REVIEWER: Guy Sheetz, director of financial services and corporate controller for Airlines Reporting Corp.
BACKGROUND: Airlines Reporting Corp. (ARC) is the information hub of passenger air transportation and offers a variety of travel products and solutions to help air carriers, travel agents and corporate travel departments simplify their business processes, saving them valuable time and money.
PLATFORM: Microsoft Windows 2000 operating system.
PROBLEM SOLVED: We turned to FRx Software's Microsoft Business Solutions for Analytics-Forecaster, a Web-based budgeting and planning application, to restructure and refocus our budgeting efforts and methodologies to more effectively meet and exceed our business goals. Before Forecaster, the organization used more than 50 spreadsheets to capture and link financial data among various business units and department managers. Ensuring the integrity of the data in this environment was a constant worry. Because the financial data and plans were stored internally, remote users were unable to access critical budget data when they needed it and instead relied heavily on e-mail for report distribution. The entire budget planning process was slow, error-prone and labor-intensive. The accounting team calculated that operational spending accounted for 20 percent to 30 percent of our total business spending. ARC wanted to gain more control over our budget process by gathering accurate, real-time data and quickly distributing meaningful information to managers to help them make better decisions. We also wanted a flexible financial solution to grow with our business and integrate easily with the Microsoft Business Solutions software we already used, including Microsoft Business Solutions for Analytics-FRx, FRx Software's premier financial reporting application.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We decreased the time spent consolidating data and checking the accuracy of spreadsheet formulas, links and data, while giving the right people access to detailed, intelligent, real-time data when they need it. Financial managers can compare actual results versus historical results and forecasts to aid in their pricing management decisions, which results in a stronger, more flexible business approach. Forecaster has shortened budget and reporting cycles from hours to minutes, while reducing the time it takes to extract and populate historical data. In addition, Forecaster provides us with a Web-based interface that is security-enhanced and flexible and can be integrated with existing accounting systems. This allows managers to collect data in real time, run reports, compare current numbers with historical data and look at different financial scenarios.
STRENGTHS: Managers can now focus on pricing issues to analyze the gaps in pricing policies and react quickly. Forecaster's analytical capabilities help managers drill into the numbers and capture in-depth revenue data that would otherwise be overlooked. With Forecaster, we have reduced labor costs associated with creating reports and budgets, improved employee accountability, and streamlined report and information distribution among all team members.
WEAKNESSES: We look forward to continued improvement in the flexibility of the product to better interact with other Microsoft applications such as Excel and the ability in Forecaster to easily move data, perform basic calculations and develop if/then scenarios so one can revise projections at a moment's notice. This functionality also will improve workers' ability to print reports and graphically display information for senior management presentations.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Our selection process was based on a list of criteria that I felt were most critical to our organization.
DELIVERABLES: Forecaster has been instrumental in helping ARC realize greater budget control and accountability. It allows the financial team to quickly respond to executive requests regarding current reports or upcoming project budgets. With Forecaster, we can launch new programs and solutions with greater confidence and speed. Forecaster significantly improves productivity and gives us more time to focus on meeting short- and long-term goals. With Forecaster, ARC leaders are more proactive and can make thoughtful business decisions every day, keeping business performance on target.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Our company has experienced immediate return on investment because we were able to quickly implement Forecaster, train our staff to use it and increase efficiencies across our organization.
DOCUMENTATION: Historically, I have not been a huge fan of the documentation, but it has definitely improved.
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