Archive for the ‘Crystal Reports’ Category

Oct
25

Operational Reporting: Leveraging Crystal Reports as a Model for Embedded BI

As I attempt to describe in the below figure, there are a few types of BI that are currently available from BI vendors. Historically, most BI deployments began with pure reporting that delivered information to those who needed it for making decisions. Those reports were either printed or delivered electronically via email or a portal. From that basic reporting arose a requirement to either see more high-level, graphical information (e.g., dashboards) or a requirement to have more interactive reporting. Over time, the deployment eventually builds up to where the implementation and the users are mature enough to need analysis capabilities. Of course, today, users are more mature with regards to locating information, manipulating that information, and telling a story with it. As such, more and more BI deployments are starting with analysis.

All of these different types of BI can either be accessed in a standalone mode or embedded. With SAP BusinessObjects, standalone can mean either via a desktop application, BI LaunchPad, or one of the various mobile applications that exist. From an embedded standpoint, you could imagine information being delivered via an internal portal (e.g., SharePoint) or within another vendor’s application (e.g., Sage CRM). For SAP Crystal Reports, and other reporting tools, this has been a cornerstone for engaging partners and proliferating BI content.

Operational Reports

When you think of reporting, you would typically envision something like operational reports. These are reports that contain specific details about an entity and are directly responsible for supporting business processes. For example, if you were a support representative and were helping a customer on the phone, you might want to see a list of all orders that the customer has placed over the past 12 months. An operational report, such as the one below, would be one way to display this information.

In addition, operational reports are usually embedded directly within other applications. In the above example, the reports for support representatives could be embedded directly within a CRM application. This would allow the individual on the phone with the customer to click a button or a link and quickly bring up the information that they need to reference. In this scenario, the data is either contained within a database behind the CRM application or is generated by the application. In either case, the data is then pushed into the embedded report while the application is running so that the support representative can get what they need in real time.

The figure below shows an example of an application, Sage SalesLogix, which currently embeds Crystal Reports content.

In this workflow, a user has searched or browsed a list of available reports in order to find the one that is relevant for them.

In any case, the important bit is that Sage did not need to develop a report component on their own. They were able to take something, Crystal Reports, which was already built and embed it. The benefit to their customers is that they have a well known reporting solution built in, they can create their own reports using Crystal Reports, and can more easily upgrade their reporting solution by leveraging the SAP BusinessObjects suite to deliver other types of BI content.

Leveraging Embedded Reporting as a Model for Embedded BI

The widespread embedding of Crystal Reports, and other reporting solutions, into other software begs the question of how we (as a general BI ecosystem) can leverage all of this experience of embedding reporting so that we can make it easier to embed BI as a whole. There are examples out there today where interactive BI content and analytics are being embedded; however, this is an area of growth for BI.

What examples do you know of where this is being done today? How can BI software vendors make this easier?

Coy Yonce is a Principal Technical Architect at EV Technologies and has worked in Business Intelligence for over 10 years. Before joining EV Technologies, Coy was a Crystal Reports Product Owner at SAP for many years. His main focus is leading conversations and being active in the BI community. Connect with him directly via:

Twitter – SDN – Zerply – Scribd – Slideshare – LinkedIn – Google+

Oct
18

Enterprise Reporting: How does Crystal Reports fit in and where is it going?

Crystal Reports began in 1988 under the name of Quik Reports DOS. It was created out of necessity, as the original developers needed a better tool for generating views of the data contained within their accounting application.  Through the years, the product has been integrated into many applications and development environments, but has remained a product focused on creating and distributing quality formatted reports that can be created on top of almost any data source.  With the latest mainstream version of SAP Crystal Reports 2008, this remains true.

SAP Crystal Reports Timeline

The product itself is commonly identified as a Business Intelligence tool; however, it is also referred to as a product for Enterprise Reporting, Operational Reporting, or Business Intelligence Reporting. Regardless of the classification, many market analysts consider reporting to be a key component of any Business Intelligence product suite. At SAP, it is classified under the Business Analytics suite of products.

