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FAST Planner for IT (Excel Add-on)

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FAST Planner for IT
(Software)
Publisher: Resource Management Systems, Inc.
Version 1.0, Add-on for Microsoft Excel

TIPS & HINTS

Tips and hints are answers to program use questions that are likely to be of interest to many FAST Planner for IT users. Some are very basic; others are advanced.

They are organized as follows:


General Program Usage

Can I use Planner to estimate operating expenses for personnel as well as project (capital) expenses? If yes, how do I do this?

Yes. Users who want to get a complete picture of their IT / IS budget can use FAST Planner for both.

  • You have probably noticed that the program frequently refers to "Project/Activity". This reference was included in Planner because we anticipated this need.
  • (For our readers who are not familiar with "capital" and "expense" budgeting, we suggest that you go to our Learning Center where you will find information on capital budgeting in the Research Center, in several of the Glossaries, the Tutorials and Briefs.)
  • In Planner, the term "activity" refers to recurring activities, e.g., PC support. Recurring activities are generally treated as expense budget items. Personnel represent a large type of recurring cost.
  • Develop your expense budget estimates through the same process that you would for a one-time project.
  • When you go to program Step 3. (Phases, Stages, and Milestones):
    • enter a single phase (use a descriptive term such as "current staff resources")
    • make the start date the first day of your organization's fiscal year (a.k.a. "budget year") and the end date the last day of the fiscal year
  • If you expect to add personnel during the year, include a second phase (e.g., "new hires"); make the start date the approximate date you expect the new hires to start and the end date the last day of the fiscal year.
  • When you go to program Step 4. (Direct Costs - Personnel):
    • Enter the employee information the same way you would for a project
  • Depending upon your organization's policy concerning personnel cost estimates, you may prepare your budget estimate based upon full year salaries of all positions (current and new) or full year salaries for current employees and part year salaries for those hired during the year.
  • If the policy is full year salaries for all, then just enter the title and quantity information the same way as you would for a project.
  • If the policy is to include full year salaries for current positions. and part year salaries for new positions you will need to enter titles with new positions twice (once for current; once for new. E.g., if you have current employees with the title "network engineer" and you will be hiring additional network engineers later in the year, enter the title network engineer twice - once for the number of current employees and once for those who will not be hired until later in the year).
  • Enter the "Assign Resources To Phases/Stages (by %) as follows:
    • For the current positions, enter 100% under "1" for your first phase
    • For the new positions, enter 100% under "2" for the second phase
  • This will give you a solid estimate of your personnel budget for the year. (Note: Planner estimates employee costs based upon the number of work days in your fiscal year. This means that a current employee with a $100,000 salary will be estimated at $100,385 because of the number of "work" days in a year.)

Customization

Planner allows users to make changes to program displays to suit the particular conventions of their organization or to meet special reporting needs. This option is available through the Main Menu by selecting "Customization".

Is there an easy way to include our logo in our Planner reports?

  • You can import your organization's logo through the Customization option's "Recurring Information Maintenance" screen. Just click on the "Import Logo" button and select the graphic file for your organization's logo. Typically, these are in .bmp format.

We would like to be able to identify the support costs of our legacy systems. Any suggestions?

  • There a number of ways you might do this. One method would be through your own project coding scheme. If you would like to include a specific category within Planner, e.g. "Legacy System Support", you can change a default "Strategic Category" or "Technology Work Category" in the Customization menu's "Pick List Maintenance" screen. Then Legacy System Support will always be one of your pick-list options.

When I first started using FAST Planner, I remember seeing "pop-up" windows that explained terms such as "milestone", "start and end date", etc. I don't see them anymore; can I get them back? They could be helpful to our inexperienced planners.

  • The windows that you are referring to are "Quick Reference Windows" that automatically appear when a user goes to various Program Steps. If they are no longer appearing, it is likely that someone deactivated them. To reactivate them, simply select "active" in the "Quick Reference Window Maintenance" screen for the windows you want.

Step 1. Boilerplate

How can I prepare a budget for a project that begins in the middle of one year and ends part way into the next?

  • FAST Planner is designed to estimate budgets on a 12-month basis; that's how most budgets are prepared.
  • To estimate a multi-year project (i.e., a project that has work in more than one year) do the following:
  • Enter the first fiscal year in which work on the project will occur in the "Fiscal Year" field (you will create a separate project for work that will be done in the second year).
  • Select "New" in the "New/Continued" field for the first project (you will select "continued" for the project work to be scheduled in the second year).
  • In this screen, the "Start Date" will be the beginning of the project in the first year, and the "End Date" will be the project's conclusion in the second year. (Later, when you get to Step 3, the start and end dates refer to the start and end dates for the project in a single fiscal year. Thus, the end date for the first project would be the last day of the fiscal year; the start date for the second project would be the first day of the fiscal year.)
  • You may use the same project number for both years; this allows you to generate reports for either fiscal year's project cost estimates or the total cost of both projects.

Step 2. Project/Activity Type

I have several projects that don't fit any of our standard categories. I want to keep the default categories for most of our projects.

Step 2 allows you to "Enter Your Own Project/Activity Type". Enter the unique categories for the projects here

Step 3. Phases/Stages And Milestones

There are no tips or hints for this right now; there will be soon.

Step 4. Direct Costs - Personnel

Where should I enter the costs of consultants?

  • There are two places that you can enter consultant costs. In Step 3, enter the cost for individual consultants who are usually independent contractors and your organization pays the consultant as an individual. When you are paying a consulting firm, which in turn pays its employees, enter the information in Step 4 under "contractual services".

Step 5. Direct Costs - Non-Personnel

I see that software costs can be assigned to phases in one of two ways; i.e. assign equally or by phase. Does it really matter how they are assigned?

  • The answer depends upon how much information you have available and whether or not the costs incurred in one phase vs. another is important to you or your organization.
  • For example, if you plan to purchase a large number of software packages at one time, it would be useful to associate the costs with a particular phase by assigning "100%" of the software costs to that phase. This will help you, and others, see when the money will be spent in addition to the amount of money.
  • If you just want to estimate the costs quickly or don't know when the purchase would be made then simply enter "Y" in the "Assign Equally" column. Planner will then automatically distribute the costs evenly across all phases.

Step 6. Indirect Costs

Should we bother including indirect costs; what it the benefit?

  • In some organizations, indirect costs (e.g., administrative overhead charges) are charged to the IT organization for routine services provided by central organizations (e.g., personnel, legal, etc.). The amounts can be a significant percentage of the IT organization's total budget.
  • If project costs are to be recovered from the user groups served, it is important to include these costs as part of the budget to be sure the IT organization also recovers these costs.

Reporting

I am a senior project manager in a large IT organization. What would be a useful budget "package" for me to submit to the CIO?

  • Consider a group of summary reports supported with some detail. For example, you could submit the following to provide a balance of summary and supporting detail:
  • CER 1000 (Summary) containing a list of your projects, their project numbers and costs; this report provides a total project count and cost.
  • FAST View - All is a one-page summary of key information for each project - description, work schedule, and costs. Open each project and print from the FAST View - All view.

 

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