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Introduction: Information Delivery with Crystal Products

Introduction: Information Delivery with Crystal Products

In this introduction

Introduction to Information Delivery

Spectrum of Business Objects Product Usage

Spectrum of BI Tool Users

The Crystal Product Family from Business Objects

What is in This Book

Equipment Used for This Book

Introduction to Information Delivery

Organizations in the early twenty-first century find themselves increasingly awash in data yet hungering for information to help them meet their business objectives. These corporations, from Main Street and Wall Street alike, have spent large amounts of time and money over the past 10 or so years implementing systems to help collect data on and streamline their operations. From monolithic Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems (SAP, PeopleSoft, Oracle, and so on) through Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems (Siebel, Pivotal, Salesforce.com, and so on) to Custom Data Warehousing projects, these firms are now looking for ways to extract value from that collective body of data to help them run their businesses more productively and competitively. These firms are looking for a strategic information delivery or business intelligence solution to help them become more productive and ultimately compete more effectively. The products covered in this book are geared toward meeting that challenge.

The information delivery products and solutions that are presented in this book are often categorized under the Business Intelligence (BI) banner. BI is the industry of value-added information delivery based on structured data sources—essentially providing meaningful, business-driven value and information to business endusers by connecting them to data with appropriate tools and products. Figure 0.1 highlights the conceptual divide of Information Delivery Solutions into the structured and unstructured world. Although evidence points to the blurring of the boundaries between these discrete industries over time, the Business Objects products covered in this book most aptly fit under the BI banner.

Figure 0.1. The information delivery industry is broadly divided into structured and unstructured information management.

Industry analysts in the information delivery area regularly highlight the impressive adoption rates that BI products have witnessed in the last few years as testimony to the value of BI products. The impressive double-digit growth rates for industry leaders like Business Objects and Crystal Decisions are increasingly impressive when the difficult macroeconomic operating environment of the time period is taken into account. Ironically, many suggest, it is this same poor economic environment that has largely driven the increased worldwide demand for BI functionality as firms work to increase their productivity and competitiveness by leveraging existing investments—and doing more with less. This BI industry driver along with a few other drivers are covered in the next section.

Spectrum of Business Objects Product Usage

BI products like those distributed by Business Objects (Crystal Reports, Crystal Enterprise, Crystal Analysis, and WebIntelligence) are deployed and used in about as many different ways as there are product implementations—and there are millions. However, as you become exposed to a broad swath of BI clients and their implementations, you can find definite themes to their deployments. Taking a step back, you can perceive distinctive drivers to the worldwide BI product adoption—and a few of the most common are discussed in the following sections.

Custom Information Delivery Applications

Despite the plethora of turnkey software and Web applications in existence today, corporations both large and small still regularly look to custom developed applications to provide them with unique competitive advantages and to meet their proprietary business requirements. These applications run the gamut in size from small business applications through large firm departmental applications to enterprise intranet and extranet applications. One key component of many of these custom applications is the provision of BI functionality such as formatted reporting, ad hoc query, self-service Web reporting, and analytic capabilities. Table 0.1 highlights some typical examples of custom applications using Business Objects Crystal suite of products to help deliver custom applications.

Table 0.1. Sample Custom Information Delivery Applications
ApplicationApplication AudienceProduct Usage
Small retail chain's internal Java-based sales metrics applicationApproximately 20 sales employees and managersUsing Crystal Reports Java Engine, the developer provides the sales team with Web access to on-demand metrics reports built into the intranet application.
Large portfolio management firm's client extranet application10,000+ high value customers of firmUsing Crystal Enterprise, the developer provides access to the scalable Crystal Enterprise–driven reporting infrastructure and facilitates those customers getting online Web access to their portfolio reports.
Asset management firm's report batch of scheduling application50,000+ clientsUsing the Crystal SDKs and an external scheduling engine (or Crystal Enterprise), the developer's application dynamically creates tens of thousands of customized reports daily and automatically emails them to the appropriate clients.

One strength of the Crystal suite of products is that the products lend themselves readily to integration into custom applications. From the inclusion of basic formatted reports in your Java/J2EE or .NET/COM applications and inclusion of rich ad hoc query and self-service reporting functionality in proprietary information product applications to provision of large-scale enterprise BI analytics, scheduling, and security functionality in a globally deployed application, the Crystal suite of products can meet your requirements. Table 0.2 provides a jump-point for those looking for this type of application integration information in this book.

