Last entry, I discussed how budgeting is, in essence, a modeling process. Today, I want to talk about some of Microsoft’s modeling products for business.
Before I start, I need to give the caveat that Microsoft has a large number of products, many of which could have a role in the business budgeting process. My intent is to focus on those that provide modeling capabilities. (Please feel free to comment if I miss something.)
Microsoft Excel is easily the dominant player in corporate budgeting. Recent surveys by CFO Research Services have shown that between 70 and 80 percent of companies use spreadsheets for budgeting, of which Excel is, by far, the dominant player.
Excel has a number of advantages:
1) It is completely generic and flexible, providing a blank slate by which an analysis can model his/her business exactly as he/she feels appropriate.
2) It also has built-in charting and reporting functionality.
3) The knowledge base of the product is immense.
Some work essentials for budgeting in Excel may be found at http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/FX011961621033.aspx.
The upcoming Microsoft PerformancePoint Server 2007 is a server-based product for scorecarding and analysis as well as budgeting and planning. As with Excel, it provides the customer with extremely powerful modeling capabilities. In addition, it adds the power of centralized SQL Server and Analysis Server technologies to support corporate-level modeling (e.g. summarization across levels of the organization). For more information on PerformancePoint, see http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/FX101550371033.aspx.
Microsoft Forecaster, the product on which I work, is a server-based product for budgeting and planning. It is aimed at the mid to small size companies that generally do not have full-time staff dedicated to business planning. Out-of-the-box, it comes with models for human resources, capital, and revenue. It also provides centralized SQL Server storage and processing capabilities. For more information on Microsoft Forecaster, see http://www.microsoft.com/forecaster/default.mspx.
Microsoft Dynamic AX is an enterprise-level Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software package. As part of its suite of budgeting functionality, it provides budgeting and modeling capabilities. One of the significant advantages of budgeting with Dynamics is that budget data and functionality are hosted within one integrated package, laying a robust foundation for budget versus actual performance monitoring. For more information on Microsoft Dynamics AX, see http://www.microsoft.com/dynamics/ax/default.mspx.
Microsoft Dynamics GP is an ERP software package. It supports budgeting via its tight integration with Excel. For more information on Microsoft Dynamics GP, see http://www.microsoft.com/dynamics/gp/default.mspx.