CATEGORY: Analytic Applications and Performance Management

REVIEWER: Bruce Borquist, treasurer of International Ministries, American Baptist Churches USA.

BACKGROUND: International Ministries, American Baptist Churches USA, is the global mission agency affiliated with the churches and program boards of American Baptist Churches USA. It coordinates and administers support for approximately 150 missionaries in more than 25 countries. The organization maintains partnership ties with Baptist groups in the United States and in more than 50 countries. Its strategic plan, called "Go Global," focuses the agency on evangelism, Christ-like ministries and leadership development.

PLATFORMS: Microsoft NT 4.0 Server; Microsoft Windows 2000 and Microsoft Windows 95 (workstations).

PROBLEM SOLVED: Before implementing FRx Forecaster, we faced the difficult task of preparing the annual operating budget. Because we are a nonprofit organization, managing the annual budget- creation process and accounting for every dollar spent has always been our primary responsibility. Budgeting was and continues to be the most difficult and time-consuming aspect of my job. My team traditionally relied upon using Excel spreadsheets to manage the budget but found the process to be frustrating. After as many as six budget iterations in a typical year, neither my senior managers nor I could be confident in the accuracy of the results. When we decided to implement a new GL package, it became clear that a new budgeting system was immediately needed as a key part of the overall solution. FRx Forecaster has proven to be precisely the solution we were looking for.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Immediately after starting to use FRx Forecaster, I was impressed with the functionality inherent to the application. More specifically, I enjoy the user's ability to do global recalculations of formulas for missionaries and projects, and the integration of FRx Forecaster with FRx Financial Reporter and the GL package. Moving forward, the HR module found in FRx Forecaster version 6.5 will help us to more accurately track our missionaries' personnel costs and allow us to analyze precisely how our dollars are being spent throughout the world.

STRENGTHS: I believe that the core concept of FRx Forecaster is its greatest strength. FRx Forecaster does what you want it to do, and saves you time and headaches in the process. The application is also valuable to our team leaders and senior managers. They truly see the value in the solution as something they can access easily, perform quick updates and find online reference points. We all find that using FRx Forecaster provides a sense of empowerment in a process that has traditionally been difficult to control. The amount of time saved has been an added bonus and key strength considering that prior to implementing FRx Forecaster, I worked exclusively on budgeting for two and a half months. Now, I spend half the time working on budgeting and enjoy a more accurate finished product.

WEAKNESSES: Graphical presentation of data in views (reports) is not 100-percent customizable.

SELECTION CRITERIA: As we started looking into budgeting application options, we could not find anything that could handle the complexity of our needs, was affordable and could fit with us as a nonprofit organization. During this time, I attended the Microsoft Great Plains Convergence Conference as a user of FRx Financial Reporter, a financial reporting application from FRx Software that brings control to the financial reporting process. I discovered FRx Forecaster at the conference. After learning more about the pricing of the application as well as its extensive functionality, I wanted to be first in line to sign up as a new user. Additionally, when I found that FRx Forecaster could integrate easily with our financial reporting application and our GL system, the decision to implement FRx Forecaster became even more appealing.

DELIVERABLES: Outputs provided include ease in report format manipulation and turnaround time. The overall appearance of our reports is also more appealing. Further, we can now export information to Excel with ease.

VENDOR SUPPORT: When we need extra assistance or have questions, we always receive helpful support.

DOCUMENTATION: The materials are concise and easy to follow, which also makes training other users a very direct process. Once set up, I managed to roll out FRx Forecaster to 15 active users after only a 30-45 minute orientation with each user.

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