Table 0.2. Custom Application Chapters Overview
Development EnvironmentFunctionality RequiredSection and Chapters
Java/J2EEPre-built reports included in custom Java applicationPart VI, Chapter 28
.NET/COMPre-built reports included in custom .NET/COM applicationPart VI, Chapters 29 and 30
Java/J2EE/.NET/COMAll of the above and self service or ad-hoc report creation in custom applicationPart VII, Chapters 3133
Java/J2EE/.NET/COMAll of the above and scheduling, alerting, scalability, Enterprise security, analytics, and more in a custom applicationPart VIII, Chapters 3436

Enterprise BI Initiatives

With the proliferation of BI tools and the acceleration of product adoption around the globe, there has been concurrent pressure for the involved companies to standardize on a single set of products and tools—effectively a BI infrastructure or platform. The main arguments for such standardization include the following:

  • Reduced total cost of product ownership

  • Creation of Enterprise centers of excellence

  • Reduced vendor relationships

  • Movement towards a BI infrastructure/platform

As BI products have matured from different areas of historical strength and their marketplace acceptance has grown, end-user organizations have found themselves with disparate and incompatible BI tools and products across or even within the same departments in their organization. To eliminate the costliness of managing such a broad set of tools, many firms are now moving to adopt a single BI platform like Business Objects Crystal Enterprise. The infrastructure of Crystal Enterprise provides a single architecture to manage all the content and tools required to serve an organization's structured information delivery requirements. Figure 0.2 shows an end-user map of a typical organization. As you can imagine, each of the different types of end users in a company requires different types of tools to be productive.

Figure 0.2. Organizational end-user requirements map from Business Objects.

A common infrastructure or centrally managed center of excellence such as Crystal Enterprise that can meet all the varying end-user and IT requirements has clear organizational benefits.

Details of the breakdown of this book are included later in this introduction but to jumpstart your learning on this type of BI application, Table 0.3 can point you to the sections and chapters of particular relevance now.

Table 0.3. Enterprise Business Intelligence Chapter Overview
Enterprise Business Intelligence FocusSection and Chapters
Out-of-the-box product using Business Objects Crystal EnterprisePart V, Chapters 22, 23, 27
Setting up and administering Business Objects Crystal EnterprisePart V, Chapters 2427
Integrating Crystal Enterprise functionality into applicationsPart VIII, Chapters 3436

Enterprise Application Extension

In the past two decades, large firms have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on enterprise applications including ERP and CRM applications such as SAP, PeopleSoft, and Siebel. These large organizations are now looking for ways to extract analytic value from these operational data stores to facilitate organizational planning and forecasting through BI products.

The Business Objects suite of Crystal products includes a variety of specialized drivers that provide direct connectivity into these enterprise applications. It is important to note that these drivers are provided for use with the Crystal Enterprise infrastructure and are usually released 3–6 months after the product suite is released. At the time of writing, these drivers were not yet available for version 10 but many have since been released, and data can be found at businessobjects.com or usingcrystal.com.

Spectrum of BI Tool Users

Across the usage profiles of the thousands of BI scenarios/implementations, there generally exists a consistency in the types of people that become involved. Figure 0.3 provides a relatively high-level yet accurate graphic that shows a typical distribution of the people involved in BI implementations.

Figure 0.3. Average BI implem entation user distribution.

Each of the three communities outlined in the pyramid plays a key role in the ongoing success and operation of any BI implementation. The content creators and system administrators play perhaps the most important role in ensuring the short- and long-term success of any deployment because it is their work to set up the system content and tools from which the other users derive benefit. The information analysts generally come from across an organization's typical functions and are highly demanding users who require rich and highly functional interactive tools to facilitate their jobs as analysts. The last group is by far the largest group and includes employees, partners, customers, or suppliers who rely on the BI implementation to provide timely, secure, and reliable information or corporate truths. This group tends to span the entire corporate ladder from foot soldiers right up to the executive suite—all of whom have the same requirement of simple information provision to enable them to complete their regular day-to-day assignments successfully.

Figure 0.4 provides a schematic highlighting the distinction between the different version 10 content creation tools and the version 10 content delivery tools—Crystal Enterprise, Report Application Server, or Java/.NET Reporting engines. This book is essentially broken down into two halves covering these two themes—content creation (Parts IIV) and content delivery in all of its possible forms (Parts VVIII) using the Business Objects Crystal suite of products.

Figure 0.4. Content creation and content delivery schematic.

