Crystal Reports is not for casual users, but provides an excellent tool for professional report design.
Greg Goss | TrustRadius Reviewer
Updated July 17, 2018

Crystal Reports is not for casual users, but provides an excellent tool for professional report design.

Score 8 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
Review Source

Software Version

SAP Crystal Reports

Overall Satisfaction with SAP Crystal

We use Crystal throughout our organization. Our ERP system serves up Crystal Reports for both analytical and operational reporting. We store our Crystal Reports in an SAP Business Objects repository which is called via Open Document. Users generally aren't savvy enough to generate their own Crystal Reports content, but consume it on a daily basis.
  • Crystal is very good at presenting the data exactly how you want it. There is a robust set of options for formatting and presentation.
  • It can connect to a wide variety of data sources. We primarily use SQL sources. As a DBA, I generally prefer to have Crystal access views rather than people writing direct queries, but the option is there to do both.
  • There are lots of options for data manipulation once the data set is in Crystal. For example, if you pull some raw data out of a sales table, there are a great many ways to calculate, manipulate, and transform the data into whatever you need.
  • The learning curve in creating content in Crystal Reports can be steep. This is not a tool that I feel should be wielded by casual users.
  • Crystal isn't great anymore for ad-hoc reporting. At one point in my career, I used Crystal for ad-hoc reporting, but with the advent of web-based and visual reporting tools that can be wielded by the general user population, I wouldn't even think of going to Crystal for one-off type reports.
  • Crystal Reports doesn't have its own scheduling component. So you'll need to either code up or buy a separate solution for report distribution.
  • SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform
Comparing Crystal to another SAP offering, Business Objects is currently our ad-hoc and general reporting tool. I design the visualizations and meta-data layers that the general user population can consume without much of a learning curve. Business Objects is robust enough to satisfy most reporting needs. However, for the more complex reporting (subreports, very specific formatting requests, heavy formulae, etc), Crystal Reports is still the tool of choice in our organization.
Crystal Reports can connect to a wide variety of traditional (SQL, Oracle, Access) and more abstract (logs, emails, XML) data sources. Once the source data becomes a data set in Crystal, it can generally be easily manipulated. You will still run into the general types of issues by merging any other datasets (data types primarily), but overall, Crystal can connect to whatever I need it to.
Crystal Reports is a design tool, not a delivery system. There are plenty of great scheduling and delivery tools for Crystal out there, though I won't be discussing them here. Sharing is fairly easy as you can run the report and send it as a PDF, Excel, or other popular formats.
Crystal is great for generating reports intended to be routinely delivered for operational or analytical purposes. I prefer to avoid Crystal for ad-hoc and one-off report scenarios. Also, if I need a simple report, I'd generally steer users towards a visualization type reporting system...but for well formatted, professional reports, Crystal is still one of the best options.

SAP Crystal Feature Ratings

Pixel Perfect reports
9
Customizable dashboards
6
Report Formatting Templates
7
Drill-down analysis
9
Formatting capabilities
10
Report sharing and collaboration
7
Publish to Web
Not Rated
Publish to PDF
10
Delivery to Remote Servers
8
Location Analytics / Geographic Visualization
8
Javascript API
6
Java API
6

Using SAP Crystal

2 - While we have a large number of unknowing consumers of Crystal, only those that design the reports interact with it directly. Those that use it unknowingly get PDF copy and don't realize the product. The two that use Crystal Reports directly take business requirements and turn them into fairly robust and sometimes complex reports that are distributed regularly.
Since the two people that use Crystal are power users, when they have issues, there is no one else on staff for them to turn to. In these cases, we have a 3rd party partner that assists us with our SAP Business Objects/Crystal needs. They are generally used as an on-demand resource, though some project based engagements occur as well.
  • We will continue to use Crystal Reports to provide our operations team information about what is going on throughout the manufacturing process "right now".
  • As our manufacturing processes change, the data that the plants want to see change. As users get used to having useful reports built for them, they will learn what they like and don't like and will want more complex reporting as time progresses. Crystal Reports is a tool that can support that need.
  • Being able to create well defined/formatted reporting for use by the operations team so they can get the information needed to run our ordering, manufacturing, and shipping processes.
  • Generate reports that are scheduled to go out on a weekly/monthly basis to support decision making for the management team and for assisting in creating of end-of-period financial reporting.
  • The sales team often need to have quick access to information while they are out on calls with clients. We use the SAP BusinessObjects Mobile app to allow them to have quick access to their sales data without having to be logged into our primary reporting system
  • By placing our Crystal Reports in our Business Objects repository, we have more visibility of the types of data that our users consume. For example we can see which reports are used frequently, so that when performance issues arise, we know which sets of data to concentrate on first.

Evaluating SAP Crystal and Competitors

  • Product Features
  • Product Reputation
  • Prior Experience with the Product
  • Existing Relationship with the Vendor
We needed a product that integrated with our ERP system and we already had a relationship with SAP. It was definitely not a replacement of a product, but rather adding to already existing environment we had with SAP.
There are so many reporting systems out there now that provide users the ability to not only create ad-hoc reports, but also fairly robust visualizations. If I were to look at another reporting tool now, I would definitely take the time to see what products are out there now versus when we bought Crystal.

SAP Crystal Implementation

It was a fairly easy implementation with the small bumps any project might endure. Overall it was an as-expected implementation.
Change management was a minor issue with the implementation - There wasn't much of a change management process needed to implement Crystal. We've had it sufficiently long enough where new versions are a fairly simple adjustment. Change management is more because of the types of information we are able to get to our users. The more useful information they have, the more they recognize ways to change their processes to be more efficient/effective.
  • When we switched from calling the reports directly from the ERP system to calling the from within a Business Objects repository, there was a bit of a learning curve making that work the way we wanted.

Using SAP Crystal

Crystal is very robust, but not always easy to use. It create wonderful looking reports, and so deserves a high rating. However, I have to take a couple of points off for the simple fact that I cannot hand it to a user and expect them to be able to do development with it.
ProsCons
Well integrated
Consistent
Feel confident using
Requires technical support
Slow to learn
  • Once you have the report designed, executing/refreshing the data and exporting to a popular format is very easy.
  • Formatting (text field alignment, numeric formatting, etc) used to be more difficult in Crystal, however newer versions allow for things like horizontal and vertical alignment of fields "faster"
  • At first, learning to create variables/formulae is difficult.
  • Learning the relationships between what data is at the database layer versus what is available to Crystal's head space, versus what data shows on the report can be a bit of a learning curve.
Yes - There is a Crystal Viewer available, however we also have Business Objects, so we employ the BusinessObjects Mobile app. It lets users refresh BuseinessObjects content from their tablets (the phone app works in a pinch, but the viewing area is tiny). Basically you can log into the app and view the same reports that you'd be able to see if you were at your desk.