Posts Tagged ‘Crystal Reports’

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.