SAP High Level Product Portfolio

Who are some of the key competitors for Crystal Reports?

  • Microsoft SQL Reporting Services
  • IBM Cognos Business Intelligence Reporting
  • Information Builders
  • Telerik Reporting
  • JasperReports
  • Pentaho Report Designer
  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • Oracle Reports
  • ActiveReports
  • Stonefield Query
  • QlikTech
  • Tableau

With all of these competitors, plus many others that I have not mentioned, the struggle is to differentiate while maintaining true to the vision of creating strongly typed, interactive reports on top of any data source and allowing those reports to be distributed to users in their own environment.  We don’t want to create an analysis tool. We don’t want to create a tool for the average user to start creating reports. SAP BusinessObjects provides other tools for that purpose. We want to be the tool used to create beautiful reports on top of the amalgamation of any data sources you can throw at it.

Through the years, we have found ways to create interest around the product. We’ve been an embedded report designer in many development environments: Visual Basic, Visual Studio, Eclipse, Borland, and Rational. We’ve created features that allow for accessing newer data sources like XML and web services. We’ve provided ways to embed more engaging visualizations via the embedding of Flash objects. We’ve also provided more interactive features for the report consumer – without stepping too far into the realm of creating a pure analysis tool.

We have our fans and we have our haters. Most people like our ability to create strongly typed reports, the fact that we connect to many different types of data, and the interactive features that we provide for report consumers. Some people struggle with using an outdated report design UI and with embedding reports into their own applications via our APIs. We have a plan for addressing those concerns and delighting our already ecstatic users.

Starting with SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0, we introduced a new report design tool that is currently called SAP Crystal Reports for Enterprise. Over the next few years, you will see this become the primary report design tool that customers use; however, this will take some time. Not only do we need to close gaps between the mainstream version of crystal and the new version, but we also need to get customers onto the BI 4.0 platform before they can start using the product.

While closing gaps is a definitely a priority for creating interest in the new designer, we also want to introduce new features that will delight users when they find them. Some examples are our new REST and JavaScript APIs, new visualizations capabilities, a focus on best practices in information design, enhanced viewer workflows, and an online library of report templates. I will write posts about those topics later on both Everything Xcelsius and the SAP Community Network.

For now, I’d like to share with you a quick summary of the posts you will see over the next few weeks.

Types of Reports

I plan to write a four part series that will focus on the types of reports that typically created with products like SAP Crystal Reports and how you can go about creating them. The four types of reports that will be covered are: Operational Reports, Short-Term Strategic Reports, Long-Term Strategic Reports, and Forms. Each of these has their place and purpose in a Business Intelligence deployment.

Coy Yonce is a Principal Technical Architect at EV Technologies and has worked in Business Intelligence for over 10 years. Before joining EV Technologies, Coy was a Crystal Reports Product Owner at SAP for many years. His main focus is leading conversations and being active in the BI community. Connect with him directly via:

TwitterSDNZerplyScribdSlideshareLinkedInGoogle+

Sep
20

Interested in Reporting? New SAP Crystal Reports Content Coming Soon

Welcome to the first of many posts on Everything Xcelsius that will cover Crystal Reports. The goal for this post is to introduce myself and explain the series of posts that you will be seeing over the coming months. So let’s get straight to the first of these topics.

My name is Coy Yonce and I’m one of the Product Owners who work on the Crystal Reports product. If you are not familiar with the agile approach to product development, then you may not be familiar with the role of a Product Owner. In essence, I’m a Product Manager and I help create the backlog of features that the development will be building from one release to the next. My role as  Product Owner is a bit different from the role of the other Product Owners on the Crystal Reports team. In all, there are seven of us. The other six work directly with a team of developers and guide those developers during the building of features. My role is that of an outbound Product Owner. I focus on leading conversations with customers and partners so that we have an understanding of what they want to see us include in upcoming versions of the product. As such, I am fairly active on Twitter, blog every so often, conduct surveys, co-host influence council meetings, write articles, interact on forum posts, and monitor ideas on SAP IdeaPlace. I’m sure that there are a few other things as well, but that’s most of it.

