REVIEWER: Mark Cannon, manager, financial planning and analysis for Martin's Point Health Care.

BACKGROUND: With five locations in Maine and New Hampshire, 350 employees and 50,000 patients, Martin's Point Health Care is the largest not-for-profit physician practice in Maine and is one of seven designated Uniformed Services Family Health Plan providers nationwide.

PLATFORMS: Microsoft NT network.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Until mid-2001, we used a variety of "homegrown" budgeting systems, including Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, which crunched the numbers perfectly but did not provide necessary data management, required a great deal of manual effort, were not flexible and made the planning process tedious and time- consuming.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We initially phased in SRC's Budget Advisor and Payroll Planner modules to accommodate pure budgeting. Now we are rolling out our unique reporting structure. We set up a suite of five core reports with different formats. Managers can call up whichever report formats they need, bring in the data they want to see and drill down into line items from there. We're not in the report distribution business anymore; this system puts more of SRC's reporting flexibility in the hands of our users. We're using the Advisor Series for some unique applications, including employing multiline standard budgeting methodologies for payroll, which allows the user to see critical information for each individual employee on one screen rather than as a long line of columns. We use detail budgeting, which allows users to document individual items of detail from an aggregate amount such as breaking down budgeted consulting costs into line items. We also collect a comprehensive set of statistics to derive revenues.

STRENGTHS: SRC has experience in health care and can tell us how similar companies approach specific budgeting and financial planning activities. In addition, the SRC solution is dynamic, allowing the finance team to make changes on the fly. It includes strong data management capabilities, is easy to use and maintain, and offers strong reporting. Prior to implementing SRC, an accountant in the controller's office spent a day and a half each month just printing out reports. Now all reports are ready for use as soon as the month closes. Our controller no longer receives a monthly barrage from managers asking for reports and explanations because they're running their own reports and answering many of their own questions.

WEAKNESSES: Once the budgets are finalized and the system is "rolled over" to the next year, the budget workbooks cannot be easily accessed. Most of the budget data is still in the database and can be easily accessed with reports, but our users are more familiar with the budget workbooks and may not be able to retrieve specific items of documentation (e.g., worksheet comments) built into their budget workbooks.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We conducted interviews with our key managers and executives, asking them open-ended questions covering all aspects of finance and how we handle various issues. Responses included better linkage to our strategic planning system, a clear budget process with manager ownership and a clear, well-understood schedule with enough lead time to do the job right. From these interviews and our prior experience, we distilled specific requirements including flexibility, improved data management, ability to accommodate our specific budgeting approaches including how we calculate revenue, and healthcare industry experience so the vendor could offer ideas regarding best practices.

DELIVERABLES: Budget Advisor and Payroll Planner provide user-defined, Excel-based budget models for use by our internal users, and reporting capabilities that allow fast consolidation of budgets and the ability to quickly slice information in different ways. Information Advisor provides the ability to quickly customize reports for dissemination of monthly and quarterly financial information.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Support has been outstanding. SRC's help desk staff is professional, highly knowledgeable, very responsive and highly committed. As we gained greater knowledge of the product and its capabilities, working with SRC in post-installation build out and post-implementation enhancement was especially productive.

DOCUMENTATION: SRC's documentation is built into the system. The documentation is easy to navigate, clear and adequate for ongoing operation of the system. More information is needed for initial system installation and start-up.

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