Microsoft’s subsidiary FRx Software Corp. today announced that MicrosoftÂ® Forecaster 7.0, the latest release of the companyâ€™s budgeting and planning software, will be released to manufacturing on March 28, 2007. This latest version of Microsoft Forecaster focuses on enhanced usability, adaptability and visibility, giving organizations confidence that their budgets are realistic and accurate, and enabling them to monitor business conditions and respond to new business opportunities and challenges to improve overall performance.
â€œOur customers and partners have told us they want an affordable application that will make budgeting and forecasting less cumbersome, faster to implement and easier to use and that will offer greater adaptability to changing business conditions, all of which are addressed in Microsoft Forecaster 7.0,â€ said Andy Kamlet, director of marketing and sales of Denver, Colo.-based FRx Software. â€œWe seem to have struck a chord with customers as they have reviewed this release, with survey results from our customer preview program showing that 95 percent of them are â€˜satisfiedâ€™ to â€˜very satisfiedâ€™ with what theyâ€™ve seen.â€
Usability, Adaptability, Visibility â€” Three Pillars in Microsoft Forecaster 7.0
Microsoft Forecaster 7.0 includes many capabilities that support the releaseâ€™s overarching themes of usability, adaptability and visibility. Usability is of prime importance to customers because many business decision-makers who contribute to the budgeting process â€” especially those in manufacturing, supply-chain and service organizations â€” typically budget once a year, limiting their ability to become familiar with their applications. Usability is enhanced in Microsoft Forecaster 7.0 with the introduction of a new user interface and streamlined navigation, among other features, reducing the time it takes to learn the application.
Also key to midmarket segment companies is adaptability in the face of changing business dynamics, both internal and external to the organization. Microsoft Forecaster 7.0 offers customers the ability to take advantage of up to 10 segments or dimensions for more precise budgeting, and the new Total Types functionality reduces the number of calculations or trees to be maintained by the user. These capabilities shorten implementation time and streamline regular maintenance.
Microsoft Forecaster 7.0 still allows users of Microsoft FRxÂ® to integrate their general ledger and budget data from Microsoft Forecaster into reports generated by Microsoft FRx. However, the release extends visibility by including new functionality related to what fields can be viewed, especially in the human resources area of the application, as well as a variety of new formatting options. These include numeric, font and conditional formatting, which allow those responsible for creating templates and reports to meet the needs of their users, thus increasing user satisfaction.
Customers Anticipate Business Benefits With Microsoft Forecaster 7.0
Customers such as the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing ( CTAM ) say they believe Microsoft Forecaster 7.0 will help make their organizations more effective in the long run because of time savings and other efficiencies the new release makes possible.
â€œWeâ€™d like to be able to budget and do reforecasts more often, and we think Microsoft Forecaster 7.0 will make that possible,â€ said MariAnne Woehrle, director of Information and Technology for CTAM, a nonprofit association for the cable industry based in Alexandria, Va. â€œThis version makes it easier to keep everything in one place. So if something unforeseen happens, such as an invoice being a lot higher or lower than expected, we can immediately identify the issue, recognize the impact, then re-forecast it into our quarter and reflect it in our financial statements, and have a better picture. Weâ€™re hoping it will save time on budgeting, too. In the past, we used ExcelÂ® spreadsheets and then tried to consolidate them and then find the backup. With Microsoft Forecaster, users can put in their line items â€” whether theyâ€™re trips or hotels or whatever theyâ€™re doing â€” and the program accumulates all of the data for them into the cost centers. Then the data all roll up into a sheet, so we can see automatically where we are to produce the budget.â€
A Great Opportunity for Partners and Resellers
Microsoft Forecaster 7.0 offers many benefits to those that sell and implement it, in part because of increasing demand for budgeting and planning solutions. A 2006 report by market research firm IDC, titled â€œWorldwide Business Performance Management Applications 2006â€“2010 Forecast and 2005 Vendor Sharesâ€ ( IDC, Doc #203414, Sep 2006 ), predicts that budgeting and planning applications will be a prime driver of growth in the worldwide financial and business performance management analytic applications space in 2007. Specifically, they will account for 31 percent, about $600 million ( U.S. ), of the projected $1,984 million ( U.S. ) total market revenue, according to the report. Meanwhile, in the 2007 â€œBeyond the Hypeâ€ webcast review of business performance management vendors and trends, BPM Partners noted that 55 percent of respondents it surveyed are looking for budgeting and planning solutions as the first step of a performance management initiative.
The fact that Microsoft Forecaster 7.0 includes 10 budgeting segments as a core capability is also a benefit to reselling partners because it opens up additional vertical industries beyond those that have already adopted Microsoft Forecaster, such as government agencies, utilities, and educational institutions that tend to need more than the traditional three segments, or dimensions, found in the previous release.
â€œOur clients are all utilities and local governments, most of which need more than three segments, so the expansion to 10 is a very big plus,â€ said Duncan Shaw, co-president of Cogsdale Corp., a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and a Microsoft Business Solutions ISV/ Solutions competency partner based in Prince Edward Island, Canada. Other key benefits, according to Shaw, are the integration with the core accounting system, and the intuitive user interface, a huge benefit when presenting the product in sales situations.
Pricing and Availability
Microsoft Forecaster 7.0 will release to manufacturing March 28, 2007, and will be generally available in early April. Pricing starts at $8,500 ( U.S. ) for the server plus one user, plus $500 ( U.S. ) per additional user*. Customers currently on the Microsoft Forecaster support and maintenance plan can receive the upgrade at no additional charge as part of their support and maintenance agreement.
Microsoft Forecaster 7.0 Tour
The Microsoft Forecaster 7.0 Tour will take place April 16â€“20, covering 20 cities across North America including New York, Boston, Atlanta, San Diego, Detroit and Toronto. On the tour, customers and partners will gain insight into this solution while having the opportunity to fully understand the features and benefits, learn useful tips, and network with other users. Those who want to register or obtain more details should visit http://www.frxsoftware.com/tour.