Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Whozit, Whatzit, Forecaster?

When newcomers are learning Forecaster, whether it be consultants or end-users, I think one of the hardest concepts to grasp is the relationship of Forecaster, Users, Data Sources, and FRx. So I thought I would take a moment to break down each of these components and their relationship to each other. Let's start with a simple diagram to overview the applications and databases involved.

In the beginning there is a Forecaster database. Wait a sec. First, we have to create the database. So after installing Forecaster, you will see that the Forecaster Database Creation Wizard is also installed. This tool is used to create the empty Forecaster database. During the creation process you will be asked to identify the owner of the database. Users who are assigned to the DBO role for the Forecaster database can add periods within the Forecaster application, under Setup>>Segments>>Periods.

For data access, input, and reporting we have the two options in blue- the Forecaster website and the Forecaster client. The Forecaster client offers some additional capabilities for administrators, so we often use this for the finance department while the individual budget owners access Forecaster for input and reporting through the website. In both cases, the following are some key points to remember:

  • Data sources for both the website and the client are specified in the configuration of those applications not in the computer's Control Panel data sources. For the client, the settings are entered when you launch the application and are stored in the forecaster.ini for the user (see my other blog post on the Forecaster.ini).

  • To log in to Forecaster using either of this routes, you must be configured as a Forecaster user. This means that you have been set up Setup>>Security in Forecaster, and then added as a SQL Server User with access to the appropriate Forecaster database (and assigned to the Forecaster and Public roles for that database) using SQL Server Management Studio. Both of these steps MUST be completed, and the login specified in both locations must match, or you will not be able to log in.

Okay, so now moving on to the right side and our option in pink, FRx Report Designer. This tool is primarily for reporting, but it also is used by the ExpressLink capability in Forecaster to pull GP data. A few points regarding FRx and Forecaster:

  • FRx uses the Dynamics GP data source to access GP data for reporting. You must configure the DirectLink functionality of FRx to pull Forecaster data for reporting. You do this by setting up each Forecaster company in FRx using a data source for the Forecaster server (you can specify the database in the FRx setup, so you do not need a separate Forecaster data source for each Forecaster database). This data source is set up in the computer's Control Panel under Administrative Tools>>Data Sources. This data source must use a user that has been properly configured (per my notes above) to use Forecaster. This is detailed further in the very thorough KB article on how to configure DirectLink.

  • In addition to being able to pull data for reporting in FRx, the ExpressLink functionality of Forecaster relies on FRx (the Forecaster client must be installed on a computer with FRx for ExpressLink to function) to pull data in to Forecaster. This wizard-based approach (Tools>>Import>>ExpressLink) allows you to pull actuals in to Forecaster for budget -vs- actual reporting. Why do budget -vs- actual reporting in Forecaster? Well, remember the Forecaster website? Now you can give you budget owners budget -vs- actual reporting easily with no distribution process for you.

So those are the pieces of the puzzle as I see them. As always I look forward to your posts and questions. Have a great second half of the week :)

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