REVIEWER: Allan Flinn, manager of strategic planning and analysis for Onvoy.BACKGROUND: Onvoy is Minnesota's integrated broadband provider, a unique class of company focused on serving enterprise customers who recognize the value of superior broadband connectivity and transport solutions.

PLATFORMS: Microsoft Business Intelligence platform.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Our budgeting was done in spreadsheets, which became more cumbersome and time-consuming as the company grew. We needed an automated system that would streamline our three- to four-month budgeting process and also facilitate more dynamic forecasting, strategic planning and analysis of capital projects. Geac MPC provided those capabilities.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: By using Geac MPC's budgeting functionality, we've reduced the length of the budget cycle from three or four months to 1.5 months, saving 500 hours and $38,000 per year. We've improved our budgeting and forecasting accuracy, resulting in a variance-to-forecast difference of less than two percent. When we make a change now, it's immediately reflected throughout the system, and we don't have to spend time relinking, readjusting and redoing reports. We do driver-based budgeting of revenues by both product line and market segment. Because we have the details and the drivers, we can be more diligent about challenging project requests and have reduced our projected capital spend by approximately $2 million. We also had the ability this year to handle detailed capital budgeting for more than 90 capital projects, something we never could have done in the past.

STRENGTHS: We found specific strengths in Geac MPC. Data validity is ensured, as opposed to manually linking Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. The technical support is available and helpful. Geac MPC has flexibility to customize the out-of-the-box functionalities, the ability to integrate with industry standard systems (e.g., SQL Server, Great Plains, Microsoft Excel, etc.) and the ability to utilize MS Excel as a portal to the data.

WEAKNESSES: The Web-based standardized report formatting is somewhat lacking. It is not always clear how to correctly set up the database structure and formula scripting. Also, the simultaneous licensed structure still allows for the same user to use multiple licenses at the same time, which precludes others from using the system.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We evaluated Hyperion, PROPHIX and Cognos. We chose Geac MPC because it had the best functionality in terms of version control; control of the budgeting process, including contributor sign-off; Microsoft Excel integration; out-of-the-box head count planning; and the ability to integrate with both our current source system and any future data warehouse.

DELIVERABLES: We use the following reports from the product for annual budgeting, periodic reforecasts, five-year strategic planning and scenario planning: balance sheet, cash flow statement, income statement, capital expenditures, SG&A by department, head count planning and debt covenant planning.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Pre-implementation support was commensurate with the level of understanding of the product and the level of funding we were able to allocate to this product. Our decision, with the support of Geac, was to tackle most of the implementation ourselves, with help from Geac's consultants in the scoping, design and prototype phases. Geac was very helpful; however, in hindsight, more consulting time needed to be allocated to this phase to avoid some of the self-imposed problems we ran into in the implementation and post-implementation phases. In the implementation and post-implementation phases, we relied on the technical support function to help us identify and resolve very specific problems. They were very helpful but somewhat limited in the types problems that they could resolve for us without us engaging a consultant to evaluate the larger structural setup issues with our implementation.

DOCUMENTATION: We relied little on the documentation provided. Rather, we engaged a trainer to help us understand the workings and structure of the product. The materials were well-documented for a general issue or problem, but not very applicable to specific problems or procedures to set up and maintain the product.

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