Blog / ERP, SAP HANA, SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (BW), SAP Sybase ASE, SAP Sybase IQ, SAP systems / April 16, 2016

Alternate Solution to Crystal Reports

Background: One of our clients had requested an alternate solution to Crystal Reports. We asked a few questions and proposed an informal write up for an alternate solution as follows. Client liked this quick summary and requested a detailed proposal to issue a SOW.

QUESTIONS
1. Could we get a current architecture of how Crystal report is integrated to ECC? (On what kind of database systems are crystal reports built on? Database name and version)
2. If report is pulling data from ECC, we can generate webdynpro applications in ECC (this will be viewable in internet explorer). If it’s pulling from BW, then we can use BOBJ tools (WEBI, BOBJ Analysis, Dashboards) – Please see alternate approach on second page.
3. How are the current Crystal Reports being used?
4. How frequently are they scheduled? (Daily, weekly, monthly)
5. Which team is consuming these Crystal Reports? (Finance / Sales team?) And who within the team consumes the reports? (E.g., analysts or senior leadership?)
6. How many reports exist in current reporting system?
7. If you want to replace the current reporting system, what are we looking for or what kind of reporting features are we missing in the current reporting system? (What are the expectations?)
8. Which version of Crystal report is being used?
9. How big is the user group?
10. What is the highest volume of data being used in the reports?

ALTERNATE APPROACH

OPTION 1:  BOBJ – While BOBJ has been used traditionally for reporting, it could be very expensive in the development and integration, also Cloud integration is not possible with BOBJ and it has severe limitations with mobility.
BOBJ :  Some popular tools available within the BOBJ suite –
1. Crystal reports – (Static reporting, Minimum user interaction, Not compatible for mobility, More of an tabular format design)
2. Web Intelligence (WebI) – (Better than Crystal reports, Minimal user interaction, Cannot achieve user actions, not rich graphical design and it can only connect to SAP BI Systems or IDT Universe)
3. Dashboards – Very rich in data visualizations, all dashboard functionalities cannot be achieved and needs more coding capabilities by developer
4. Analysis for Office –A Microsoft Excel sheet, which can connect to SAP BW systems to perform normal excel functionalities.

OPTION 2:  Tableau – The above 4 BOBJ tool capabilities can be achieved within Tableau Tool. Tableau consists of Desktop (Development work) and Server (Publish, Security and Accessibility).  We recommend this reporting tool for the following reasons:

PROS
1. Less Expensive, Easy Licensing and best Support
2. We have the flexibility to integrate Tableau Server with Cloud (Amazon AWS) for high availability and better performance.
3. Tableau has great variety of visualizations
4. Querying of data can be Extract or Live connection.
5. Very rich in Data Visualizations and Tabular Format
6. Great user interaction using Actions, Parameters and Filters
7. Compatible for mobility (Ipads and Iphones)
8. Drillable capabilities into graphical, summarized and detailed data
9. The calculations in Tableau Desktop are easy and logical for development
10.  Tableau Desktop can connect to multiple varied data sources.
11. High security with standard protocols and data governance
12. Role based accessibility defined by project

Note: – Tableau can connect to the following SAP systems:
a. SAP HANA
b. SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (BW)
c. SAP Sybase ASE
d. SAP Sybase IQ

CONS:
a. It’s great for graphical design dashboards, with certain limitations for columns in tabular format. (But can be achieved with some work around)
b. High level reporting with drill-down is great, but it does struggle on the drill down if the data is too granular or immense
c. It needs some more options on colors, shading, 3D, etc., to add variety to the visualizations.