Over the next few months, you will see several posts from me. They will be organized into a series of posts on somewhat tactical topics. I have provided an brief overview of the series below. I have listed them in the order that I plan to write; however, I may get a bit sidetracked as I encounter an interesting topic or discussion.

Introduction to SAP Crystal Reports and Enterprise Reporting
This will likely be a single post and will provide an overview of Enterprise Reporting, the market, and how Crystal Reports fits in.

Types of Reports
More than likely, this will be delivered over four posts with each covering a major category of report types that are typically created using Crystal Reports.

Major Features
Again, probably a series of numerous posts with each discussing a category of features that are used together for creating reports in Crystal Reports.

Design Considerations
This series will focus on designing effective reports. Specifically, it will demonstrate how to create reports that follow information design best practices.

Connecting to Data
Crystal Reports currently has over 50 available connections available. This series will focus on not only the types of data available for creating reports, but specific considerations for building reports against some of those data sources.

Sharing Reports
Once you’ve created your reports, you need to distribute them. This series will focus on the methods available for delivering your reports.

Embedding Reports
Crystal Reports has a very large ecosystem of developers from OEM partners and ISVs. Much of what they do is embed pre-built reports into their applications or generate reports at runtime based on data from their applications. This series will focus on how to embed Crystal Reports and leverage your application data.

As you can see the topics are quite broad and will encompass a significant number of posts. As mentioned above, I will attempt to cover these topics in order; however, I may need to skip around a bit to cover a set of related topics properly. In any case, I look forward to blogging on Everything Xcelsius and would like to thank Mico and Soo for the opportunity to interact with such a diverse audience.

Thanks for reading.

Coy Yonce is a Crystal Reports Product Owner at SAP and has worked in Business Intelligence for over 10 years. His  main focus is leading conversations with customers and partners and is very active in the BI community. You may reach out to him directly via email at coy.yonce@sap.com or follow him on twitter: @coyyonce.

Mar
2

Where to get SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards (Xcelsius) Add-Ons

For those of you who have looked to the “Get More Add-Ons” link inside of Xcelsius, you may have noticed that there are no longer add-ons available. Over the last year, it looks like SAP has been slowly de-commissioning the On-Demand community site to emphasize other communities. While we are sad to see it go, I assume that this link will soon point to another location; hopefully somewhere like Ecohub.

There are some realities when it comes to the Xcelsius marketplace and the SDK. The original vision to foster a marketplace for developers to contribute components never took off for many good reasons. The iStore model only works when there is a critical mass around a platform, a marketplace large enough to support commerce, and a dedicated effort to support and evolve the SDK. Instead, we have small but dedicated group of individuals and software solution providers who currently offer powerful complimentary solutions for SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards and Xcelsius. I have been fortunate to see many of them in action over the years and believe that the On-Demand store did not provide visibility to these great solutions.

So where do we go now for SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards and Xcelsius add-on solutions?

SAP ECOHUB

If your organization is deploying enterprise dashboards inside of BusinessObiects using SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards, the first place you can look is SAP Ecohub . This website features certified solutions not only for SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards and Xcelsius, but also other SAP enterprise applications.

VENDOR WEBSITES

The second place, and probably most important are vendor web sites and blogs that provide the level of detail and support that you would require to ultimately make a decision to use or purchase an third party solution.

EVERYTHINGXCELSIUS.COM

A third place to find information about add on solutions for Xcelsius is at EverythingXcelsius.comResources” page. I invite anyone who creates a plugin or complimentary software solutions specifically designed for SAP BusinessObejcts Dashboards or Xcelsius to comment on this post. Perhaps from this, we can generate a permanent list of vendors and products here on EverythingXcelsius.

Hopefully this move will give customers access to certified solutions, and a good venue to host a more complete list of add-ons here to give everyone out there visibility to what is available.

Ryan Goodman is the Founder of Centigon Solutions, an SAP® software solution partner, that is strategically focused on developing add-on products for use with Xcelsius®. To learn more about him, please visit our Gurus page

Jan
4

Xcelsius Gurus Top 10 of 2010

To say that 2010 was a very memorable year for the Xcelsius Gurus community is an understatement.  To see what I mean, take a minute to read my 2010 Top 10 list below.

