Budgeting / Forecasting System
Solver Inc. has partnered with a major credit card company to develop a resource and forecasting system based on patent-pending Investment Optimization methodologies. The system is a strategic and financial discipline/platform that enables a company to more accurately project the returns associated with its investments. Investments include initiatives from marketing, information technologies, R&D, sales, strategy, business development, and operations. Solver is a Microsoft Partner that focuses on budgeting and forecasting solutions. Venice Consulting Group is Solver’s technology partner on this engagement, providing software design and development services central to the creation of the software solution.
Beyond creating improved projections, the system is also capable of integrating with a company's tracking systems thereby enabling the accurate and timely tracking of actual results achieved by various investments. This allows a company to “close the loop” to compare proposed returns versus real performance. With this information from the system, a company can more optimally allocate resources within and across various business segments, markets, and products, ultimately increasing visibility and accountability of investment performance. The credit card company currently uses the system to capture thousands of investment initiatives which represent billions of dollars of annual investment spend. It has allowed them to reallocate tens of millions of investment dollars within and across business segments and products.
The system focuses on helping large enterprises allocate their assets to achieve the best return. In order to produce meaningful results, the software solution that supports the process needs to provide an accurate and timely look into all budgeting processes within the enterprise. Designing and developing a system that allows large enterprises to get this view into the budgeting process is an inherently challenging undertaking. Solver approached VCG to work with them to take on this challenge and deliver a complete solution that achieved two business objectives. First, the initial solution would be rolled-out across all of the company's business units. Additionally the software solution would become the foundation for the technology and co-branding agreement to commercialize the solution so that it can be marketed and sold to Fortune 500 enterprises.
VCG began this full lifecycle development process with a rapid prototyping engagement to support Solver. VCG System Architect Niels Hansen worked closely with Per Solli, Founder and CEO of Solver Inc. to design and develop a functional prototype. Niels customized existing Microsoft systems and developed new web based tools to make the prototype a strong demonstration of the potential to use web technology to support the IO methodology. Solver was successful in their efforts and engaged VCG to support the design and development of the production systems.
VCG and Solver set-up a project team that included subject matter experts from Solver with system architecture, software engineering and project management from VCG. The unified team prioritized deliverables by business unit and business priority. Based on this analysis a project plan was adopted and executed.
The major elements that VCG developed for this system included:
1. Approval Module
Solver required a more complex workflow approval module than currently existed within the Microsoft Enterprise Reporting tool. VCG designed a new workflow that could be customized for each business unit. The Approval process allows a manager to view all pending actions and has several options on the workflow. VCG provided the ability to filter actions by region and investment type to simplify the interface. A history is kept for each investment that displays who and when the investment was approved or declined.
Major Features include:
- Custom Mapping - Mapping users to each Approver
- Investment Owners - Assigning a user to an Investment
- Metric Design - Customization for the Approval Processes
- Approval Status Setup - Setting up the workflow
2. LDAP Integration
The credit card company required single sign on capability for the system. VCG created code to call the LDAP server based on a GUID that is given to the browser when they log in. We modified the existing security system of the Microsoft tool set and created new screens to display if the user has rights to access the content for the given business unit. VCG used the Active Directory namespace in the .NET framework to communicate with the LDAP server.
3. Excel UploadAnother feature VCG added to the project was the ability to work offline on Investments and later upload the investment into the system. We used Microsoft Excel as the offline tool for data entry, leveraging MS Office components for .net for the import and export features.
The system was recently awarded two prestigious Baseline ROI Awards by Baseline Magazine – most innovative application as well as the grand prize for best overall application. The grand prize award considered the system's ROI to the company and also the impact of the system on their overall prospects. Additionally, the system has received attention and praise from several financial advisory firms and think tanks including the Corporate Executive Board and the Beyond Budgeting Roundtable.
The success of this project for Solver rests on the strength of the partnership between Solver and the Venice Consulting Group. Each company brings vertical market expertise and experience to the relationship and has been able to generate extraordinary results using an integrated team effort. The relationship continues to expand as does the commercial opportunity for marketing the solution.