REVIEWER: Dina Bank, director of financial systems for Media Planning Group.

BACKGROUND: Media Planning Group, LLC (MPG) is a full-service media and marketing communications planning and buying agency. We believe media investments are a vital element in any business plan and that these investments are made with a logical expectation of a positive return. MPG handles the media buying activities for advertising agencies in the Havas network of worldwide agencies as well as for unaffiliated clients.

PLATFORMS: Dell 2550 Server with a single Pentium 3 processor, 2GB RAM and Windows 2000 OS. Clients are connected to the LAN and run either Windows 2000 or XP with Excel 2000.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Professional services firms are faced with a different profitability challenge than product manufacturing businesses. We needed a more sophisticated view of finances rather than "money in is greater than money out." Our primary goal was to use a business performance management solution for all of MPG's budgeting, forecasting and planning needs and to present an easy-to-use platform for business scenario planning, what-if analysis and ad hoc reporting. We wanted to be able to look at profitability in a number of different ways, including by client, manager, function and brand. By analyzing our profitability, we can better plan for and adapt to changes in our marketplace.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Applix's TM1 provides us with the tools we need for budgeting and planning. However, analyzing data is where the product shines for us. We want to look at profitability from a number of different views. The core TM1 engine is a multidimensional OLAP (online analytical processing) tool - inherent in the product is the ability to manipulate how you view data. This is vital to look at client engagements with a 360-degree view. Unlike other products in the market, TM1 can do recalculations in real time or on the fly. The product does precalculations in memory and does not rely on batch processing. This lets us answer questions from management nearly immediately.

STRENGTHS: Perhaps the greatest strength of TM1 - in our use of the technology - is its flexibility. Because it can import and export from any number of data sources, we're assured nearly any existing and new system used at MPG can interoperate with TM1. Once we have the data in TM1, it provides a way to rapidly run new scenarios and calculations. Because of TM1's ease of use, application enhancements (calculations, loads, etc.) can be made with minimal consultant support. Lastly, TM1 uses Microsoft Excel as its presentation layer. This enables us to both present and run reports in an environment familiar to all our executives and managers - making it much easier to deliver the information from this analysis.

WEAKNESSES: Applix has been releasing new and minor versions of TM1 on a regular basis. Bundling of these releases would enable us to get up to speed faster. We generally wait for a few releases to come out before upgrading. (At this writing, we are in the process of testing the latest version, 8.4.3, for implementation.)

SELECTION CRITERIA: We had several criteria for selecting the best business performance management solution which included ad hoc analysis for responding to management questions, easy but sophisticated reporting on numerous levels, applications that did not require support from IT, and the ability to look at information by a number of different factors - account, account staffing, office and region.

DELIVERABLES: By using TM1 for business performance management activities, we are able to understand the profitability of our businesses and clients. With this analysis, we can arrive at an hourly cost for each client engagement or project. This is vital to both the day-to-day operations of the firm and the long-term understanding of allocation of resources, labor management and overall profitability.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We worked with Applix solutions partner Revelwood to develop the applications and deploy the solution. Revelwood trained us on TM1, and within a few months, we had built and deployed a TM1-based reporting and budgeting application. Revelwood continues to provide guidance on an ongoing basis.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is generally very good.

TM1 Version 8.1.8
Applix, Inc.
289 Turnpike Road
Westborough, MA 01581
(508) 870-0300
www.applix.com

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