*Coming soon to the Business Objects Crystal Enterprise suite of products: You can view the product roadmap at www.businessobjects.com to understand why an investment in the Crystal suite of products and infrastructure is a sound investment in the future of BI.

Content Creators (Information Designers)

Content creators provide the foundation to any BI implementation. Using content creation tools such as Crystal Reports, Crystal Analysis, Web Intelligence, Excel, and so on, this group of users—primarily composed of IT folks but sometimes complemented with technically savvy business users—creates the report content, dashboards, OLAP cubes, and reporting metadata that facilitates system usage and benefit derivation from the other system users. Because these tasks are of paramount importance in a Business Objects Crystal Enterprise suite deployment, the entire first half of the book is dedicated specifically to providing these folks with a comprehensive tutorial and reference on content creation.

After content has been created, it needs to be deployed in a distribution mechanism such as Crystal Enterprise, the Report Application Server, or a custom application; and then it needs to be managed. Another small but critical group of BI system users—the BI administrators—need to ensure that the system is deployed and tuned correctly to ensure optimal performance for the business end users. Chapters 2427 provide a detailed guide to enable such administrators to effectively manage a Crystal Enterprise system and the remaining chapters—28 through 36—provide detailed information on deploying Crystal content in a custom home-grown application.

Information Analysts

Although not the primary group in number, the information analysts in a BI deployment are those who are primarily responsible for the extraction of new business insights and actionable recommendations from the BI implementation. Using such analytic tools as Crystal Analysis or the Crystal Reports Explorer, this group of users spends their time interrogating, massaging, and slicing and dicing the data provided in the various back-end systems until nuggets of business relevance can be gleaned. These users tend to come from a wide variety of functional areas in a company including operations, finance, sales, HR, and marketing and all work with the provided BI tools to extract new information out of the existing corporate data set. Chapters 1921 in Part IV provide detailed information on using both Crystal Analysis and the Crystal Reports Explorer.

Information Consumers

This group of users composes the clear majority of those involved with a BI implementation. They are also the most diverse group and come from every rung on the corporate ladder. Executives who view corporate performance dashboards fit into this category as would truck drivers who receive their daily mileage and shipping reports online through a wireless device. The key characteristic of the members of this entire group is that their interactions with the BI system are not indicative of their primary jobs. Unlike the content creators who are responsible for creating the valuable content and tools for the BI system and unlike the information analysts who are tasked with using the system to increase corporate performance, information consumers have jobs outside of the BI implementation and the key measure of success for them is that the BI system helps facilitate their variety of assignments. Chapters 22 and 23 provide instructive overviews of the primary out-of-the-box Crystal Enterprise interface and as the area of information consumer interface is as infinite as the number of implementations, the final sections of the book (Parts VIVIII) provide you with the customization skills to provide your users with their perfect interfaces.

The Crystal Product Family from Business Objects

As Figure 0.4 showed, the Crystal Product family distributed by Business Objects is broken into two major segments, content creation and content delivery. This book is split in two with each half covering one of the topics in great detail. All of the products in the Crystal family are covered in these sections.

In the content creation half of the book, the following Crystal products will be introduced and covered in detail:

  • Crystal Reports version 10: The world standard for professional formatted reporting across the largest spectrum of data sources. The Crystal Reports Application Designer benefits from more than 15 years of development and provides an unparalleled combination of powerful functionality and report-design flexibility.

  • Crystal Analysis 10: A powerful content creation tool designed to access OLAP data sources and to provide interactive, speed of thought analytic reporting functionality to users across the end-user spectrum. The drag-and-drop design functionality is intuitive and the unique guided analytic functionality enables creation of content that brings the power of OLAP to the masses.

  • Crystal add-ins for Excel: Excel is the world's most used BI tool. To enable Excel power users to remain in their familiar Excel interface, the Crystal family includes two Excel add-ins. The first is a Crystal Analysis plug-in for OLAP Cube exploration, and the second is a powerful ad hoc report creation plug-in that can leverage existing Crystal Reports managed in Crystal Enterprise as a data source.

  • Crystal Reports Explorer: Based on the Report Application Server object model and used with Crystal Enterprise, this Crystal application provides designers with a subset of Crystal Reports Design capabilities over the Web in a DHTML interface. All the content created in this interface are Crystal Report files.

