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:

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2 Responses to “Enterprise Reporting: How does Crystal Reports fit in and where is it going?”

  1. Mark Richardson says:

    Great overview – looking forward to the rest of the series….

  2. santosh says:

    Very good introduction.. looking forward to the future blogs Coy.

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