Windward Studios Review

It has streamlined a lot of our reporting processes

What is our primary use case?

The primary use case is for report automation.

How has it helped my organization?

It has streamlined a lot of our reporting processes. Windward gives you the ability to have a centralized reporting platform. There are many applications out there that have their own reports. Windward provides a centralized enterprise solution. For example, I had a program that I had written, which needed print capabilities. With the Windward interface, I was able create a different report platform inside of this new application leveraging Windward. Then, within a day or two, I had reports coming out of the new system, using the existing Windward platform.

  • From an efficiency perspective, it is obviously top-notch. 
  • From an integration perspective, they provide the code for you to easily integrate with existing applications. 
  • From a business perspective, it only makes sense to use Windward as your one centralized automated reporting platform.

What is most valuable?

You can use Microsoft Office as your designer interface. This is the best feature that I've come across. There is very little programming. You can have nontechnical people create reports. It makes it more accessible to almost anyone who knows how to use Microsoft Office. If you know how to use Office, then you know how to maintain, format, and edit a report. This has helped our free up our developers for other tasks. We don't have to rely on IT anymore to make modifications to reports. We can have business users go in there and make the modifications themselves. If they need to change a certain paragraph, highlight, bold, or move something onto a different page, all that can be done by the business user just knowing how to use Word. They don't have to have any sort of programming or technical expertise. 

Its speed is where we receive key performance. The performance is fantastic. I have customers and clients who are pumping out 7000 to 10,000 documents per week, and it's doing it flawlessly. I don't think I've had a single issue with a report not being generated as a result of the Windward Engine.

Windward's interface is quite user-friendly. I have helped more than a dozen of my clients get up to speed on how to use the Windward Designer. In all cases, two to three days is all you need to have somebody be proficient enough to start creating templates. There is very little training required, and the more technical you are, the quicker you'll pick it up. Even nontechnical individuals have had no issues getting up to speed on the product, it's use, and to be able to start creating templates.

The layout and design are extremely, well laid out. They have a lot of tutorials which are available within the designer interface. So, if at any point you have any questions, you can simple search the tutorials. They provide sample templates for you, even generating code on the fly. If you need to integrate it into an existing application, you can do it in more than one language. whether it's VB, C#, Python, or Ruby. The amount of flexibility that it provides is fantastic.

Portable Object Doclets (PODs), from a usability perspective, are great. If I have a header that is needed in multiple documents, I could just create a POD for that header portion of it, then drag and drop that POD in any template that I want. I don't have to worry about recreating it in multiple places. It's simply create it once and reuse it multiple times. I don't have to worry about creating database connections, as all of that is embedded inside the POD, which makes it extremely flexible. The drag and drop capabilities are extremely easy to use.

What needs improvement?

Their PDF needs improvement. We've run into some issues when we tried to generate a Word document. If we try to generate the same document in PDF, sometimes it doesn't look exactly the same.

We have gone back to Windward support a couple of times on a few issues, e.g., we had some issues with reports that had barcodes on them. The barcode wasn't displaying properly. It was displaying as a skewed image as opposed to an actual barcode. Therefore, we worked with Windward support, having some daily calls with them. Then, within the next release, they were able to resolve the issue. They even gave us a pre-release, so we could implement it into our code before the actual official release on the website.

It would be nice to have some sort of workflow capability within the product. Anytime you generate a document, nine out of ten times, there is something which precedes that document, whether it's entering parameters in, e.g., if I'm requesting the status report for a project. The first thing that I usually want from a status perspective is which project is the status report for and which week is it for, as those are some of the things that I have to supply before I can generate a document. From a work flow perspective, it would be nice to say "This project belongs to this person, and this person is okay with me pulling information out of this document for whatever need I have."

From a workflow perspective, I would like a wizard interface that goes step-by-step, like a questionnaire, where there are a bunch of things that you have to answer, "Yes or no," before it knows what to do or how to produce the document. Right now, we write our own custom UI for this.

