Crystal Enterprise saves creation time

System management enhancements, the ability to use Boolean searches on reports and tighter integration for embedding content highlight the latest version of Crystal Enterprise.

Crystal Decisions Inc., a Vancouver-based information management company, recently unveiled Version 9 of its reporting and analysis tool.

Marc Borbas, product manager for Crystal Enterprise 9, said one of the key features is the ability to reuse pieces of old reports to develop new ones.

“(This means) I may create a very complex formula to calculate my sales forecast at the end of the month, and [if] I wanted to use that across multiple reports, I could put that in a single repository and use it across a bunch of reports,” he said.

There are a number of new tools to help users analyze reports in greater detail, and the advanced report viewer feature provides the ability to do Boolean searches on reports as opposed to simple keyword searches.

Other additions include system management enhancements such as the ability to migrate reports from test environments to production environments. According to Borbas, many users first run a report in a test environment to ensure its effectiveness.

“It used to be a much more mechanical and manual process, so we’ve now provided an automated way to do that,” he said.

Crystal Enterprise 9 also provides tighter Web application integration capabilities for embedding business-driven report content into Java, .Net and component object model applications. An example of this is providing greater front-end portal support.

Crystal Decisions is looking to add ad-hoc reporting to Crystal Enterprise 9, which is the ability for users to create reports “on-the-fly”. This function will be built into an upcoming version of Crystal Enterprise 9, the Premium Edition, slated for release in the first half of this year, according to Borbas.

Joe Gottron, executive vice-president and CIO at Huntington Bank, in Columbus, Ohio, said the bank is currently using Crystal Enterprise v8.5, and plans to upgrade to v9.0 in the end of the first quarter, or early in the second quarter, of this year.

Al Werner, vice-president of corporate systems at the bank, said some of the features that drove his firm to choose Crystal Enterprise included its Web deployment features and the integration of Crystal Reports into Crystal Enterprise.

“[The ability] to be able to deploy a report that was designed in Crystal Reports to any user through the Internet was a very key ability we wanted to leverage,” he said, and noted it was easy to deploy and easy for users to learn.

Gottron added that Crystal Decisions’ support and customer service skills were an added bonus.

“What was very important to me and to our team, was the way Crystal partnered with us and got engaged in helping us build our vision and roadmap, and posturing much more like a partner versus a vendor,” he said. “They invested heavily up front before there was any commitment in terms of helping us identify and build that roadmap.”

Werner said he would like to see out-of-the-box enhanced report archiving functionality in the product; this includes long-range storing of reports and increased security features.

“For example, where I can pull up a report and I can only see content I’m suppose to see,” he explained. “All those capabilities can be custom-built for the user, but I would like to see something out-of-the-box.”

Mike Schiff, vice-president of data warehousing and BI with Current Analysis, based in Sterling, Va., also noted the integration of Crystal Reports in Crystal Enterprise. He said Crystal Decisions is using Enterprise to extend the functionality of Crystal Reports. “[It’s] obviously scaling to enterprise,” he said.

“The big thing is that Crystal is taking steps so people recognize it is definitely more than a desktop tool, it is indeed an enterprise solution, and (Crystal Enterprise) is the umbrella that packages it all together,” he added.

There are currently three editions: the Report Application Server Edition, the Standard Edition and the Professional Edition. Prices range from US$2,000 to US$75,000.

Crystal Enterprise 9 is currently available only for Microsoft Corp.’s Windows 2000 and NT platforms. However, other versions are available for the Unix platforms.