REVIEWER: Wallace D'Souza, deputy director  for MDRC.

BACKGROUND: Headquartered in New York City, with a regional office in Oakland, California, MDRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization with more than 30 years of experience. MDRC is dedicated to learning what works to improve the well-being of low-income people. Through our research and the active communication of our findings, we seek to enhance the effectiveness of social policies and programs.

HARDWARE PLATFORMS: Oracle platform and Deltek's Costpoint GL suite.

PROBLEM SOLVED: We wanted to support a complex budgeting process for the projects we conduct. Our projects are funded by a mix of federal and state agencies and foundations. Each of the agreements - both grants and contracts - have specific terms and conditions, some unique to each agreement, including reporting by fiscal years that have different beginning and ending months. Reporting timelines also vary and add to the complexity of managing the information. We typically manage approximately 70 projects at any point in time, and each project can have as many as 15 to 20 funding sources. Moreover, our 200 employees don't work on just one project. They can work on several and cross different organizational areas (eight) in the company, which further complicates the accounting and reporting. Budgets are created by project, by person and by task. Some projects have 80 or more tasks and subtasks. Furthermore, even though there is a corporate planning exercise for all projects twice a year, there are independent budget and forecast cycles for each project that do not follow a set timetable or necessarily have any bearing on another project. Updates can occur at any time, depending on the needs of the project.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: CONTROL is used to support our complex budgeting, project planning and resource planning/management processes.

STRENGTHS: One of the prime benefits of CONTROL is ease of use. It looks and feels exactly like Excel, which our employees were accustomed to using. Second, it is flexible and scalable. Third, custom reports are easy to design and maintain. Moreover, the capabilities are robust, enabling us to do extremely detailed budgeting as well as generate staff deployment and billings reports.

WEAKNESSES: CONTROL has deep, flexible and customizable functionality so upgrades and software patches sometimes create subsequent issues that need to be resolved. KCI always responds to and resolves those issues quickly.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Prior to CONTROL, our system failed to scale with our growth, required too much work to consolidate at the corporate level and proved too slow for end users. After that experience, an identification and selection process with a strong due-diligence focus was implemented to evaluate alternatives based on scalability, performance, ease of customization, ease of use, reporting capabilities, deployment ease and price. CONTROL met all of those criteria.

DELIVERABLES: For every project manager and our senior management team, we created reports for each project that show budget-to-actual comparisons on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis as well as on a cumulative project basis. The reports, which we update monthly from our accounting system, are detailed down to the individual task level. All of our reports are deployed via the Web and accessible wherever our end users are working. CONTROL also produces resource management reports and analysis that supports corporate budgeting. The deployment reports enhance our bidding and planning processes by showing which of our domain experts are available on specific dates for specific projects. The resource management reports help us identify what types of expertise we need to hire (and budget for) well before the need for that talent grows acute.

VENDOR SUPPORT: KCI responds quickly and personally. We've never felt like a number (as we sometimes have with other, larger software vendors). The support professionals assigned to MDRC have developed a deep understanding of our unique needs, although we've also discovered that almost any KCI employee can resolve any issue or need we present.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation provides the basic building blocks. However, it's helpful to attend the training sessions and work with the product to understand what it can accomplish.

KCI Computing, Inc.
3625 Del Amo Boulevard
Suite 100
Torrance, CA 90503
(310) 921-6222

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