There are two main types of reporting used within Business Intelligence. These are ad hoc reporting and Enterprise Reporting. Whilst ad hoc reporting allows users to create and manipulate queries on the fly, Enterprise Reporting uses standardised reports with defined content; this type of report is often referred to as a pre-canned or standard report. The presentation and formatting of the report does not change but the data within it does.
An example of a pre-canned report might be the Daily Sales Figures report which as its name suggests contains the sales figures for the day. The report could be designed to present the sales figures through meaningful tables and charts. Every night the day’s sales figures would be loaded into the data warehouse and then the Daily Sales Figures report would refresh on an automated schedule and be distributed to all business users on the distribution list. In this way it is ready for them to read at 8 am when they arrive at the office. This process is known as Enterprise Reporting.
Although Enterprise Reports are referred to as pre-canned they can still be highly interactive and made to be fully refreshable at will. SAP BusinessObjects includes a world class Enterprise Reporting tool known as Crystal Reports.
Crystal Reports 2008 is a dynamic Enterprise Reporting tool. The reports can be scheduled, shared and viewed within SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise. Its powerful chart engine helps the user visualize and explore corporate data and drill down through data hierarchies.
It is also possible to embed several other reports (sub reports) within a single Crystal Report or to fire off a sub report on demand when required. In this way a lot of information can be stored within a single report. Crystal Xcelsius Dashboards can also be embedded and called from within a Crystal Report on demand.
Crystal Reports has a very powerful formula editor which allows the use of coding with the Basic language. It is also excellent for printing presentation documents with its pixel perfect print engine. Crystal Reports can also connect to numerous data sources including SAP BusinessObjects universes and SAP R3.
However this tool is not an ad hoc tool like Web Intelligence or Voyager and it is not recommended that a user attempts to drag and drop fields in an ad hoc way. It requires some technical skill to develop with it beyond a simple report. That said, for Enterprise Reporting with large and complex reports it is a powerful workhorse. It utilises a cache server and provides page on demand functionality. For example if a report runs to 300 pages and the user requires page 197, then Crystal can serve up that single page without having to download the whole document.