In the content delivery half of the book, the following Crystal Products and SDKs are covered in detail:

  • Crystal Enterprise: A complete end-to-end BI and Enterprise Reporting Platform that provides the infrastructure to support a range of implementations from small internal projects to global extranet deployments supporting tens of thousands of users. Crystal Enterprise provides a wealth of Enterprise functionality including scheduling, security, auditing, alerting, and so on through several turnkey interfaces. Additionally, the functionality of Crystal Enterprise can be embedded in your custom applications through use of its completely open Java and .NET/COM object models and UI code.

  • Crystal Reports Engine for .NET Applications: The only third-party tool distributed with Visual Studio .NET, this reporting component enables .NET developers to quickly embed limited but powerful reporting functionality into their .NET applications.

  • Crystal Reports Engine for Java Applications: Embedded in Borland's JBuilder and other Java IDEs, this reporting component enables Java developers to embed limited but powerful reporting functionality into their Java applications quickly.

  • Crystal Reports Report Designer Components: A legacy object model for the Crystal Reports Designer, this reporting component allows for the integration of reporting capabilities into COM-based applications. Use of this single-threaded object model is being phased out in lieu of the multithreaded, multiplatform Report Application Server object model.

  • Report Application Server: Now called Crystal Enterprise Embedded, this multithreaded object model and scaleable server provides both Java and .NET/COM developers with access to the power of Crystal Reports for integration into their custom applications or for access from within a Crystal Enterprise deployment.

What Is in This Book

This book is broken down into several sections to address the varied and evolving requirements of the different users in a BI deployment.

The entire first half of the book (Parts I through IV) is exclusively focused on content creation. Through use of hands-on step-by-step examples and detailed descriptions of key product functionality, you will be able to leverage the powerful report creation capabilities of Crystal Reports version 10, Crystal Analysis version 10, Crystal Business Views version 10, the Web-based Ad-Hoc application, and the Excel-based Ad-Hoc plug-in. Some profiles of people who will find these sections of particular relevance:

  • New and mature Crystal Reports designers

  • Professional Crystal Reports designers upgrading to version 10

  • Existing and new Crystal Analysis designers and analysts

  • Existing and new Crystal Enterprise administrators

The second half of the book (Parts V through VIII) is geared toward the distribution or delivery of the valuable content created in the first half. Detailed functionality overviews are provided for all the different distribution mechanisms available in the Business Objects Crystal suite of products. Additionally, detailed and instructive code samples are provided for all the Software Development Kits (SDKs) that are provided with Crystal Reports, Crystal Enterprise, and the Report Application Server. Some profiles of people who will find these sections of high value:

  • New or existing Crystal Enterprise administrators

  • New or existing Crystal Enterprise users

  • .NET/COM-based application developers

  • Java/J2EE-based application developers

  • Application developers looking to integrate programmatic report design or modification into their applications

  • Application developers looking to integrate programmatic report scheduling, security, alerting, viewing, and so on into their applications

Part I: Crystal Reports Design

Part I should familiarize you with the foundations of Crystal Reports and get you up and running as quickly as possible. It is critical for someone who is new to Crystal Reports and includes the fundamental report-design concepts that even experienced users will be able to use for the rest of their Crystal Reports writing career. This section also provides powerful exercises and real-world usage tips and tricks that will enable even seasoned reporting experts to become more productive.

Part II: Formatting Crystal Reports

Part II focuses on some of the more subtle nuances of Crystal Report design: effective report formatting and data visualization through charting and mapping. Improper formatting and incorrect use of visualization techniques can make reports confusing and not user-friendly. This section also provides powerful exercises and real-world usage tips and tricks enabling mature reporting experts to become more productive.

Part III: Advanced Crystal Reports Design

Part III presents a host of advanced Crystal Report design concepts that involve features such as subreports, cross-tabs, report templates, and alerts. This part also touches on customized data access methods such as EJB and COM objects. This section also provides powerful exercises and real-world usage tips and tricks enabling mature reporting experts to become more effective in their report-design work.

Part IV: Enterprise Report Design—Analytic, Web-based, and Excel Report Design

Part IV focuses on the Crystal Repository that includes object reusability and the new Business View semantic layer and metadata functionality. Additional coverage is also provided on practical Crystal Analysis Design for use with OLAP data sources, and both the Web- and Excel-based Crystal ad-hoc capabilities for use with relational data sources.

Part V: Web Report Distribution—Using Crystal Enterprise

Part V presents the powerful functionality of the turnkey BI and Enterprise reporting product—Crystal Enterprise. In addition to covering the many business benefits of Crystal Enterprise, this part also provides extensive coverage of the end-user interface for end-user training. Extensive architecture, administration, and management best practices are provided for system administrators.

