familiar Excel-like interface, automated roll-up features, security options and HR capabilities.

DELIVERABLES: The Microsoft Forecaster software delivers a comprehensive budgeting tool that offers flexible input for each department and automatically consolidates the multiple budgets into a single budget that can be imported into our Microsoft Great Plains system. Because the end users like the interface, we also use it to review budget to actual results on a monthly basis.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The support was excellent. The best part of working with the vendor when I had a problem was that they followed up with me after the initial contact to be sure the provided solution had resolved my issue.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation was complete.  

Microsoft Forecaster and Microsoft FRx
FRx Software, a part of Microsoft Business Solutions
4700 S. Syracuse Parkway, #700
Denver, CO 80237
(303) 741-8000


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

Jeff Coates, financial applications specialist for Stahls'. 

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