DENVER, June 29, 2006 – It was the end of the first day of Forecaster Forum 2006, a two-day training conference for financial management professionals who use Microsoft Forecaster, a budgeting and planning solution from FRx Software, a Microsoft subsidiary. Conferencegoers gathered in a sky box at Coors Field to watch Major League Baseball’s Colorado Rockies battle the Oakland Athletics. Not only did baseball enthusiasts see a thrilling game – the home team won, 6-0 – those attending were provided yet another forum for give and take among the more than 100 Microsoft Forecaster customers, partners and product experts who had gathered for the annual conference.
Andy Kamlet, vice president of marketing at FRx Software, says that one of the primary goals of Forecaster Forum 2006 was to provide opportunities for customers and product experts from FRx Software to share information, ask questions and interact directly. “Forecaster Forum is a small, focused conference that offers a variety of venues for interaction between our customers and FRx Software team members,” says Kamlet. “FRx Software is truly interested in what customers have to say, and for some, a conference setting may not be the best environment for discussion. It may be easier to offer suggestions or ask questions while enjoying a baseball game. At Forecaster Forum, we want to ensure that our customers have a chance to talk, ask questions and offer their input.”
Practical, Real-World Information
Forecaster Forum is designed as an in-depth training event for novice and experienced users of Microsoft Forecaster, a solution that provides organizations with a fast, affordable way to gain control of their budgeting and planning processes. The conference offered a series of introductory sessions intended for users who may have little or no experience with the product and who want to learn the fundamentals of Microsoft Forecaster. These hands-on, instructor-led sessions were also useful for experienced users who wished to learn more about specific topics or features they had not implemented or used before.
Forecaster Forum also provided sessions for intermediate to experienced users looking to gain deeper and more specific knowledge about various Microsoft Forecaster features and functionalities. These sessions were presented by Microsoft Forecaster product experts, with hands-on labs available to give users a chance to practice what they had learned.
The conference also offered an “Ask the Experts” panel discussion, where product experts fielded questions from customers in a lively exchange. Other sessions included open forum discussions in which customers and FRx Software staff had a chance to share thoughts and experiences, exchange tips and tricks, and offer ideas and product suggestions.
Day 2 of the conference opened with a presentation from an experienced user who had returned to Forecaster Forum for a second time. Geneva Jackson is an accounting manager at N.B. Handy Company, a wholesale distributor of heating, ventilating and air-condition equipment, plus roofing and commercial sheet metal products, with corporate headquarters in Lynchburg, Va. Jackson presented a customer case study at the conference detailing how N.B. Handy uses Microsoft Forecaster to produce and monitor his company’s annual budget.
“It’s very interesting for me to do a presentation case study at Forecaster Forum,” says Jackson. “Last year I was attending for the first time, getting inspired by all the things that other people were doing with Microsoft Forecaster. Now this year I’m doing a presentation, offering new users tips and tricks and offering them advice based on our experience at N.B. Handy.”
Jackson’s speech was followed by a panel of customers who offered practical, real-world information about the value of Microsoft Forecaster. Dale Hosak, CFO at Western Container Corporation and Robert Jarrett, director of finance and HR at TOSOH Corporation, described how Microsoft Forecaster was implemented at their companies, and led a helpful discussion that addressed some of the issues, challenges and successes they each have had with the product.
“We’re serious about creating a forum where ideas and information can flow back and forth,” says Kamlet. “Forecaster Forum came about because customers said they wanted an opportunity to meet with FRx Software product experts for training and news of updates. But it was clear they also wanted to interact with other users and find out how they are using Microsoft Forecaster.”
Kamlet says that the open communication also benefits FRx Software. “Our goal is to make interaction between the FRx Software team and our customers as transparent as possible. If we know what issues our customers are facing, then we can address these needs and design our products to be more useful and effective.”
Introducing Microsoft Forecaster 7.0
Forecaster Forum also provided customers with an opportunity to preview Microsoft Forecaster 7.0, the newest release of the budgeting and planning solution scheduled to debut in early 2007. The demonstration offered a walkthrough of new features and a chance for conference goers to offer input.
“We had great response from the Microsoft Forecaster 7.0 demo,” says Kamlet. “We received some really useful feedback about how we could improve the solution’s usability. But most of all, people were excited. One long-time customer said he couldn’t wait to introduce the new product into his financial management process because it was clear that Microsoft Forecaster 7.0 would increase the accuracy and effectiveness of his budgeting and planning.”
Planning is already underway for next year’s Forecaster Forum. “With the release of Microsoft Forecaster 7.0 coming in early 2007, we expect even greater attendance next year,” comments Kamlet.”
Two-time conferencegoer Jackson isn’t quite sure whether she will attend next year’s Forecaster Forum or send another person from her organization in her place. “I’d love to come again,” says Jackson. “Even though I’m an experienced user, I still get a lot out of the conference because there’s always more you can learn. I would definitely recommend the conference to all users who want to learn how to get the most out of Microsoft Forecaster. Perhaps next year I’ll send some of my budgeting and planning colleagues so they can take advantage of this experience.”