REVIEWER: Phil Guido, budget manager and financial analyst for The Bonita Bay Group.

BACKGROUND: The Bonita Bay Group is a growing, privately owned and diversified real estate developer that plans, sells and manages master-planned communities and freestanding recreational facilities in southwest Florida. Having a unique multiyear budgeting process involving staggered project start dates with a variety of durations and a complex corporate structure, budgeting and forecasting with spreadsheets became overwhelming.

PLATFORMS: While Comshare MPC integrates with a variety of databases, we implemented it on the Microsoft business intelligence platform to leverage our existing investments.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Our prior budgeting systems were error-prone, difficult to update and lacked a consistent methodology for the budget holders of 150 diverse departments. Difficulties in analyzing and consolidating information to the top levels of the company caused wasted time and effort. Reporting was not flexible, making analysis difficult at all levels of the company. Much of the reporting was externally generated, and that meant double work. It often took 45 days after a quarter's end to issue our multi-period internal rate of return (IRR) report, one of our key success indicators. Comshare MPC gives us a centralized data repository and a consistent methodology so business managers can create their budgets in a timely, consistent and stable environment. Analysis can efficiently translate into action based on actual, historical, budget and forecast information ­ available at will. To update our IRR report, we input changes to existing data, click a few buttons and we're done.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Comshare MPC for corporate performance management comprises planning and budgeting. With these, the ability to link our corporate plans to present performance and long-range strategies is easier. It helps us see where we are and project how to profitably get where we want to be. We're using the application to spot trends, calculate ratios and other measures and select "what if" and business model scenarios so that the best possible decisions can be made.

STRENGTHS: The analytic power built into Comshare MPC really wowed us and was something that no other software offered. For example, we were finished with the budgeting process for one of our properties when the vice president asked us, "What if we looked at the property this way?" It was as easy as making a snapshot of the current plan (to preserve it). We eliminated certain things and changed others, and we had a new perspective to analyze. The application is also efficient. One administrator manages the budgeting process for 100 users. That's a compliment to Comshare's design.

WEAKNESSES: Comshare MPC is a powerful software application that requires sophistication on the part of its administrator with general accounting principles, the company's structure (entities, accounts, statements, etc.) and experience with the computer systems ­ particularly databases, Web pages, Excel and text files.

SELECTION CRITERIA: In addition to choosing an application that would stabilize our budgeting environment, we wanted something that would let us spend 80 percent or more of our time analyzing data and 20 percent or less of our time consolidating and manipulating it. We needed an application that could grow with us, and we wanted more than just budgeting capabilities. Comshare delivered.

DELIVERABLES: The Bonita Bay Group's philosophy is to empower managers to do what they need to do, using their budget as a road map. Comshare provides a consistent, efficient structure to build that map ­ and more. I don't know how we would accomplish all that we do without Comshare MPC.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Comshare is a customer- centric company. The help-line staff members are excellent resources that keep us productive. Our Comshare consultants are exceptional. They are aware of our business needs and our specific systems, and they can maximize what can be achieved through this multifaceted application. The Comshare annual international business conference (IBC) encourages networking with other users and business professionals. Forums, training and other presentations educate users at all levels on product uses and future direction ­ directly from Comshare product managers.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is always a valuable resource from the initial implementation through upgrades. Comshare provides customers with an online service that helps them understand what other customers have done with the application that may be useful in their own applications.

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