Part VI: Customized Report Distribution—Using Crystal Reports Components

Part VI focuses on the Customizable Report Distribution Components that are provided for Crystal Reports Delivery in both the .NET/COM and Java/J2EE worlds. Code samples are provided to help jumpstart your development work.

Part VII: Customized Report Distribution—Using Crystal Enterprise Embedded Edition

Part VII presents a detailed look into the Object Model of the Report Application Server (RAS) through Java and .NET/COM code samples and tutorials. This object model and service provide a scaleable means to include Crystal Report Distribution in your custom applications without all the bells and whistles of the full-fledged Crystal Enterprise Professional system.

Part VIII: Customized Report Distribution—Using Crystal Enterprise Professional

Part VIII provides a detailed look into the object model of the Crystal Enterprise system through Java and .NET/COM code samples and tutorials. All the functionality described in Parts V and VII is included in this rich object model and allows developers to quickly include the powerful functionality of Crystal Enterprise and Crystal Reports in their custom applications.

Equipment Used for This Book

You can find various supporting material that will assist you in the completion of the exercises in this book, as well as supplemental documentation on related topics.

Web Resources

You can find all the source code for the examples in the book, as well as the appendix to the book, at an easy-to-find Web site. Just go to www.usingcrystal.com. You'll find report samples to download and code for you to leverage in your report design and sharing efforts. Also, a great deal of additional product-related information on the Business Objects Crystal suite of products including Crystal Reports, Crystal Analysis, and Crystal Enterprise can be found at www.businessobjects.com.

Intended Audience

This book was written to appeal to the full range of Crystal Reports, Crystal Analysis, and Crystal Enterprise users. You'll find this book useful if you've never used Business Objects Crystal Suite of products before, if you are a mature Crystal Reports user looking for some new productivity tips, or if you want to explore some of the new features found in version 10 and their related SDKs.

You don't have to be an expert, but you should have a basic understanding of the following concepts:

  • Database systems such as Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, Sybase, and Informix

  • Operating system functions in Windows NT/2000/XP

  • General Internet/intranet-based concepts such as HTML, DHTML, ActiveX, and Java

The first four parts of this book build on each other, so skipping around those parts isn't the best approach unless you have some familiarity with Crystal Reports 10. Even if you are familiar with Crystal Reports, many new features have been introduced in version 10, so you are encouraged to read the entire first half of the book so that you don't miss anything. The second half of the book is focused on the different forms of content delivery and each part can be approached independently without loss of context.

Requirements for This Book

To get the most from this book, you should have access to a computer that has at least a Pentium II or equivalent processor, 128MB of RAM, and a Windows NT Workstation, 2000 Professional, Advanced Server, or Windows XP Professional.

All reports are based on sample data that is installed with Crystal Reports, so you will have access to the same data that was used in this book. You'll need to install Crystal Reports to get the most out of the examples included in each chapter in the first half of the book.

Conventions Used in This Book

Several conventions are used within this book to help you get more out of the text. Look for special fonts or text styles and icons that emphasize special information.

  • Formula examples appear in computer type, and they can be found on the Sams Publishing Web site as well.

  • Objects such as fields or formulas normally appear on separate lines from the rest of the text. However, there are special situations in which some formulas or fields appear directly in the paragraph for explanation purposes. These types of objects appear in a special font like this: Some Special Code.

  • In some cases, we might refer to your computer as machine or server. This is always in reference to the physical computer on which you have installed Crystal Reports.

  • You'll always be able to recognize menu selections and command sequences because they're implemented like this:

    Use the File, Open command.

  • New terms appear in italics when they are defined.

  • Text that you are asked to type in appears in boldface.

  • URLs for Web sites are presented like this: http://www.crystaldecisions.com.


Notes help you understand principles or provide amplifying information. In many cases, a note emphasizes some piece of critical information that you need. All of us like to know special bits of information that make our job easier, more fun, or faster to perform.


Tips help you get the job done faster and more safely. In many cases, the information found in a tip is drawn from experience rather than through experimentation or documentation.


Sidebars spend more time on a particular subject that could be considered a tangent, but will help you be a better Business Objects product user as a result.

Real World sections provide some practical and productivity enhancing usage insights derived from the author's real-world experience designing and deploying hundreds of Crystal Reports.

The Troubleshooting sections provide some quick chapter summary notes and examples that are useful reminders on the product operations.

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