In an effort to make data analysis seamless with reporting and put this power right into the hands of the end-user, Crystal Decisions Inc. unveiled its Crystal Analysis Professional v.9 and Crystal Enterprise Premium v.9 on Wednesday.
Crystal Analysis is a Web-based data analysis tool that makes sense of data and streams it into reporting tools such as Crystal Decisions’ Crystal Reports and allows users to explore data interactively in a point-and-click environment.
James Church, director of Crystal Analysis at Crystal Decisions explained that data analysis has really been in the hands of the power user -- an individual Church describes as an employee who not only understands the data, but also is technologically adept and can usually create sophisticated Microsoft Corp. Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations.
"With Crystal Analysis 9 Professional, what we did is provide capabilities to build analytic workflows into the report, such that a power user, who understands how to use the tool can create a report that is distributed to a less sophisticated user," Church said. "It contains a button style interface that actually guides the (less sophisticated) user through useful analysis steps of that data."
For example, Church said users are able to drill down to more specific data for example in a sales report, and examine products that are struggling with margin performance. Users could perform analysis to determine this problem was a result of cost or sales, and examine whether the problem is a trend or a one-time occurrence.
"In traditional tools, the user with the online analytical processing (OLAP) grid could do those (analyses), but it would be a complex series of manipulations of the data to get to the next step of the data," he explained. "By building in these analytic workflows what we can do is encapsulate those complex steps in to a single button and provide less sophisticated user with a button that says for example, ‘investigate margin’."
Church said the business intelligence industry is extremely fragmented, with some vendors providing only reporting solutions, some providing only analysis solutions, and others providing only end-user BI tools.
He said Crystal Enterprise Premium 9 is a single solution that puts all these capabilities into one box -- something customers have been asking for, and blurs the lines between formatted and analytic reporting.
Other enhancements to Enterprise Premium 9 include the ability for users to hide data dimensions they are not interested in to enable information displayed in a cleaner, more simplistic fashion. In addition, the OLAP grid is more flexible to allow for resizing, easier formatting, and the ability to create different looks-and-feels. Also, there is greater integration with Microsoft Excel, and the ability to go back and forth between reporting and analysis is more seamless through the use of links.
Finally, Crystal Analysis 9 Professional supports two more data sources -- IBM Corp.’s DB2 OLAP server and Hyperion Solutions Corp.’s Essbase XTD. The product continues to support Microsoft SQL Server, SAP Business Warehouse and Crystal Analysis Holos OLAP Server.
Crystal Analysis 9 also been integrated into Crystal Enterprise 9 Premium Edition -- a Web-based reporting, analysis and information delivery tool that combines all of Crystal Decisions product offerings including Crystal Reports and a new ad-hoc reporting tool. The ad-hoc reporting tool allows users to create their own reports on the fly, and modify fields in previously designed reports.
"So you’re able to take information from a report…and you’re able to view that information in a multidimensional manner where you’re able to slice and dice and flip between different views of that respective information," Church said.
In addition, because Enterprise 9 Premium is Web-based, it can be integrated in a Web portal environment, and tailored by the company to give it their own corporate look-and-feel, tie it in with other applications, and define and apply access parameters to users across the organization.