Windward Studios Review

Allows me to generate complex reports directly inside Word or Excel

What is our primary use case?

Report generation.

How has it helped my organization?

It's tough to give you an example of how it's improved things, because I really wasn't doing anything of this nature prior to implementing the solution. So it's hard for me to give you an example of that. I can say that, in implementing this solution, I was able to meet and exceed the project goals I had towards the deliverable, and what that deliverable would look like.

What is most valuable?

The two features that I like the best are the ability to generate Word and Excel documents, and the ability to create my templates directly inside those software sets.

It's absolutely critical for me as a user to have design and layout control, because all of my reports are very, very customized. I have to have control over the ability to generate and to control what they look like.

What needs improvement?

There are some - and they've made some positive changes to this already - but there is always room for improvement in the speed, especially with the complex, multi-line Excel spreadsheets. They made some improvements in the last version that are quantum-fold faster than when I first started. But there is always room for improvement there. You always want reports faster and faster. Everybody wants instantaneous reports, doesn't want have to wait. Anything that can be done to speed that up would be an enhancement, for me. 

The other thing that I have requested that would be nice, there are some Excel formatting things that you lose when you implement a template: some default Excel validation scripts, macros. You could create them in Excel if you were just using Excel, but in creating a template that generates a report, some of those validation things are lost. You just don't have the ability to create them before they are spit out. That would be a nice enhancement to see.

For how long have I used the solution?

One to three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I have not noticed any stability issues. It's a very stable platform, once you get your template built.

Now, in learning to build the templates, you will experience some learning curves, learning what works and what doesn't, and how you have to, like in any software, implement things. But once you have a stable template built, it's extremely stable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Since I've only been implementing it for a year, we haven't pushed it to its limits yet. I'll probably know more next year, and in the years to come, how scalable it is.

It seems as though it's going to be completely scalable for me, at this point. It doesn't seem like I'm going to hit a limitation for resources or anything like that. But again, this might be a hard thing for me to answer since we only implemented a year ago. I implemented it as a pilot last year for a new project, to prove that it was possible to do. It was very successful. And now it's starting to be scaled this year a little bit further. In the years to come, we'll continue to scale it further and further. It is possible I could hit some scaling thresholds it won't scale past. But at this point I'm not aware of them.

How are customer service and technical support?

I have used tech support on a number of occasions. I haven't done any official training on the product, I just use their Wiki page and send questions to support as I need them. I would always have an answer within 24 hours. It's not always the answers you want but, like all support, it's the answer you get.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

The only report generation I had done prior to this, was creating our own HTML reports. It was very time consuming and tedious. I wanted to find a software set that would allow me to generate Excel and Word reports that would look the way I wanted them to look. I am a non-programmer, so I needed a software set that would allow me, as a non-technical programmer, to be able to accomplish that.

I did evaluate building a custom solution, but the cost of producing reports of this complexity, and building it myself from scratch, would have taken me three to possibly even 10 times the amount of time it took me to create these templates. And instead of creating them myself, I would have had to employ developer resources to create them. The cost would have been quantum-fold more than what we've invested in the Windward solution.

How was the initial setup?

It was extremely straightforward. It's pretty much out-of-the-box. If you can use Excel or Word you can figure out how to create Windward template.

There is a learning curve, as with all things with complex pieces, when you want to get a lot more detailed. But we, with no official training, have been able to create some what I feel are pretty robust reports.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

For what you're getting, it's an extremely good value.

I implemented, I believe they call it a single-core license. It's working just fine for me. I can see where, at some point, I'm going to want to upgrade and invest in a multi-core license, because I want to expand this into other product offerings, because it does such a good job.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

This is my first foray into reporting software. I did evaluate Crystal Reports, and some other well known reporting software. It just seemed to me that Windward would be easier. And I loved the idea of being able to generate templates myself in the programs that I wanted to have as the ultimate reporting tool, like Word and Excel. That was the selling point to me. I hadn't used any in the past, so I had nothing to compare it to. That was my decision-maker, that's why I went with Windward.

What other advice do I have?

At this point we really only have four or five different templates. We're generating documents through a Web portal. There are lots of documents being created but they're all being created off of four or five different templates. But the templates we've created are pretty complex. We're generating directly from a Web-hosted SQL database.

If you like to play with software and learn it for yourself, you would be just fine doing as I did, and going through the Wiki pages. But if you have immediate project needs, I could see that consulting and training would be extremely useful for it. It took me, probably, three or four months to get my reports where I really wanted them, and learn all the nuances of the software. But I like to play with software and I wanted to learn it that way. That was a choice I made. 

That would be my only advice: To evaluate whether you may want additional training and consulting services to go with the purchase.

I don't think I will ever give anybody a 10 out of 10 because there are always slight areas for improvement. But I think that their product does exactly what they say it will. They deliver what they say so there is not a lot that they can do to improve.

**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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