Windward Studios Review

We use it to write all our package reports, and we allow clients to make their own custom reports with it


What is our primary use case?

We are a software company. We put out a payroll and personnel software package. We use it to write all our package reports, and we allow our clients to make their own custom reports with it, as well.

How has it helped my organization?

This is a tough question, because we are a software vendor, and we use it as an add-on to our software to write the reports for it. It's improved our software, but it hasn't really improved our company.

Of course, we use our own software to do our own HR and payroll, but we don't use Windward to do financial reports. We use whatever is in the financial software that we use.

What is most valuable?

The fact that it uses Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel as base templates, so when you generate, it's easy for clients to upgrade, and maintain, and generate out either a PDF or an actual Excel spreadsheet.

The ability for users to have design and layout control is very important. If clients or my developers can't lay out things into specific spots, we couldn't produce reports that look like forms. We have to produce things that look like check stubs or that look like W2s, or of different government reports requiring a specific form layout.

What needs improvement?

It is a very good product. It does everything we need it to do. The only thing I can think of, that we'd like it to do, would be the ability to "burst out" reports, meaning one section of a report could be sent out as an email to a manager of a department, say, without having to run multiple reports to do it. As it sits now, we have to do multiple reports to do it.

For how long have I used the solution?

More than five years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It is software, so there are always times where things don't work. Most of the time issues happen when trying to move to a new version. There might be problems with reports that were created in an older version, so either we have to make a tweak to the templates or we report it to them and get them to make an adjustment to their software.

For the most part, it's been quite stable for all the different releases we've been on.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We haven't encountered scalability issues with their product directly. With the way we implemented it, we've had some issues, so we're looking at trying to change it to more their standard way of implementing it, which should work better. We've had problems with the way we implemented it, and tied it in to our software, using that custom data source I mentioned.

How is customer service and technical support?

They've been very good. They're very prompt and fast. We've been using it for quite a while now, so at times, I've even talked to the president or the CEO, whenever we've needed to get an extra boost, because we've needed something a little more quickly. But their support has been awesome.

Which solutions did we use previously?

We used to use Oracle Reports before this. We had gotten word that Oracle was phasing it out, plus it was something that you really had to be technical to use, and you had to have their tool to make any changes. It was a challenge at times, so we looked for a new solution.

Before that, we were on a tool called Speedware. I've been here for a long, long time through several generations of software. Technology changes. You have to move to new tools that keep up with the software that you're using.

How was the initial setup?

The way we've implemented it, for our clients, it's basically plug and play. They plug it in and they run the reports through our software, and away they go.

For somebody to make reports or modify reports, there's a plug-in called AutoTag, that goes into Microsoft Word and Excel. It's somewhat on the technical side, so somebody that doesn't understand database structures might not be able to use it very well. It helps to have a little training, but they offer a lot of free training sessions, which helps.

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

This is tough to say, because we have a contract with them, where we we sell it for use with our application only, in a package bundle. We're reselling it to our clients, so I can't really comment on what they might sell to somebody that was going to use it in-house. We negotiated our prices many years ago, and while they go up a little bit here and there, they've been pretty steady.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Because it was seven or eight years ago, I don't remember a lot of what we looked at. I do remember we looked at Crystal Reports, but we looked at somewhere between a half dozen and a dozen different options before paring it down and going with Windward. If you compare something like Windward to something like Crystal Reports, Windward is cheap. Crystal Reports is outrageously priced.

What other advice do I have?

We have developed somewhere around 600 - 700 base product reports that we ship, and then custom reports for our clients. They're all over the ballpark, for printing off W2s in the US, T4s in Canada, clients' check stubs, general ledger reports, time sheets; any types of payroll and personnel-type reports.

The main data source we use for most of our reports is a custom one. They have the ability to hook in your own data source, written in Java. We have a custom data source that runs through our apps, or our app serves up the data for the reports. We also do some that are XML format, some that go directly to the Oracle Database to query up the data.

What we were looking for was, a report has got to come out pretty fast, but it all depends on the amount of data, the amount of pages it is. You can't have a report take 10 minutes to produce one page of data. A 1,000-page report might take 10 minutes to formulate all the data and produce the report.

In this day and age, there are so many different tools out there. It really doesn't make sense to create your own package, when you can easily plug in a third-party. Our strength is not in producing software that's going to produce reports. Our strength is in creating a product that does human resources or payroll functionality. It made more sense to add on a third-party tool for doing the reports, and then we just create the reports, and not try to have to deal with the software level underneath.

I would advise others not to go the route we did, with the custom data source. It makes it a challenge, when you do have a problem, because you're trying to isolate where the problem is. Is it in our software? Is it in the handover of the data to their software, or is it in the report template? Using their base, standard type of deployment and usage is the better way to go.

It's great. It's a good product. For a relatively technical person, it's relatively easy to use. It works in Word and it works in Excel. There may be easier to use products out there, but typically, something that's easier to use isn't as powerful. There is always that trade-off.

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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