‘We’re going to replace Winforecast’
A growing number of alternatives are turning up for accountants and others who are looking for a replacement for Sage’s standalone forecasting tool Winforecast/Sage 50 Financial Forecasting.
Sage’s decision has stranded many accountants like AccountingWEB member Alf, who recently asked for advice on tools to meet these forecasting needs: “For me, and I suspect many small practices, the forecasting requirement is to be able to easily and robustly provide forecasts for a variety of small entities, which may, or may not, then require future updating, and which may well not need to be linked to an accounts package (to import actuals).”
One of those looking to fill this gap in the accounting software market is Brighton-based CrunchBoards.
“Winforecast is being dropped by Sage - we’re going to replace it,” CrunchBoards co-founder Hannah McIntyre told AccountingWEB after the product was named as the “best emerging add-on” at the Xerocon event in London last week.
Since launching the Xero add-on in Sydney five months ago CrunchBoards has gained 2,500 customer organisations in 43 countries. McIntyre says the secret of CrunchBoards’ success is, “We approach it from the business owner’s perspective. And what they want is visual data presented this way.”
Based around a set of customisable online “boards”, CrunchBoards includes a variety of forecasting templates from simple P&Ls and budgets to more complex cashflow and balance sheet forecasts.
The templates are linked to the chart of accounts in Xero so that the projections are based on live accounting data.
The company’s early successes have been notable in New Zealand and Australia, where Xero itself has prospered. But with 20% of its users in the UK, McIntyre thinks British accountants are beginning to see that programs like CrunchBoards aren’t just about producing forecasts, but providing a platform for delivering advisory services.
“It’s about giving a tool to the accountant so they can create information that their clients need fast and efficiently. That speeds up their practice, but ultimately it’s about the conversation.”
This message recurs over and over when talking to CrunchBoards and the companies behind some of the other Winforecast alternatives (scroll down below video).
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Another add-on that draws directly on data within Xero accounts, Fathom lets is a more general key performance indicator (KPI) reporting tool designed to help users examine profitability, cashflow, growth and other trends that drive the business. One of its standard views is a break-even chart showing entrepreneurs when they can expect to go into profit. A Goalseek tool is also included to let users see how particular changes will affect a specific KPI.
One of the UK’s early pioneers, this cloud-based planning application turned up at Xerocon for the first time to signal its migration to the fast-growing cloud accounting application. Director Gill Goddard positioned Financial Driver as a business planning toolkit to help small company FDs steer their companies in the right direction. It can capture simple budgets, plans and forecasts, or handle complex, driver-based budgeting to help accountants and FDs be more proactive, she said.
Float has been designed as simple online cashflow management tool and is based around a cash forecasting engine that integrates with both Xero and FreeAgent. Starting from basic income and expenses figures, it allows the user to construct forecasts and budgets based on previous patterns. The centrepiece of the app is a visual cash flow graph that business owners and managers find easy to understand. This view is accompanied by an interactive ‘what if?’ query tool that lets users alter forecast conditions and see the effects on the graph.
For those who prefer to keep their financial forecasts on their desks rather than in the cloud Sage reseller Well Keen has designed foreCASH as a direct replacement for Sage 50 Forecasting. Described by the developer as a cash-focused forecasting product, foreCASH addresses a variety of needs including self-balancing reports for P&L, balance sheet, cash flow and funds flow forecasts. It can give clients weekly and daily cash views with the ability to reschedule payments and receipts and includes options for loans and leases. The program is still underdevelopment, but evaluation copies are available. The likely cost will be £950, or £60 a month.
Forecast 5 is another representative of the new wave of New Zealand-based financial software developers, but unlike most of those mentioned in this article it has developed a Windows-based forecasting tool based on Microsoft’s SQL Server database. This is a more heavyweight forecasting tool that both Winforecast and the other tools mentioned here, but is capable of consolidating forecasts from different subsidiaries and pulling data from SAP’s B1 ERP system. In addition to cash flow, P&L and balance sheet forecasts, it can handle models for sales revenue, salary costs, direct costs, overheads and all balance sheet items including fixed assets, debtors, creditors and bank accounts.
Like CrunchBoards, LivePlan takes a deliberately simplistic approach to forecasting, offering comparative views of budgets and actuals to help businesses project their likely performance forwards. Though simple, LivePlan has the pedigree of a seasoned software stable behind it. The developer Palo Alto Software was responsible for producing the business planning software that UK banks liked to hand out during the boom years in the early part of this century. Drawing on this heritage, LivePlan has wrapped a mountain of business-focused advice around the program, covering topics such as lean planning to encourage entrepreneurs to spend less time working on their business plans and more time on the business itself.
ProfitSee has positioned itself as sophisticated planning and budgeting engine to cater for both the Xero and QuickBooks Online user communities. According to founder Peter Vessenes, ProfitSee goes beyond the usual P&L-based projections to produce full balance sheet forecasts that incorporate stock, receivables/payables and cashflow movements to show the organisation’s true financial situation.
Spotlight CEO Richard Francis boasts that his program is “number one reporting add-on in the Xero ecosystem”. The program was designed as a strategic advice and analysis tool to support the company’s virtual CFO practice and proved so successful that it took on a new life as an independent software product. Spotlight can handle cash and profitability forecasting for client businesses, incorporating financial and non-financial information.
For a wider range of Winforecast alternatives, check out the directory of applications in last year’s article on business planning tools.
AccountingWEB’s Head of Insight has been with the site since 1999 and likes to spend his time studying accountants’ technology habits. When not nerding out, you can find him exploring obscure indie music and searching for the perfect organic sourdough loaf from his base in Brighton, UK.