Forecast5 Analytics: Leading the Public Sector with Analytics

Forecast5 Analytics: Leading the Public Sector with Analytics

Michael English, President & CEO, Forecast5 AnalyticsMichael English, President & CEO A Chicago area technology company is taking analytics and Big Data concepts into the public sector with tremendous success. The initial ideas for this company were born in the late 90’s when Mike English, CEO/President, was asked to help a local school district with a long range financial planning project. English came away from that experience with ideas on helping all local governments develop dynamic forecasting models to positively impact decision making.

Today, the ideas have blossomed into Forecast5 Analytics–a leading provider of analytic software to the public sector. The name, Forecast5, is a word play on the company’s central premise of supporting strategic planning with intelligent five-year financial forecasts. “Currently, we are serving more than 850 local governments, and we have partnered with many of the leading professional development associations in the country to deliver our applications and the training needed to maximize the value of the tools,” remarks English.

Forecast5 delivers a suite of applications for data discovery, decision support and stakeholder engagement for schools, cities, and counties. English adds, “Our goal is to develop and evolve tools that help our clients find new opportunities for growth and efficiency. Additionally, we want to help them use their data to reduce decision timeframes, increase ROI potential and provide compelling visualizations to help them ‘tell their story’ effectively.”

Accelerating the Insights with Analytics-as-a-Service

Combining public sector domain expertise with visionary software development, Forecast5 works with the public sector to monetize valuable data insights. The company’s Analytics-as-a-Service (AaaS) model helps local governments generate the value of analytics without having to invest significant human or financial resources. “Our implementations are very simple. In many cases, the process is plug-and-play for our customers. We are trying to make analytics straightforward and manageable without burdening our clients with lengthy and costly implementations,” remarks English.

A key aspect of the Forecast5 strategy is its partnership, with clients and professional associations, to acquire data and build analytic models. “Our partnerships help us stay focused on the most critical data sets and analytics that they need to make business decisions. We fast-track the analytic process for our clients by eliminating the need for them to acquire and model the data. We want to put them right at the point of generating an insight, or making a decision,” comments English.

Our goal is to develop and evolve tools that help our clients find new opportunities for growth and efficiency

Building Smarter 5 Year Financial Forecasts

The Forecast5 product suite comprises of four key solutions—5Sight, 5Cast, 5Share and 5Maps—each tool serving different purposes of data analytics. 5Sight gathers public data, and organizes it within a business intelligence engine. The Forecast5 team takes the raw data and converts it into meaningful information and visuals, ultimately fast-tracking the decision making process for clients. This environment allows local governments to evaluate their performance overtime and benchmark it in a number of different areas against relevant peers. The powerful business intelligence tool combines self-service and AaaS concepts. “Public administrators use 5Sight to gain a wide field of perspective and quickly identify opportunities. For example, if a local government is attempting to alleviate a budget deficit, they might use the comparative analytics in 5Sight to find relevant peers and benchmark their expenditures with a focus on identifying potential areas of savings,” says English.

The powerful force behind creating and managing a smarter 5 year financial forecast lies with 5Cast, the company’s budget and forecasting engine. 5Cast allows local governments to load financial information directly from their accounting systems in order to analyze historical performance and confidently draft budget projections.

The system also allows users to simulate “what-if” scenarios for the purpose of making data-informed decisions. After the data acquisition process is completed, the client has a system that mirrors the data and dimensions in their financial accounting system. English comments, “5Cast is customized for each local government reflecting all of the detail in their general ledger. The application unlocks a tremendous amount of value in the historical data that a government is storing in their accounting system. In addition to being a powerful analysis tool, 5Cast allows local governments to create multi-year forecasts with alternate scenarios. This tool has really helped with decision making processes.”

On the other hand, 5Share can also directly support “building a smarter 5 year forecast.” 5Share allows organizations to collaborate in a professional social network that combines data sharing and analytics. “The 5Share platform was developed to help clients collaborate with each other, not just in terms of messaging or sharing best practices, but also for collecting and collaborating with specific datasets,” says English. “The analytics that we have been able to generate from small-group collaborations have directly and positively impacted financial decision making for our clients.”

Further, 5Maps brings an additional geo-spatial perspective to the clients’ data, by directly contributing to their service strategies, which will ultimately reflect in their multi-year financial strategies.

“By incorporating geographic perspectives into decision making processes, government agencies can save significant amount of financial resources and improve their services,” claims English.

Transforming Decision Making with Data

By focusing on the power of multi-dimensional data processing on the most pressing issues in the public sector, Forecast5 is helping local governments find new resources, increase operational efficiency, and strengthen decision processes. “The key differentiator is that we design our solutions from their side of the desk,” asserts English.

"We are trying to make analytics straightforward and manageable without burdening our clients with lengthy and costly implementations"

The expert team of Forecast5 represents the perfect blend of public sector domain expertise and data technology depth, and has the ability to solve problems with an understanding of what the clients are facing. For instance, the Forecast5 team partnered with clients to develop a comprehensive survey on health insurance. The effort created a catalog of analytics that assisted clients in their negotiations. One client used the 5Sight data to save a quarter of a million dollars per year.

Talking about Forecast5’s innovation strategy, English says, “Our innovation typically happens around a conference table, with our clients, as we listen to their problems and explore innovative solutions.” This strategy results in Forecast5 developing solutions that are most relevant to the issues challenging its public sector clients.

Innovating for Students and Communities

For the days to come, the company plans to focus on increasing inter-agency collaboration and reducing the lag time between data creation and sharing. Further, the company plans to pilot a product, 5Lab that will help public sector clients to connect disparate datasets and generate analytics insights in a sandbox environment. “The goal of the 5Lab platform is to unlock new insight and opportunities for our clients by connecting data that was previously difficult to connect,” says English.

After successfully developing four separate applications, Forecast5 has made great strides in a short period and has contributed to the success of numerous government agencies. “We are really proud of the national progress we made, bringing analytics to the public sector in a brand new way,” states English. He believes that the public sector can enhance its operational and strategic initiatives by utilizing analytics. “However, there is a learning curve, and software companies who are considering entering this sector should be ready to make significant investments of time and resources into the professional development and use of these technologies,” he concludes. Forging ahead, Forecast5 aims to develop tools that are not only attractive to the eye, but ones that actually make a difference for students and communities in the U.S.

- Urmi Sengupta
    April 21, 2016