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If a database is designed in SQL can it use Crystal Reports

Posted on 2013-05-16
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Last Modified: 2013-05-17
We have an Access database that I jointly designed.  My boss wants users who have no knowledge of Access or Visual Basic to be able to design their own reports.  I know it's not possible with Access.  Is it possible if the database was SQL?
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Question by:jrsitman
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PortletPaul earned 175 total points
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Well I can certainly say the Crystal isn't an end-user tool either. In the broader Business Objects solution set you can build 'universes' and through WEBI end-users can construct useful views of information from the universe with relative ease.

Designing/Building a universe however is deeply technical. Cognos Cubes are similar to this - which also take design/build effort.

Your boss may be like many who have been to some BI vendor demonstrations and believe that anyone is capable of doing anything with any data at anytime - with no effort. That Nirvana exists only in the minds of the BI vendors marketing gurus.

Microsoft does offer cube technology too which is accessible through Excel to end users and I've seen this used successfully against datamarts/data warehouses. However even here we are discussing the hidden effort to design/produce and maintain the data in a manner suited to end-user access.
 (nb I know less about this MS toolset than BO/Cognos)

To answer you question, my view is, placing your transactional database into SQL Server is probably a good step and it does open-up a broader/richer set of reporting opportunities. However simply moving it to sql server will not make the transactional database suited to end-user reporting.
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by:mlmcc
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The database really doesn't come into the discussion.

It is the reporting tool that really matters.

I would say with a properly built Universe, users could build reports in WebI.  The purpose of the universe is to remove the intracies of the database from the view of the user.

Most reporting tools still require the user to understand the database and how the tables are related so properly formed queried will be built.

Also I find that building a good report is as much an art as it is a science.

My experience with users building reports is they tend to build reports and use data that supports a position they have rather than building reports that present a full picture of the information.

You can use Crystal with MS Access and users could with some training learn to build simple reports.  Complex reports require a fair amount of training and experience to build them so they run quickly and provide a good view of the information.

mlmcc
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by:jrsitman
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Thanks for the input.  She has me so frustrated with this stupid project.  I do all the reports they need but she wants users to do there own.  
So basically you're saying even with SQL it still won't be simple?
I've never used Crystal Reports so I have no idea how it works.
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by:jrsitman
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@mlmcc, I posted before I saw your comments.  I never heard of Universe or WebI so I have no idea what they are.  
In a previous post I made months ago the EE's who responded said Crystal would not work with Access, you're saying it will?
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I use Crystal with Access all the time,so it will work.  They may have been referring to the problem of using Access 2010 or 2007 with Crystal.

The Crystal Report designer is much like the Access reportdesigner but it is much more powerful and some things are done quite differently.

Also for users to be able to share reports or view reports you will need other tools.  Crystal is licensed by user so you would need a copy fr everyone who wants/needs to develop reports.

mlmcc
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by:jrsitman
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Our database is for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles.  

So if I'm a user with no knowledge of the structure of the database and I use Crystal, can I create a report that tells me how many animals were adopted in March from Long Beach?
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by:mlmcc
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Probably not.

It all depends on the tables and the relationships.

If you have a single table that has the information (basically a flat file) then sure the user could build a report.  But as soon as you have to use several tables which have to be linked together correctly, the typical user won't be able to do it.

You could build queries for the users so that the typical information the would look for would be in a single query, then they just have to build the report and choose the filtering.

mlmcc
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by:jrsitman
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OK, this is very helpful.

Thanks
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by:PortletPaul
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Universe is a "layer" over the top of databases that are designed to "make it easy" for users to report from. WEBI is another tool from SAP that is shipped as part of Business Objects. Universes take time and effort to build.

Crystal Reports is also part of this toolset, but can be used separately. Crystal has a very broad set of supported data source that includes Access and even flat files/Excel.

Crystal however is sort of like designing reports in Access - it isn't for "end users" and you do need to understand some SQL and the database tables structures to use it effectively.

I think your boss has vastly under estimated the cost/effort involved in arriving at "end user reporting".
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Thanks to all of you for your input.  It has helped me make my case that the users will not easily be able to create reports.  I'll split the points.
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