Crystal Reports is practically synonymous with business intelligence (BI). Developed in the early 1990s, the original software went through several acquisitions and name changes before its parent company was bought by SAP in 2007, which then rebranded the software as Crystal Reports in 2011. As one would expect from a product that has been around for so long – and one that is owned by software giant SAP – it’s widely used and very popular.
As the amount of data generated grows, so does the need for software that can make sense of it. According to the World Economic Forum, the entire digital universe is expected to be 44 zettabytes in 2020 — that’s a number that was almost incomprehensible 30 years ago. Businesses are tasked with managing this data and using it to determine growth metrics, business strategies, and more. They rely on business intelligence software to visualize it and make it actionable and usable.
As volumes of data grow, however, so do the needs of the businesses that use it, and in some cases, they’re finding Crystal Reports is no longer the right tool for their needs. There are several reasons this might be the case; let’s look at a few of them.
Crystal Report Challenge 1: Cost of upgrading
One of the downsides to software that has been around so long and through so many permutations is that older versions are not easy to upgrade. Many organizations are still operating legacy versions of Crystal Reports, and there is a cost to upgrade to the most current version. And even once a company shells out the cost of the upgrade, there is work to be done.
There is no simple migration path from the older versions of the software, so companies performing an upgrade must completely redo their reports. After factoring in the cost and amount of work required, many organizations simply decide to switch to another software.
Crystal Report Challenge 2: Difficulty of use
Crystal Reports has added several new features, including dashboards and web access, that users expect in BI software. Despite that, however, the look and feel are still that of a legacy software application.
Users of the software find it difficult to navigate, noting a preference for newer software that has a sleeker, more straightforward interface, and better user experience.
Crystal Report Challenge 3: Slow pace of development
SAP is one of the world’s largest software companies with hundreds of products in its lineup. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does mean that a legacy product like Crystal Reports might not get the attention some others do. SAP appears to have shifted its priorities and focus to some of its other products —Crystal Reports was last updated in 2016.
While still supported, it’s a bit of a dinosaur compared to some other software, both within and outside the SAP ecosystem.
Crystal Report Challenge 4: Lack of access to data
The most common use case for Crystal Reports is to provide users with static reports, whether for internal or external use. However, today’s users tend to demand more self-service features and the ability to access data more dynamically, but to get this from SAP, users must move to BusinessObjects — a considerably more expensive product.
Crystal Report Challenge 5: Dependence on specialized report writers
Crystal Developer report writers are specialized, and companies find themselves tied to keeping these workers on board, either in a full-time capacity or as a consultant. When it is the latter, the organization must pay every time they want to make a change or even a minor tweak to a report. Full-time Crystal Report writers, on the other hand, often find themselves wanting to move on from the role, as some of the previously mentioned issues – a slow update cycle and lack of newer features – make it a less desirable position. They also tend to have many other responsibilities and are often too busy to make frequently requested changes to reports.
Companies seeking alternatives to Crystal Reports are typically looking for software that fulfills specific requirements. They will still need to be able to create the same types of reports – ideally in an easier, more user-friendly way. Crystal Reports has the benefit of being affordable, while many of the alternatives in the space are not, so that may be a consideration when shopping for a replacement. Finally, most Crystal Report users have databases on private networks and do not want to move to a cloud-based platform.
While Crystal Reports remains a reliable, functional piece of software, it is not the only game in town. Businesses looking for ways to analyze data may find several alternatives that have arrived on the scene that can meet their needs just as well – or even better.
How Can DashboardFox Help As An Alternative To Crystal Reports
We speak to a lot of Crystal Reports/Business Objects users that are looking for a new reporting tool. That’s how we learned about some of the issues we discussed above.
We always aim to be as honest and transparent when we compare DashboardFox to another product, so here is a list of what we hear Crystal Report customers like and dislike about DashboardFox.
What Crystal Report Users Like About DashboardFox
Modern BI Platform
Crystal Users like that DashboardFox is new, web-based, and is designed to give business users access to dashboards, self-service/ad-hoc reporting, email scheduling, mobile, and tablet views.
DashboardFox is Self-Hosted
We find many Crystal Report customers have their data already on-premise in their own databases and are not looking to copy their data into a 3rd party cloud or change their architecture. They like that they can install DashboardFox on a server in their private network.
DashboardFox Pricing Model
Existing Crystal Report organizations tend to find the cost of new, modern BI platforms ridiculous upon research. Especially the mainstream ones. They don’t care much for expensive subscription pricing. DashboardFox with a one-time fee and then optional maintenance is exactly what they are looking for. They also like the Concurrent User Session license and the Public View report licenses.
What Crystal Report Users Don’t Like About DashboardFox
Having To Rewrite Existing Reports
Most Crystal Report organizations have a lot of existing reports in use. We can’t import those Crystal Report rpt files or use that existing SQL queries to automatically generate DashboardFox. So there is a little bit of time needed to do a transition.
However, many conclude that taking a hard look at which reports are needed and rebuilding them taking advantage of the new features in DashboardFox tend to outweigh the migration pain.
Lack of Pixel Perfect Styling
Many Crystal Reports were designed for a specific purpose. Printing a form, or in a specific layout that users are used to. The designer is one of the features that Crystal Report users tend to like. DashboardFox doesn’t do pixel-perfect reports out of the box, there is a core set of out of the box visualization methods and you can arrange those in a grid-based dashboard.
One option is to use the DashboardFox API to generate dynamic JSON/XML code for a query and then you can use any type of developer environment to recreate Pixel Perfect layout reports, but that is a technical solution. Ultimately it’s a big difference, and if you have a lot of pixel-perfect reports that are important, DashboardFox may not be the right fit.
Visual SQL/Codeless Reporting
Crystal Report organizations are used to writing SQL code. And they typically have some people who have been doing nothing but writing SQL code for a long time. We typically get 2 types of responses to DashboardFox. It’s either a) I want to stop writing SQL code and let my business users do their reporting, I love DashboardFox or b) I hate DashboardFox and want to just put my SQL code in to generate a report.
It’s true, we do our best to keep the complexities of SQL from our users, so that can frustrate someone who knows and loves SQL. However, by the time you read this article, we may have implemented this planned roadmap feature to give you a way to do it.
Contact Us To Discuss Your Crystal Reports Alternative Needs
Believe us, it’s not a sales call, you’ll be scheduled with a technical expert who can understand what you need and give you a fair assessment if DashboardFox is right or not.
Then we recommend you get started with a trial and proof of concept.
Get started here and let’s book some time to discuss.