What is most valuable?
The fact that I can write my own SQL command to pull data for a report. You can just select tables and join them together and get a report, but there are times when you need to do something more complex than just a simple query. I have used this to do things such as getting just the most recent records in a set of data, all of the procedures for a patient where the patient had a specific procedure, pivoting data so that I don’t have to use a cross-tab, and much more. At this point, if a report is going to use more than two tables, I’ll generally write the SQL for it so that I can tune it to make it run faster. I’ve written a blog about the best practices for working with commands, which can be found here: http://scn.sap.com/community/crystal-reports/blog/2015/04/01/best-practices-when-using-commands-with-crystal-reports.
Also, the ability to export reports to a variety of formats, even though there are limited options for formatting that output.
How has it helped my organization?
Not my specific organization, as I am a consultant. However, for many of my clients this is the de-facto reporting tool for operational data. Especially because it can either be integrated into an application using either the .NET or Java SDK, or reports can be published to Crystal Reports Server (an economical version of SAP Business Objects that just runs Crystal reports.) There are also many third-party tools available for working with Crystal Reports.
What needs improvement?
There are very few options for formatting reports that are exported to Excel or PDF formats.
The “Report Definition” export doesn’t contain all of the information about a report. The only way to get all of the configuration of a report is to write a program using one of the SDKs or to purchase a third-party tool.
SAP Crystal Reports for Enterprise, which is the new version of Crystal Reports that is optimized for working with HANA, BEx queries, and other things specific to SAP’s other products definitely lags behind “classic” Crystal Reports in terms of features – especially when it comes to formatting objects.
For how long have I used the solution?
I've used it for 19 years – since version 4.5. When I first started with it, I was also using its Delphi VCL component, and now I use the SAP Crystal for Visual Studio .NET component as well as the SAP Crystal for Eclipse Java components.
What was my experience with deployment of the solution?
There were no issues with the deployment.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
We haven't faced any issues.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
I have not had any issues with deployment or stability. However, with SDK there are limitations on the number of open reports (3) and the usage of sub-reports (no more than 99 visible instances of a sub-report within a single run of a report). The options for scaling up from that are to purchase SAP Crystal Reports Server or SAP Business Objects, both of which can be expensive for smaller companies.
How are customer service and technical support?
For companies that just have SAP Crystal Reports without one of the SAP server products that come with annual maintenance, about 3/10. Since SAP purchased the product, they have not spent much time focusing on companies that just own Crystal Reports, choosing to focus instead on the large companies that are running other, larger SAP products. However, there is a very good online community available at http://scn.sap.com/community/crystal-reports. There are several SAP support folks who answer questions there along with several other folks (like me) who are experts in the software. This is the “go-to” place for support and we’ll try to answer questions so that users can avoid having to pay to open a case with SAP.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
I have used several reporting tools, including Web Intelligence which comes with SAP Business Objects. Each has its own place in the grand scheme of deploying a Business Intelligence solution. Crystal Reports is the tool for “picture perfect” reports, like form letters, or for very complex requirements. It is also a moderately priced tool that is good for smaller companies or for companies producing software that requires some reporting capabilities.
How was the initial setup?
As a desktop tool, it’s very easy to install. The one thing that can be a “gotcha” is that you have to be logged in as a user that has Administrator credentials on the workstation because the install updates registry settings and adds a couple of files to subfolders under C:\Windows.
What about the implementation team?
For implementing just SAP Crystal Reports, there’s no need for a vendor team. However, it’s very helpful to get some training on how to use the software. For the server products, like SAP Crystal Reports Server, it can be helpful to have an SAP Partner assist with configuration and training.
What other advice do I have?
The tool can be incredibly powerful and flexible for generating reports. However, there is a somewhat steep learning curve to get beyond writing “basic” reports.