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PerformancePoint Planning vs. FRx Forecaster

Posted by Alan on December 29, 2008

As the company I work for is also a Dynamics GP partner with Microsoft, one of the questions I get a lot is how does PerformancePoint Planning compare to FRx Forecaster.  In a nutshell, here is how I explain the differences:

FRx Forecaster is more of an out-of-the-box solution.  Since you are working within a predefined  budgeting/forecasting framework you can deploy finalized solutions within a matter of weeks — as long as your models can fit within the framework.  It is a more mature product and therefore has some nice features (albeit not life or death) that PerformancePoint Server Planning v1.0 currently lacks.

PerformancePoint Server Planning is a blank slate when you begin and therefore can be whatever you like — the sky is the limit.  It ultimately has more power and more flexibility than FRx Forecaster, but that equates to longer deployment times and greater implementation costs.   FRx Forecaster is being phased out and will eventually disappear while PerformancePoint Server is the go-forward solution from Microsoft.  PerformancePoint Server also has the advantage of providing the additional functionality of Management Reporter and Monitoring & Analytics whereas FRx Forecaster is only budgeting/forecasting.

After giving the synopsis above I am usually asked for more details.  Myself and a co-worker (thanks Grantley) have come up with a quick “cheat sheet” of the differences.  Now please take each of these with a grain of salt as any good solution provider, who really knows either of the applications, can usually come up with ways to get around any limitation found in the system.   The table below compares the two:

Item FRx Forecaster PerformancePoint
Out-of-the-Box Solution Yes No
Model Types Supported Four (4) total types that have been preconfigured to handle Expenses, Revenue, CapEx & HR (one of each) Unlimited types can be created and they can be whatever you can dream, but no models are provided out-of-the-box
Number of Models Supported Four (4) models per company (as detailed above) with unlimited companies supported Unlimited, but no models are provided out-of-the-box
Supports Linked Models Yes, but only within the four model type structure above Yes
Supports Allocation Models Yes Yes
Supports Multiple Currencies Yes Yes
Number of Dimensions Eleven (11) maximum across all models and companies with ten (10) being user definable and one (1) needed to handle time Unlimited
End User Interface Web interface or FRx Forecaster client Excel 2003 or Excel 2007
Use Excel Formulas / Functions During Data Entry No Yes
Supports Spreading / Calendarization of Values Yes and it does it quite well No, but back-end PEL rules or Excel functionality can be implemented to assist the user
Approval Workflows Yes Yes
Workflow Statuses Unlimited and configurable Fixed
Workflow Alerts via Email Yes Yes
Audit History by Cell Yes and available from within the user interface Available, but requires creation of custom reports that are run separately
Copying of Budget Versions Yes and is a built-in function Yes, but requires development of custom PEL rules
Data Storage Structure SQL Server table with all data for all models in a single table SQL Analysis Services and SQL Server tables with each model having a unique cube and series of tables
Reporting Tool(s) Reporting is limited as the tool is geared towards budget capture and approval. FRx Financial Report Writer can be utilized PerformancePoint Excel Add-In, Excel pivot tables, Management Reporter, SQL Reporting Services, PerformancePoint M&A components
Integration to/from Other Data Sources Limited and primarily GL level data only Unlimited and can include both dimension members and fact data
M&A Components Available None as FRx Forecaster is a budgeting / forecasting solution only Yes and therefore provides a complete performance management suite
Short Term Solution (<3 Years) Yes Yes
Long Term Solution (3+ Years) No as it is being phased out in favor of PerformancePoint Yes
Deployment Ease/Speed (Scale 1 – 10) 8 out of 10 as working within a set framework means quicker deployment 5 out of 10 as you can create whatever you like, but you are starting with a blank canvas
Deployment Power/Potential (Scale 1 – 10) 5 out of 10 as you are forced to work within the existing framework that has been pre-developed for you 7 out of 10 since the product is still at v1.0 and lacks some features, this should be a 9 after v2.0 is available

 

Remember that the items above are my take on the two when compared side by side and not the official Microsoft take on the two products.  I hope people find this is helpful if deciding between the two.

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20 Responses to “PerformancePoint Planning vs. FRx Forecaster”

  1. [...] vs. Forecaster I've heard and seen a lot about PerformancePoint vs. FRx but not a lot about PerformancePoint vs. Forecaster. Well now, Alan Whitehouse has a terrific post up with a comparison of PerformancePoint Planning and [...]

  2. Ajay Singh said

    A good informative post Alan. Soon we should be having the Model templates for PPS too (its just my guess). Do you have any information whether PPS supports building these kind of solution templates (might be available internally and not exposed yet)? Otherwise I don’t see much options to crunch the implementation time.