#10 SAP TechEd Conference

Coming in at #10 is the SAP Teched conference in Las Vegas.  There I had the pleasure of co-hosting the Xcelsius hands-on sessions with 2 of my favorite technical guys from the SAP Xcelsius and RIG team, Matt Lloyd and Patrice Lebhan. The event drew in such a crowd that we had to turn away attendees.  I also had the pleasure of doing a live interview with fellow mentor Jamie Oswald (a must watch for those considering attending TechEd in 2011) and former SAP Executive Marge Breya. There aren’t enough lines to explain how great this event was so click on the links below to see firsthand.

  • Click here to see pics of the event!
  • Click here to view interview #1 with Jamie Oswald and Jason Cao (SAP BusinessObjects Community Leader)
  • Click here to view the interview #2 with former SAP Exec Marge Breya and fellow SAP Mentor Karin Tillotson

#9 Xcelsius Advance Training in Dallas

Hosted by Mike Alexander and myself in Dallas, TX this was a jam packed fun event.  This event is traditionally sold out with a waiting list, so if you are interested do write us an email early to get on the list. We are considering doing one on the West and East coast this year due to popular demand.

#8 EverythingXcelsius Blog Design Update

If you visit our site often enough, and our Google statistics show that many of you do, you have probably noticed that a few months ago we made some small updates to the blog’s design. Two major updates include our sleeker image enriched front page now with enhanced social media buttons and our new ‘Resources’ tab which is a one stop shop for Xcelsius related links on the web. You will also notice that our ‘Showcase’ tab now takes you directly to our commercial website to see examples of some of our guru dashboards which takes us to #7!

#7 Launch of our Commercial Website Benchmarkers Business Intelligence

If you’re wondering why this is so far down the list, it’s because we have yet to do an official launch, as we are still making some small adjustments. Expect to hear more about our official commercial website Benchmarkers Business Intelligence, where we work with some of the world’s biggest companies to deliver state of the art BusinessObjects deployments, migrations and implementation being sure to include our well known and best designed dashboards. We will do an official company launch in Feb 2011, but those who wish to find out more can visit our site http://benchmarkers.com to see how other companies are benefiting from our services.

#6 My SAP Mentor Nomination

It is no secret that the acquisition of BOE by SAP took the BOE community by storm in 2008, me included. I was again taking by a storm when I was informed that I had been nominated by the SAP BOE community to become an SAP mentor.   There isn’t enough space in this blog post to document my adventure in the first year as an SAP Mentor, but I will do a better job to document the journey in 2011.

#5 SAPPHIRE / ASUG Conference

Making our Top 5 is SAPPHIRE, the biggest SAP sales event of the year. Unfortunately, it was not an option for many BOBJ folks who shied away from the heavy SAP ERP presence. Teaming up with ASUG, SAP managed to pull together one of the best events that we ever attended. There was no shortage of BusinessObjects information, just BOE attendees!

#4 Reportapalooza

Coming in at #4 has to be the first official BusinessObjects virtual competition (at least that we know of). With a name like Reportapalooza how could we forget? We emailed asking for your votes and entries, you won prizes, saw some really cool dashboards and then forgot it existed. While the event may have lasted for a bit too long, we do give SAP an A+ for wanting to engage the community with their software. Recruiting big BOE community names like SAP Mentor Jamie Oswald, known author and blogger, Jim Brogden, and myself, it was the first of its kind. Big KUDOS to the winner, Brian Durning at PepsiCo (also ASUG Crystal Reports Chair). Will SAP do another one next year? Guess we’ll have to wait to see.

#3 EverythingXcelsius Social Links reach 1000+

Making the top 3 has to be the fact that our Twitter and Linkedin Group both exceeded 1,000+ followers this year. We are delighted by the tremendous growth and look forward to having you be a part of our community’s evolution in 2011. Lots of exciting changes in 2011. We truly feel that we host the most passionate community members in the SAP BusinessObjects realm and we appreciate all of you!