For how long have I used the solution?

Six Years

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

So far, so good. We've had our server here running for more than a couple years. Other than maintenance updates on the server, I don't think we've ever had an issue with the Windward Engine stopping, forcing us to go and restart it. It's sort of like we set it and forget about it. It does what it needs to do. We have never had any issues with it.

We have had bugs from a report perspective. As far as the execution of reports and running them through the engine themselves, we have not had bugs. As long as a report runs successfully out of their designer, we've had no issues with the Windward Engine.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The scalability is good. We started off with a few documents here and there. Now, we are all the way up to pumping out 7000 to 10,000 documents a week. 

The way that they've got it licensed is pretty good as well, as you can buy it by the core. So, if I buy a two core license, and I feel that I need to scale up, I can always purchase another two cores to make it a total of four. 

In my organization, there are probably over a dozen people using it, who are mostly developers. However, I've had folks on the business side across many of my clients use it. For example, I have a client who has over 40 people using it with about 90 percent of those 40 people from the business side.

How are customer service and technical support?

Windward support is top-notch. I don't think I've ever had an issue waiting on them for anything. They're responsive, and if there's an issue that needs to be solved, they're fairly quick to solve it. If you need something answered, they are pretty responsive and attentive to anything that comes up that is product related.

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

We were previously using a combination of things. We were using SSRS, which is Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services, and reports out of Microsoft Access. So, we were able to consolidate both of these applications and leverage Windward to do all of our reporting. We switched to Windward because it easier to use, easier to maintain, and more cost-effective.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was straightforward. A few clicks and you're ready to go. It took us less than five minutes to install.

For maintenance, as far as the actual Windward product goes, it really doesn't need anybody. Unless something happens to the hardware, the server is just constantly running. The only time you would need somebody (from a support perspective) is if you wanted to make a change or add a report to the system. So, it is very low maintenance.

What about the implementation team?

I did the implementation. I was given some requirements as far as what the organization was sort of looking for:

  • It had to be user-friendly.
  • It had to be lightweight.
  • It had to be flexible enough, so it could be used by more than just IT. 

The proof of concept along with our whole Windward experience has proven all three of these. It is also cost effective, along with easy to use and its performance is right up there with the best of them.

What was our ROI?

It has helped to reduce costs. One of the departments that we are working with came back, and said, "They saw an increase of 70 percent efficiency as a result of using or leveraging Windward reports versus the old platform."

IT can now focus on strictly IT initiatives. They are not bogged down by business personnel asking them to change minor things and reports. We can now leverage the business to make changes on their own. This frees up IT resources for some more important things.

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

The pricing is fair. The way that they have it priced is the Windward Designer has a price that's associated with it. Then, depending on the number of cores that you're looking for, that is the price that you pay. The more cores that you want, the more expensive it is. Regardless of what the price is, it's still more cost-effective than some of the other reporting tools out there.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We also looked at HotDocs. 

We chose Windward because it was the quickest to respond. They had a seven-day trial that was available, which was easy for me to download, and start using their application and to build out a proof of concept within a couple of hours. It was also more cost-effective than the competition, and that sweetened the deal.

What other advice do I have?

I would recommend someone to download a trial to see how easy it is to use for themselves. The price, technology, and performance are a natural fit for anybody who is looking to build a centralized enterprise reporting solution within their environment.

Before implementing, I downloaded a trial version, updated some trial keys, played around with the product for a couple of days, and had something up and running fairly quickly. Within a couple of hours, I had my first report. Then, I spent the next couple of days refining it, adding more sources, and getting it to a point where I could show it to the business and say, "Is this what you were looking for?" I was able to use that as a proof of concept and generate additional revenue as a result.

Internally, we probably won't be increasing our business usage. Across our clients, as the amount of information coming in starts to grow and the need for reporting starts to grow, I can see there will be an uptick in terms of either the number of licenses that we're going to need or the number of people who we are going to need to get trained on creating initial reports.

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. The reviewer's company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner.
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