  3. Alan said

    Ajay,

    I haven’t heard anything definitive lately on templates being developed by Microsoft. I know they want to do them and it is on their list of features for a future release, but not sure how much of a priority they are receiving today. I would rather them spend development resources on new features anyway at this point.

    I am of two minds about having pre-built templates. On one hand it would make deployments go faster and would be a good talking point in the sales cycle. However, on the other hand, in real life to use a template for this type of stuff it means that the end user either has to modify the way they do business to fit the template or you modify the template and in some cases you modify it so much that you might have been better off starting from scratch.

    That being said, I would rather have templates and not use/need them rather than not have them at all.

  4. Garrett said

    Alan,

    Thanks for this post, this is a really great breakdown of these two applications. Going to have to study this as I’m getting up to speed on PerformancePoint.

    Thanks,
    Garrett

  5. [...] (ибо у нас MS Forecaster не продается), но очень хороший пост – PerformancePoint Planning vs. FRx Forecaster. Приведу табличку [...]

  6. Matt said

    Good overview Alan and I agree with most of what’s provided. I’m interested to hear what you’ve seen or heard that convinces you that PerformancePoint will be a suitable solution in the long term (3yrs +) for the audience who visits this site (GP/Dynamics).

    I have not seen anything in stone that will address the barriers to entry for the middle market. PerformancePoint provides M&A but it is not ‘integrated’ with planning. The level of effort would be about the same to configure something like ProClarity with Forecaster.

    You’re still looking at implementations + yearly maintenance/configuration that run 5x the cost to get a fraction of the functionality for years to come with PerformancePoint. Why isn’t Dynamics consuming Forecaster to provide a stronger GL package? Remove the need to copy data from GL to Planning (and often back into the GL) and build out a nicely shared reporting experience.

  7. Alan said

    Matt,

    I firmly believe that PPS is a viable solution for the mid-market and for Dynamics GP/AX/NAV/SL clients today, but primarily for those at the middle to high-end of the marketspace.

    Think about what Dynamics cost in terms of software and services and then compare it to PerformancePoint. $20k (USD) for the server and $200 (USD) per user is dirt cheap for all that you are getting. Yes there are services involved. And yes, depending upon scope, those services can be big. But it is still a great value.

    I don’t buy the arguement that Planning is not “integrated” with M&A. Planning creates a series of cubes and M&A can read those cubes. Now granted a couple things are not as tight as I would like (e.g., comments entered in Planning do not travel to M&A, security is 2 different models, etc.) and the integration is not automatic, but the two do work well together.

    If you have ever tried to do reporting out of Forecaster directly you have to agree that it is UGLY. You can go to FRx for financial statement type reports, but it doesn’t work well for anything else. Planning beats it hands down. And trying to link ProClarity with Forecaster is also difficult given the data structure of the Forecaster database. You would have to do a lot of data minipulation and probably cube creation to make this possible. And even so, then all you have is budget/actual data at a GL level only.

    One other thing to consider. Forecaster (to the best of my knowledge) is now in maintenance mode. That means that the only development going on is related to bug fixes or new legal compliance issues that may arise. So what you have today with integration to any GL, Dynamics or otherwise, is all you are probably going to get. Don’t get me wrong. Forecaster is still a good solution and we still talk about it to our clients. It is supported by Microsoft and will be for many years to come and there will be an investment migration from one to the other when the client wants to move. But it is not the future.

    Again, each client and implementation firm has to make their own decision on what is the best solution for them now and down the road.

  8. Maja said

    Hi Alan,

    I liked the way you did the comparison between PPS Planning and Forecaster and it’s nice to see something like this. I’m a support Team Manager for the Microsoft Forecaster product and I’m asked for this type of information frequently. There are a few of items that stood out that I would offer additional information:

    1. Forecaster actually supports 11 dimensions, 10 are user defined and 1 is needed to handle time.

    2. The official name is Microsoft Forecaster 7.0, we dropped FRx prior to the release of this version.

    3. Forecaster does support Excel type Formulas/Functions during data entry.

    I was a bit surprised about your comment stating that reporting is UGLY. I wonder if you’re referring to the reporting in Forecaster 6.7 vs. 7.0. The quality of reporting in 7.0 is very high quality and in many ways is comparable to the high quality reporting in FRx. There’s a lot of flexibility in designing the reports and with the ability to load non-budget data into Forecaster it has the ability to on other financial or statistical data.

    I agree Forecaster is a good solution and it should continue to be an option along with PPS Planning so that we still give customers the ability to chose the best solution for their needs.

    Thank you,
    Maja

  9. Alan said

    Hi Maja,

    Thanks for the feedback. I edited my post for th 10/11 dimensions. I guess I knew we had 10 dimensions now but forgot that time didn’t count.