#2 SAP BusinessObjects User Conference (aka SBOUC) / 2nd Annual Xcelsius Gurus Reception

As the only BusinessObjects conference that currently exists (though more are popping up in 2011) this event took off in Orlando with over 1600+ attendees, a far cry from its despicable attendance in Dallas the year before. On-site was the “Who is Who” in the BOE world, along with tons of informational sessions, and keynote demos of the upcoming BOE XI 4.0 release. Most shocking however was the formal announcement by Steve Lucas, SVP for SAP Business Objects North America that BOE had accounted for 52% of SAP sales up to Q3. We also co-hosted the wildly successful 2nd Annual Xcelsius Gurus Reception with the help and support of the SAP Xcelsius Marketing Team. Pics can be seen here.

#1 SAP Renames Xcelsius

Topping the charts at #1 is of course the Xcelsius name change to SAP Crystal Dashboard Design or #SCDD depending on what day you look on twitter. While some who are in emotional distraught blogged and tweeted that the “Xcelsius name will never die” it is clear that SAP is moving forward with it in an effort to consolidate their Crystal product portfolio. If it is any consolation, SAP took it one step further to leave no rock unturned by also changing the names of long beloved products such as ‘Infoview’ to ‘BI Launchpad’ (1/10/11 Update. Correction – Web Intelligence will not be remained and hence the statement has been removed. Refer to the comments below). They even managed to gain accolade from Gartner who openly criticized SAP for their frequent name changes.

** Just for fun we had to add this video done by fellow SAPMentors Jon ERP & Dennis Howlett on this phenomenon!

What to expect in 2011?

  1. More Conferences, more coverage…
  2. More Gurus covering more topics and products …
  3. More Webinars and Collaberations …
  4. New Community aka “The Evolution” …
  5. Official launch of commercial website Benchmarkers Business Intelligence!

Mico Yuk is a 2010 SAP Mentor and the founder of the Xcelsius Guru Network and the Everything Xcelsius blog. To learn more about her, please visit our About Us page.

Dec
9

HTML5 + Xcelsius: Local Data Storage

Xcelsius does not have a built-in feature that allows the storage of local data, a commonly requested piece of functionality. Up until very recently there has been no really easy way to accomplish it with simple client tools, and one way or another it required jumping through several hoops. Fortunately, HTML 5 brings us a feature called localStorage, which allows HTML pages to store data locally across browser sessions and after the closing of the browser window. This is one of many capabilities that HTML5 brings to the table, transforming the browser into a tool with much more potential for serving up fast, more powerful and lightweight applications.

(more…)

Dec
7

Webinar Alert: Fast-Tracking your BI Career One Dashboard at a Time!

With all the new BI trends and themes evolving today, how do you keep your career on track?

We are excited to announce a free webinar, hosted by Xcelsius Guru and SAP Mentor, Mico Yuk and a surprise guest, that will provide a first hand look at key trends and themes within the BI industry and insight on how to take your career to the next level.

During the webinar the following important topics will discussed:

1. The future of the BI Industry and how dashboards will play an integral part
2. How to navigate your career in 2011 and take it to the next level
3. How to monopolize the emerging mobile technologies

Your Next Steps:

  • Click here to Register!
  • Mark the date on your calenders: Wednesday, December 15, 2010, at 1pm EST, 10am PST
  • Attend the webinar with your questions

We encourage anyone looking to get their BI career on track and to the next level to register today, as seats are limited. We look forward to this very exciting webinar!

Soo Tang Yuk fosters and evangelizes the ‘Xcelsius Gurus Network” and its communities. To find out more about her, please visit the About Us page.

Nov
9

Integrating Xcelsius into Crystal Reports Series – 2 of 3

As usual, before getting started I want to provide a quick recap of where we are with the Reportapalooza competition. This is the last week of voting before the final winner is announced on Nov 22th!

