Australian forecasting program Castaway is beginning to attract interest from UK accountants, thanks in part to support from Sage.
During its latest round of roadshows, the Newcastle-based accounting software giant is using Castaway to demonstrate how business owners and their accountants can benefit from creating dynamic, graphical reports to manage improvements and plan for the future.
“Castaway is one of the unsung heroes of the forecasting and reporting world,” said Chris Downing, Sage product marketing director for accounts, who is presenting the forecasting and reporting clinics around the country through June and early July.
“What I love about Castaway is it’s the modern-day Winforecast,” Downing continued. “Castaway can bring information in from accounting systems, spreadsheets and non-accounting systems and enables the accountant to tell a story.”
Harking back to his days as a practitioner and business adviser, he said the formula he always looked for was to create meaningful budgets and get a handle on reporting and the key performance drivers. Then he looked to create dynamic reports and robust, three-way three-way forecasts showing the profit and loss, balance sheet and cash flow trends.
“Without seeing the impact on cash, you can’t produce a meaningful profitability report,” he said. “That’s what Castaway does, and it allows you to do a 12-month rolling report so you can carry on forecasting the business as you go along.”
He also praised the program’s flexible charting tools and widgets that help to improve the client’s understanding, without having to wade through huge amounts of numbers.
Unlike the names that show up in AccountingWEB’s software survey of forecasting, planning and analysis applications, Castaway is a desktop program that can bring in information from cloud systems. As well as integrating with Sage’s desktop flagship program Sage 50cloud Accounts, Castaway doesn’t require the adviser or business client to setup and run cloud subscriptions to create a forecast, Downing said.
“Castaway is licensed by practice or user, which encourages people to play with multiple scenarios and forecasts and have a play without having to incur a cost,” he said.
Castaway Forecasting has established itself in its native Australia, but is still only used by a smattering of accountants posting ratings in the Accounting Excellence Software Awards survey. However, those who do use Castaway rate it highly as a “very capable” product that fills the need for a 21st century version of Winforecast.
As far as improvements go, one user said they would like to Castaway to “move to the cloud and enable client access and collaboration”.
Sage’s Downing said that one of the company’s objectives was to help bring the best software partners to the attention of its accountant and bookkeeper customers.
“Castaway has been working to localise the product for UK consumers,” he said. “Where it previously used labels like ‘GST’ and other Australian terminology, you can now flick a switch and use VAT, PAYE and NI instead. When I’ve talked to accountants who have tried out forecasting and reporting products, a lot of them have said this one landed best in what they’re trying to achieve for clients, especially if they’re trying to do three-way forecasts over time.”
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.