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Users Forum 2013 Forecaster Q&A

User Forums 2013

The following questions were submitted during the MSX Group’s Forecaster Users Forum 2013 and have been answered here, if not during the forum. Please email us at info@msxgroup.com if you have additional questions or need any clarification. The consultants, software support staff and instructors at the MSX Group are available to assist you with your installation of Management Reporter, Forecaster and/or FRx. Email Info@MSXGroup.com for information.


Forecaster Q&A

Q: What are the pros or cons of using the reporting in Forecaster rather than from Management Reporter?

A: Both are great. In some situations, budget contributors don’t have access to Management Reporter, so Forecaster reporting capabilities are essential. Likewise, some MR users may not have access to Forecaster. For these reasons, most customers utilize both. Also, sub-ledger details (line-items, capital details, HR, etc.) are not available for reporting in Management Reporter and must be reported on in Forecaster.


Q: Can a user make changes to the reports within Forecaster so that they can compare a Dept A to Dept B or change the report so that they now can compare Dept A & Dept C? Or is this limited to an Admin role?

A: You can setup a security group that allows reports to be changed.


Q: Is there a way to update the employee information In HR for existing employees without making the changes line by line.  For example: for annual raises.

A: Yes, usually when importing in all employees we can import the raises.


Q: Do you have a quick reference guide for FC tips such as spread methods/short cuts to incr/decr budgets, etc?  Also, is there a way to look up users currently using the system or when they last accessed FC?  Also, how many concurrent users are allowed in FC?

A: Quick Reference: the Forecaster online help, web searches, MSX Group message board are some options.  Users: You can go under View | Current Users List to see who is in the System; there is also a nice Audit Trail for who made changes to which accounts and when.  How Many Concurrent Users: As many named users can be in as you are licensed for.


Q: If we have summary accounts defined in Multi Row, how do we export the detailed budget line amounts to excel/GP for uploading?

A: Quick note that in Forecaster you have Posting accounts or Summary accounts.  For the Data Input you enter to posting Accounts like you enter GL data to.  You then have the ability to export posting accounts (and depts and locations, etc) that can be uploaded to to the GL for reporting using Management Reporter.  There is also excellent reporting inside Forecaster during your budget process!  🙂


Q: Can we use wild card * to designate range of accounts in FC?

A: Ranges are used instead (For example, Total Expenses is range of accounts 5000..9999)


Q: What is the *Amount missing from detail line?

A: Amount missing from detail keeps a running total of changes made to Line Item details vs the current account balance as they are being updated. As soon as the user collapses the Line Item detail or Saves the data entry, Forecaster will update the account balance and the amount missing from detail will reset to zero.


Q: What’s Forecaster Expresslink?  Is that how actual data is transferred from GP to FC?  Are new accounts in GP automatically updated in FC during this process?

A: The ExpressLink was a method that used FRx to load segments and balances into Forecaster.  Segments and Balances going forward will be copied/pasted and imported into Forecaster.


Q: If we have summary accounts defined in Multi Row, how do we export the detailed budget line amounts to excel/GP for uploading?

A: Forecaster is capable of exporting any account balances or sub-ledger details for analysis in Excel or upload to other systems. ”


Q: Can you add prior year actuals to the face of forecast on a monthly basis to help the budgeter develop the new forecast.  Does forecaster have anything for cash flow?

A: Yes, the columns of the data input screen can display and calculate data among different years and actuals or budgets (different Periods within Forecaster).  As for cash flow, formulas can be developed based on which accounts you calculate vs input which I have seen do vary widely across companies how they input or calc BS/CF accts.


Q: Can Forecaster be used to budget projects for revenue?

A: Yes, you may set up any segments you wish in Forecaster that do or do not exist as primary GL segments.


Q: Can you import the final budget directly into Management Reporter?

A: By utilizing the Forecaster Data Transfer Tool that comes with MR, you can copy your budget data directly to your GL as often as needed to allow reporting of budget data in MR.


Q: We use Dynamics GP and want to budget in summary.  An example is we just want to budget for office supplies expense but in our chart of account we have several accounts that makes up office expenses.  If we were to import data from Forecaster back in GP would we need to create a account for the total office expense budget?

A: How we handle this scenario is to choose ONE account within Office Supplies to budget to.  Then when comparing act vs bud we can do so at the total office expense level. ”


Q: How does the integration to ms erps eg. Dynamics AX 2009 & 2012 work? How can i get the actuals from there and then import the budgets back in?

A: There are budget import wizards Microsoft has for loading budget data into AX/GP/SL/NAV.  You may also use Forecaster Reporting while doing the budget which is live, real time data.


Q: Can you link the purchase of the assets to the hire?

A: You can do so through calculations based on the headcount stat acct (not Capital tab)


Q: Is it possible to modify the columns on the HR? so add a totally different column, let´s say salary account|headcount account|hours account|custom hr account|   ?

A: You do have the ability to modify column headings, column order and even add new columns used for detail HR budgeting.  Done mainly under Setup | Budgets | Screen Layouts.