  • Challenge #1 (Done) – Winner , Mico Yuk (Check out my Coffee Consumption Calculator)
  • Challenge #2 (Done) – Winner, Mico Yuk (based on traffic sent to Report a Hero Page)
  • Challenge #3 (Done) – Winner, Brian Durning (voted best Crystal Reports Video by Community)
  • Challenge #4 (Done) – Winner, David Deitch (voted best Charity Dashboard by Community)
  • Challenge #5 (In Progress)What this series of blog post is about.
  • Community Dashboard Challenge (In Progress) – Vote until Nov 12th, 2010 for your favorite community dashboard.

In Part 1 of this series I went over some Q&A on what it would take to embed your Xcelsius visualization (in this case a map) into your Crystal Report, as well as some pros and cons.   In Part 2 I am going to cover how to set up your map in Xcelsius so that it can be consumed by Crystal Reports.  For this example we will be using Google Maps (compliments of Centigon Solutions) as it much more robust than the out of box maps in Xcelsius.

5 Simple Step to getting your Xcelsius (aka #SCDD) model ready!

1.       Install Google Maps Plug-in for Xcelsius (more details on how to do this here)

2.       Add the  GMaps Plugin to your Xcelsius dashboard

3. Configure your Excel spreadsheet to hold 2 columns of data for the Google Map: 1) Map Address 2) Map Labels

4.       Go to Data Connections in Xcelsius -> Add the ‘Crystal Reports Data Consumer’ Connection


5.       Configure the ‘Crystal Reports Data Consumer’ Connection so that the ‘Row Headers’ are bound to the  Excel cell area you created in Step #3

In Part 3 I will focus on the final step:  Bringing your Xcelsius Map into Crystal Reports.

One last thing, please don’t forget to cast your votes on the 3 dashboards that were submitted by the community to show your support.

Mico Yuk is a 2010 SAP Mentor and the founder of the Xcelsius Guru Network and the Everything Xcelsius blog. To learn more about her, please visit our About Us page.

Oct
29

Integrating Xcelsius into Crystal Reports Series – 1 of 3

Before getting started, I want to provide a quick update on the Reportapalooza competition:

Unfortunately, I fell a bit behind while attending 2 SAP Conferences back to back this month.  Sorry if I let anyone down but I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the support.  I also want to give a huge CONGRATS to our current leader David Deitch who is an Xcelsius beginner turned Guru in this competition!

Now to Challenge #5.  Labeled the ‘Report Remix’ challenge, I am tasked with learning more about Crystal Reports 2008 and sharing it with YOU the community, hence the ‘remix’ which is to take you on the journey with me of learning a new Crystal product :) .  Below is my official public statement:

So let’s get started with a few simple questions?

Q. How can you integrate Xcelsius flash files into your Crystal Reports?

A. It’s a 2 step process. You first have to configure the Crystal Reports Data Consumer connection in Xcelsius (seen below) and then use the .swf button in Crystal Reports to embed the Xcelsius flash file. (More details on how to setup each will be provided in the next article)

Q. What are the Pros and Cons?

A. Pros – It is no secret that Xcelsius’ ability to handle large amounts of data is VERY limited. By embedding your Xcelsius flash file into Crystal Reports you get to leverage the power of the Crystal engine while utilizing the beautiful graphics in Xcelsius. It’s like having the best of both worlds.  In fact, in my next blog posts I am going to show how to integrate a map in Xcelsius into a Crystal Report.

A. Cons – If your not as familiar with Xcelsius you may have some issues using the ‘Crystal Reports Data Consumer’ connection. It could use some fine tuning (note to the  Product Team :) )

One more thing! This is your last week to submit your dashboards to the community Reportapalooza competition.  Hope you read this far down,  because if you have something worth seeing I am opening the door to review any entries that you send via email to gurus at everythingxcelsius.com and provide feedback if sent by 10/31 @ 12am EST.

Mico Yuk is a 2010 SAP Mentor and the founder of the Xcelsius Guru Network and the Everything Xcelsius blog. To learn more about her, please visit our About Us page.

Jan
1

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all! We wish you and your families, Prosperity, Health, and Unlimited Happiness for this New Year!!