    I realize that Forecaster has “Excel like” formulas, but when we show it to people what they want are “Excel formulas” and not “Excel like”. We point out that a user can pick up the syntax of Forecaster pretty quick, but everyone wants Excel.

    For reporting I was basing the “ugly” comment more on 6.7 vs. 7.0. Most of our current clients are sticking with 6.7 for the time being and we have only done a handful of 7.0 at this point where most of the reporting is done via FRx Report writer and not via Forecaster. Good to know there have been improvements with the reporting side in 7.0.

    We still offer Forecaster as an option to our clients and for some of them it is still the right answer. We just make sure that they realize all the in’s and outs of going with Forecaster right now.

    Thanks for your feedback.

  10. Matt said

    Thanks for the response Alan,

    I have never used Forecaster 6.7 so I can’t speak to the user experience in that version. I agree that PerformancePoint’s software pricing is affordable to many but I have yet to see an implementation come close to what you get with Forecaster 7.0. The last implementation I discussed with a PerformancePoint customer had consulting costs running over $100K to get funcationality that is basically on par with the Units & Rates module within Forecaster 7.0. Implementing in Forecaster would have been finished by the time the PerformancePoint implementation “team” was done writing the requirements for their solution.

    I also understand your statements about Forecaster now being in maintenance mode but I question whether the Dynamics product teams are going to alienate a major percentage of their customer base. I believe products like GP have an opportunity to provide a one-stop shop for BI. Their GLs already ‘own’ the data and could work to blend Actuals, Plans/Budgets/Forecasts, Reports, Role/Permissions into one and avoid the data movement/sync issues that smaller orgs are so adverse to.

  11. Danny said

    So now that PerformancePoint Planning is being discontinued, has the plan to discontinue Forecaster been reversed? Would be curious to know since they just recently released v7 of Forecaster.

    Terrific post BTW!

  12. Alan said

    Microsoft has apparantely “unkilled” the plan to discontinue both Forecaster and Enterprise Reporting. Both those products belong within the Dynamics product group. I have had some calls with those groups and right now there are no announcements other than they will have a roadmap out in a couple weeks.

  13. Avril said

    Interesting comments – we are looking to implement a system for rolling forecasts – can forecaster 7.0 handle this or do we need to go with PPS.
    Currently use Dynamics GL so keen to find an “integrated” solution.

  14. Matt said

    Yes Forecaster does support rolling Forecasts but it takes a little more setup (although way less than PPS-Planning) and is integrated with GP. There are a number of companies out there that do it including some teams within MSFT. I suggest you go to the forecaster blog

    http://www.microsoft.com/communities/newsgroups/en-us/default.aspx?dg=microsoft.public.forecaster&lang=en&cr=US

    Good luck!

  15. Alan said

    What Matt said…

    We have done it in the past, it is not the smoothest process but can be done.

  16. Sraddhan said

    Hi Alan,

    Interesting Post. Know, it’s 5 months old and Microsoft had announced their plan of Merging PPS with SharePoint Server Enterprise version on 27th, January.

    Interesting thing is they are not going to support PPS as a standalone product anymore. Scorecard, Monitoring Services and Analytical Services will be part of PerformancePoint Services (ultimately Sharepoint services)

    However, Planning module is not going to be supported there. And since they wont’ sell PPS as stand alone product, there won’t be any other tool for Budgeting and Financial reporting.

    I was wondering if FRx would be helpful. But in your post you have written that FRx is going to be phased out in favour of PPS.

    Does this mean that Microsoft will not have any tool for Financial reproting, Budgeting , Planning ?

    Let me know if you already have thought through this or found something interesting, any tool?

    – Sid

  17. Maja McKenerick said

    Good morning,

    FRx isn’t being phased out for PPS currently there is a product Management Reporter that has been developed and is continuing to be worked on to be the replacement for FRx. The future plans are that within Managment Reporter they will also incorporate the Budgeting/Planning functionality of Forecaster and Enterprise Reporting.

    Thank you,
    Maja McKenerick
    Microsoft

  18. Alan said

    Sid,

    When PPS as a stand-alone product was discontinued, everything in my post pretty much was thrown out the window with the announcement. As Maja mentioned above the roadmap as changed. FRx was going to be replaced by Managmeent Reporter that was a part of PPS. Now, Management Reporter will be a stand-alone product from the Dynamics group of Microsoft and it will replace FRx eventually. Over the course of time (many years) it is slated to get functionality to handle budgeting.

    The big caveat (as I understand it) is that Management Reporter will eventually work if you use one of Microsoft’s ERP packages, but you will be out in the cold if you use some other manufacturer’s package.

    Alan

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