Q: So did I understand correctly, that there is no out-of-the-box integration to dynamics ax to get actuals, accounts and dimensions? such as management reporter has?

A: FRx/Mgt Reporter are common tools to use.  This gives you more control too for other data you may want loaded into Forecaster.  During the budget process, loading actuals only takes a few minutes and is only needed once a year/qtr/month based on budget frequency.


Q: Can you build account rollup based on department and account segments? Can you build columns for % of sales calculation? Can you export input screens to excel?

A: Rollups: Rollups are defined for each segment independently and can be referenced collectively in data input calculations and reports.  % Column:  Yes we can have % sales column or row calcs.  Copy?Paste: Yes you can copy/paste data input and reports to Excel and there is also a free Forecaster Excel add-in capability.


Q: When copy and paste from forecaster to excel, does it copy/paste the formulas/calculations?

A: No, the copy/paste will only paste the balances. Any calculation formulas are converted just to balances. This is true going from Excel to Forecaster as well as going from Forecaster to Excel.


Q: We are waiting for that tool got GP2013 – we already have 3 clients not moving forward with Forecaster as they are waiting for the tool

A: Unfortunately, the currently available Forecaster Data Transfer Tool is only compatible with GP 2010, AX 2009 (FP1),  and SL 2011. Microsoft is considering updating the tool for newer versions of Dynamic ERPs.


Q: There is an answer to an earlier question regarding using the data transfer tool to import Forecaster budgets into Dynamics ERP.  Is this tool available for ‘new’ versions?  We are only able to find the tool for GP2010 not GP2013.  In addition, does the tool only have a one way integration of Forecaster to GP or also GP to Forecaster?

A: Yes, the Forecaster Data Transfer Tool is available for GP2010 but not yet GP2013.  We can tell Microsoft today and via their Microsoft Connect site we want this feature back!!! Along with Mgt Reporter linking to Forecaster like FRx did.


Q: capital – what was that .001 period you were using in the ID?

A: 001 is just a unique identifier for the proposed acquisition. It can be any combination of letters and numbers and is defined at the discretion of the user.


Q: If one accountant is responsible for budgeting a particular area, say depreciation, it makes more sense to have a input screen designed for depreciation expense that includes all departments.  We have some other areas like this.  In this case, is there a way to restrict the department multi-row input form so those accounts are displayed but they can’t change any of those areas?

A: Sometimes for a single area of responsibility, like depreciation, we just import that budget data into Forecaster based on historical asset purchases.  For other scenarios, we can create different line sets and/or input sets tailored to the user’s area of responsibility.


Q: We have 4-5 accounts for regular pay that help us identify them better – for example: medical support, administrative, maintenance, and non-physician provders.  Do I need a regular pay type for each?

A: You will only need separate Salary Grades.  You can create just one pay type (let’s call if DEFAULT) where we choose one of the 4-5 salary accounts on the Pay Type tab.  Then on the Salary Grade tab we can change the default pay type/salary account for each Salary Grade (ed Support, Admin, etc).


Q: Is there a list of formula (a)easy tricks like using the * to spread an amount across the budget year, and (b)grammar like putting an apostrophe in front of the center or account number in formulas?

A: You can find a list of the input shortcuts in the Forecaster online help under “Entering dat to the multi-row tab”, specifically under Copy/Grow.


Q: re-explain the differences/purposes/uses for multi row versus single row?

A: The Multi-Row screen displays multiple accounts as rows for data input. Single-Row allows you to concentrate on a single account with the added capability of comparing balances vs pre-defined baseline data such as last year’s actuals.


Q: Do you need a separate pay type for bonus?

A: No, bonus does not need a separate pay type.


Q: Since we already have a 2013 budget and would use forecaster for 2014 budget, would you recommend importing the 2013 budget into forecaster?

A: Yes, importing last year’s budget data (and Actuals that Noah demonstrated) would be an excellent reference for your budget users as they budget for next year.  In the data input screen, additional columns displaying prior Actuals and Budget data could easily be displayed.  There is also the Reports screen commonly used as well for comparative data (last year budget, last year actual, this year budget, etc.)


Q: What’s the current version?  It’s been a while since I installed.

A: Forecaster just released service pack 5 although we have seen problem with that release and Windows XP. Most users are still on Service Pack 3 with Critical Update 5. Microsoft did release Service Pack 4 years ago but withdrew it due to programming problems.


Q: We pay bonuses but there is not a separate account for bonus, it falls in the same account as regular.  What then?

A: Yes, it is OK to expense both regular salaries and bonus to the same account in Forecaster.  Sometimes we create dummy, posting accounts to give better visibility of dollars.  For example, salaries and bonus go to acct 5000.  We may create in Forecaster acct A5000 for salaries and B5000 for bonus to give us better visibility and reporting in Forecaster if you wish.  Then in calc set we will have ‘5000=A5000+B5000


Q: Can I use the HR setup to calculate insurance, but instead of budgeting in each department budget it all to one department we have called “consolidated benefits”?

