PLATFORMS: Comshare BudgetPLUS is a client/server and Web- enabled enterprise budget application. The client portions, including both an Excel interface and a custom management- reporting interface, run on Windows 95 and Windows NT. The server portion runs on Windows NT.

BACKGROUND: A division of Suncor Energy, Sunoco is a wholly owned Canadian company that manufactures, distributes and markets transportation fuels, petrochemicals and heating fuels. The company sells about 1.5 billion liters of gasoline each year.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Sunoco Retail's existing budgeting system no longer met the requirements of the company. Overall, the existing budget application was too slow and did not allow multiple budget passes. As a result, deadlines were often missed. Sunoco Retail needed a budgeting system with a central repository that allowed users to do their own budgets and that facilitated information gathering and flow.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Comshare BudgetPLUS provides Sunoco Retail with a centralized system that empowers users by giving them control over their own budgets. In the past, consolidation and analysis took days. Additional budget iterations would not allow old budget passes to be saved, causing previous work to be lost. BudgetPLUS has enabled budget managers to merge their budgets quickly, eliminating past headaches of manual delays, overtime hours and inflexibility whenever the data changed. Unlike the old system, BudgetPLUS supports multiple versions of the budget. With BudgetPLUS' spreadsheet integration, users become productive very quickly, creating and perusing reports on their own. Now users are able to analyze data month by month, account by account and product by product. Overall, the new application has saved Sunoco Retail tremendous amounts of time!

STRENGTHS: Last year's budget cycle was the easiest the company has ever been through. Comshare BudgetPLUS' quick consolidation and analysis capabilities have streamlined the budget iteration process from several days to a matter of minutes. BudgetPLUS' centralized repository lets each user take charge of his own budget, reducing the need for IS involvement. BudgetPLUS' spreadsheet integration gives budgeters a familiar environment to work within and more extensive options for data analysis. Overall, BudgetPLUS has removed the stress from budgeting.

WEAKNESSES: Although BudgetPLUS was up and running in under two months, Sunoco experienced slight difficulty with the 16-bit Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet interface.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Other leading software packages were reviewed, but BudgetPLUS was selected for its integrated analysis capabilities and the ability to consolidate budget data quickly from the central repository. Another benefit of the application was its compatibility with Sunoco Retail's IS architecture.

DELIVERABLES: BudgetPLUS' extensive analysis capabilities provide a link between the budgeting function and complete business planning. The program can help Sunoco set better, more specific targets that can be linked to the entire goal-setting process. The manpower and resources saved over the previous manual system are exemplified by a significant time reduction in the overall budgeting process, which enabled the company to put a greater emphasis on analysis.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Comshare's consulting team worked with Sunoco's finance staff to implement the program from the planning stages to user readiness in just under two months. Comshare continues to provide Sunoco with excellent on-site consulting and support services.

DOCUMENTATION: We used very little documentation, but what we did use was clear and served our needs.

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