Headquartered in Naperville, IL, Forecast5 Analytics has made it their mission to help organizations turn their raw data into actionable information using the power of analytics. The company enables local government administrators to maximize their resources by analyzing their information and channeling the power of data visualization to develop long-term policies and action plans backed by data-based insights.
Forecast5 Analytics has pioneered a suite of leading-edge applications for local government leaders to strategically drive their strategic plans and financial decisions. The unique product suite allows local officials to ask the critical questions: How are we doing? What are our trends? What does our future look like? The systems organize massive amounts of statewide or user-submitted data in a format that is manageable and intuitive to analyze on a daily basis. This allows schools, cities, and counties to transform the way they use data, and gain actionable insights to synchronize their financial resources and operational plans.
Powerful Data-Mining for Intelligent Forecasting
The company anchors its mission, and develops its products, around the central premise that local governments can increase their performance with the aid of a 5-year financial forecast that is integrated into their strategic planning process. Many local governments have financial accounting systems that are adequate for recording transactions and generating basic reports, but very few of these systems offer analytics or sophisticated multi-year planning tools. “We come alongside our clients and convert their raw data into information that they can actually use,” says Mike English, President and CEO, Forecast5 Analytics.
Local governments wanting to build and maintain accurate multi-year financial projections can leverage the company’s 5Cast™ application to export financial information directly from their accounting systems into the 5Cast analytical processing engine. By integrating various data and keeping the results organized, 5Cast provides users seamless access to comprehensive accounting information and generates “board ready” reports. English states, “5Cast creates so many efficiencies in routine tasks and reporting, that our clients can spend more of their valuable time simulating financial scenarios and formulating business proposals.”
At its core, 5Cast allows users to simulate multiple “what-if” scenarios and generate new business insights for identifying financial opportunities. The 5Cast database engine instantly returns the results of complex comparisons with speed and accuracy, eliminating the need for managing complicated spreadsheets.
Growing analytics trends in the public sector are to promote financial transparency and drive increased performance through long-term resource allocation strategies
Through this scenario analysis, governments can understand the compounding effect of their decisions overtime, allowing them to eliminate guesswork and maintain financial stability.
Forecast5 is releasing a powerful new option this summer referred to as 5Cast™ Plus. Populated with transaction-level detail from a client’s accounting system, 5Cast Plus provides dynamic opportunities to analyze budget performance for revenues and expenses within a fiscal year. English comments, “This new level of data is allowing us to generate cash flow analytics for our clients and provide them budget performance insights that they can react to quickly.” Additionally, the new option can dramatically reduce the month-end closeout process by automating the production of month-end board reports. “In some cases, we may be able to recover 1-2 days’ worth of time it takes our clients to produce board reports. In an average month of 20 work days, returning 1-2 days is a huge increase in efficiency,” states English.
Digging Deep into the Vein of the Data
To increase the accuracy of the budgeting process for local governments, Forecast5 turns to business intelligence (BI) technology. Their 5Sight™ platform allows officials to visualize historical and peer comparison data at a line-item level of detail. The BI application facilitates data discovery and decision support by helping users evaluate the performance in every area of their operations. Forecast5 clients use 5Sight’s visual engine to reduce the cost of compensation agreements, staffing, transportation programs, health insurance, and other expenses, as well as, increase their efficiency. “Our staff partners with our clients to deliver relevant insights directly to their inboxes throughout the year,” says English. “Our clients don’t have to spend their time gathering data and building models, rather, with 5Sight they can spend it analyzing information and developing strategy to improve services and increase performance.”
By using trend data and comparative analytics, Forecast5 clients can quickly identify the “low hanging fruit” in their budgeting process and start the process of reallocating the resources to areas of highest need. “The visualization in 5Sight allows users to data-mine massive amounts of information and quickly find the line items that may be able to be managed more effectively,” says English. As examples of client success, English references education clients that have used 5Sight to generate tactics in areas such as employment contracts, health insurance, transportation, and staffing ratios to save significant amounts of money. “When a client calls or writes to tell you that they have used your software to save millions of dollars…that’s rewarding. And, those types of stories are what really motivates the Forecast5 team,” remarks English.
Breaking New Ground
The company’s newest application, 5Lab™, expands on the capabilities of existing solutions and allows clients to connect their own disparate datasets into a single analytic “sandbox”.
English states, “One of the core issues we are addressing with 5Lab is the fact that schools maintain many different data systems that do not talk to each other. Our first goal is to bring that information into one desktop view and then create meaningful dashboards that allow decision makers to react to the data with effective strategies and proactive interventions.”
For example, by connecting student achievement data with attendance records, 5Lab can provide real-time statistics on the correlation between absenteeism and test results, and then create alerts which will allow administrators to react to attendance trends. The new application will allow schools to manage some of the new federal requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), but thought-leading clients of Forecast5 have much bigger plans for 5Lab. English comments, “Our clients are talking about projects that range from early childhood reading interventions all the way to college and career readiness. The opportunities to use 5Lab for their data analysis needs seem endless.”
Rounding Out the Toolbox
In addition to these tools, Forecast5 rounds out its analytic suite with two additional platforms. 5Share™ helps schools, cities, and counties maximize data collaboration with a robust social network that integrates file sharing and business intelligence. Local governments across the country can share their insights and analytical reports in order to make recommendations to stakeholders on efficient action plans that best fit their communities.
"At Forecast5 Analytics, we have developed a wide range of cutting-edge applications for local government leaders to strategically drive their financial decisions"
Forecast5’s 5Maps™ application augments the suite by bringing geo-spatial perspectives to a client’s data, allowing them to discover new insights and unlock higher performance. By combining analytics and mapping visualizations with custom charts, graphs, and map coloring, 5Maps enables users to visualize key demographic or service issues, which may significantly influence their multi-year financial strategies.
According to English, a data boom is beginning to take off in the public sector. “We are just in the first inning of a trend that is going to grow and accelerate. What we are seeing is analogous to the “fly-wheel” in “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. Governments are beginning to understand the benefits of investing in analytics, and as they continue to push forward with their data initiatives, the flywheel is going to continue to gain momentum. We believe that any investment in analytics in the short-term is going to provide outstanding ROI for the long-term.”
For the future, Forecast5 is also planning to embed innovative technologies like predictive analytics and artificial intelligence into its technology platform so that the insights can be delivered directly to a client’s desktop. English also affirms that the company will continue to work closely with local government leaders, aiding them in making efficient decisions and enhancing their financial performance. “We believe that by simplifying executives’ access to big data and enhancing their consumption of analytics, Forecast5 can make a significant difference for communities across the country,” states English.