A: Yes, in the HR Setup area (Setup | Budgets | HR) you will define a dummy, posting account and then use a @LOOKUP formula to expense the one department.  For example, let’s say insurance is acct 6500 that we expense to the Corp dept 000.  For all departments via their HR detail we have insurance hit D6500 (dummy, posting acct).  Then in the ONE corp dept 000 we can use a qualified formula to only apply to corporate.  Calc Type I (Qualified).  ‘000.6500=@LOOKUP(SUM1,D6500)    In this formula, on the left hand side we only want this formula to apply to dept 000 and not all depts who share this calc.  The @LOOKUP goes out and retrieves all departments dummy insurance balance D6500.  SUM1 is a summary Dept rollup defined under Setup | Segments | Rollups for entire company.  Using Rollups and Lookup and Qualified formulas will make calcs exact and flexible.


Q: How do you easily set up a calculation example TEXP when a simple range of accounts son’t work?

A: In the Calculations you may also reference a Rollup/Summary account where you maintain those rollups in one central spot to use throughout Forecaster (calcs, reports, top down adjustments, allocations, security, etc.)


Q: Must be a big disadvantage for a big company with a lot of departments?

A: The size of the company (how many companies/depts/accts) is not a deterrent since you can easily load all companies/depts/accts/etc in minutes for an entire year/qtr/month as needed into Forecaster.  Typically we use one FRx or Mgt Reporter report and send to Excel for quick import ALL GL actual data.


Q: Is the only import possibility for actuals through Note Pad??

A: Usually we start with balances in Excel.  Then you may save that Excel file as a Text Tab Delimited file (Noah simply did a paste of Excel data to a .txt file) or a .CSV (comma delimited) file to import to Forecaster.


Q: I did not hear you say if the transfer feature is available for DAX2012. Is it?

A: Unfortunately, no. The currently available Forecaster Data Transfer Tool is only compatible with GP 2010, AX 2009 (FP1),  and SL 2011. Microsoft is considering updating the tool for newer versions of Dynamic ERPs.


Q: Is there a way to do a rolling forecast where budget holders can input updated budget numbers for the rest of the year?  i.e. bring in actuals monthly as you demo’d, but instead of using budget #s for the remaining months, have budget managers input updated estimates?

A: Yes. The example Dan showed where you could see actuals to date and budgeted numbers for the remaining months of the year allows for modification of the budget data. However, it is advisable to make sure your original budgeted balances are securely stored in their own periods.


Q: Is there test data available, like Fabrikam?

A: Yes, Forecaster ships with a demo MS Access db demo data.  The login ID = adm and there is no password.


Q: Will you demonstrate how to allocate the salary for a particular employee across multiple departments?

A: You can do so via the original HR Import and later via the HR Distribution window within the HR Master screen.


Q: How do you enter in say 30 like positions. For example i have 30 machine operators. I don’t budget individually but by job title.

A: You can enter 30 in the FTE/Allocation field and an average rate.  The only con to that is any benefits with a limit.  Another method for HR is to use statistical accounts entered and calculated in the multirow area.


Q: Would it not be scalable to do a rolling forecast to the department (or location/store) level for a company with 400+ stores? 

A: Yes, Forecaster is definitely scalable.  This also brings back memories of many implementations where we may design a budget input screen to have Stures going down the lines of the input screen and as columns have YTD sales, expenses and other key drivers in columns.


Q: I have site managers who budget site expenses and HR, marketing directors and accountants who budget for the rest of the accounts.  I set up three facilities – one for the site manager, one for marketing director and the facility that is actually in GP.  I then use the @LOOKUP function to bring the numbers from the other two budgets into the actual facility budget that will be loaded into GP.  Does that appear to be the most efficient use of FORECASTER? 

A: Yes, that is a valid method used frequently.  Most organizations have security based on Dept/Loc that do not require the @LOOKUP which is an excellent and powerful formula used in many budget scenarios to link data from one or many Dpt/Loc to others.


Q: can you use account rollups in input set?

A: You may reference summaryrollup accounts in Calculations but you must use Posting accounts for the Line Set used for the Data Input screen.  For Reports, on the other hand, you may use Summary accounts in the Line Set and also see Summary depts in Reports.  For Data Input, enter data to POSTING accounts and departments.


Q: Can I download my actuals one company at a time or will it override and delete previous downloads?

A: Yes, you can load one company at a time and it will not overwrite data unless you are loading same company a 2nd time which it will overwrite (but no add or duplicate data if done in two imports)


Q: My users keep getting locked out and then I have to go in and clear the input locks.  What can I tell them to stop doing?

A: May have to find out further what they are doing or could be network connections being dropped


Q: If account 5100 is going to be calculation why do you need to lock it?

A: Not required, just an added precaution and to demo locking accts that might not be calculated


Q: Because FRX linked directly to Forecaster I selected Budget int he Column and used base for the period.  Now with MR I have to select the specific year budget in GP.

A: Since FRx pulled data directly from the Forecaster database, it was possible to maintain book codes in Forecaster. With MR, report budget data is stored in your GL and therefore is stored according to book codes as defined by your GL.