The ability to connect to most databases, be it Lawson, PeopleSoft, Excel or Access and that is only to name a few. The customization for clients is the absolute favorite feature, not to mention that I can do more formulas and bring in more data than most other reporting software that I have used. This includes using and tying in multiple databases.
Improvements to My Organization
With the reports I have created, mostly financial, it gives the business owners an easy way to see how their money is being spent, where it's going to and to see if they are remaining on budget and if not to adjust how they spend throughout the rest of the year. This alone is the single most important factor but not the only one. My clients use my reports for Inventory Control, Payroll and Human Resources purposes as well. All these reports can save a company lots of money if they are used as they are supposed to be.
Room for Improvement
I think the product is great and has so much now but I have noticed that it is not Excel 10 compatible and when the reports are extracted to XLS it defaults to MS Office version 95-97 which has dropped rows of data from sheet to sheet. I would like to see the ability to use the most current versions of MS Office.
Use of Solution
I have used Crystal Reports for approximately 15 years starting with CR Developer 8.
There were no issues with the deployment.
Nothing that minor adjustments in the report developer did not fix. Once I had made the adjustments in CR Developer there was no issue in LBI which is where I deploy 90% of my reports to.
It's been able to scale for our needs.
Customer Service and Technical Support
Customer service was great I had a couple questions and they walked me thru it quick and easy.
The two times I have called support for the product have been very pleasant. The technical support person was very friendly, knowledgeable and knew how to fix my issue immediately. The second time I called I was on hold for about 17-20 minutes but again the person on the other end was very cordial and knew exactly how to fix my issue.
I have used numerous report writers in the past and by far Crystal Reports is the best. The user friendliness and versatility to create custom reports and designs to fit my customers needs has been a real useful business tool.
Initial set up was straightforward. You got instructions on how to install Crystal, how to set up your ODBC connections and the Oracle 10g client, which is what my business uses. There were no problems with the install on any of the PC's or desktops within the organization.
We did the install in-house. The only advice that I can give is to follow the instructions given they are literally fool proof and very straightforward. I would recommend that the Oracle Client, if that is what you are using, be installed first, then install Crystal Reports. Other than that there was no issues.
Pricing, Setup Cost and Licensing
We are a large organization so we called and arranged a package of 25+ licenses at a real good rate. We paid for the product once then the additional licenses for the personal that would be using the software on a daily basis not to mention the license we had to have for LBI. We had gotten a great deal and I recommend that if you need more than one license to buy it. We have a few extra just in case, you never know when you will be adding another person who would need Crystal Reports.
Other Solutions Considered
I did not evaluate any other products but have used Report Smith, Lawson Report Writer and MS SQL Developer in the past and have found that Crystal Reports has more versatility, is easier to use, and meets the needs of my clients and organization better.
If your company has a reporting need which almost all do, then I would highly recommend Crystal Reports. I use the product so much in the past 15 years that I ended up becoming a CRCP as well.
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.