A while ago Blackbaud released Blackbaud Enterprise CRM. For me as an observer of all things Blackbaud related I don’t remember exactly when BBEC was released. There was no big announcement but instead there were small releases of information over an extended period of time. First it was snippets of information about the Infinity platform, then announcements that various organisations had selected BBEC and then finally mutterings of information about RE8. The gradual increase of information about the product range has, over time, increased the expectations of Blackbaud’s customers towards the release of RE8. This was no bad thing. Such releases of information, whether officially from Blackbaud or just speculation from within the community creates a buzz around the product. (Such a model has worked wonders for each of Apple’s releases). Unfortunately buzz can lead to hype which can lead to frustration. RE8 has this mythical quality about it. While most people realise that it is more than just vaporware (given the release of BBEC) there is nothing, as yet, tangible. Read the rest of this entry »
There has been much discussion on various forums and between different organisation about the rumour that Crystal Reports is not going to be supported on the Infinity platform. While I don’t have any inside information from Blackbaud about this I can dispel a couple of myths.
Currently in Raiser’s Edge 7, Crystal Reports is used as the reporting engine for all canned reports. Blackbaud use components that feed their data into various Crystal Reports so that you need merely click on a button and the report appears. These reports have a predefined format and although the user can change some aspects of this it is very limited.
In RE8, BBEC and the Infinity platform the canned reports do not use Crystal Reports as the reporting engine but rather SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS). This is server based and comes with SQL Server. Blackbaud currently bundles Crystal Reports with their software but this version is client based. To bundle the server version would clearly mean a greater expense for them (and ultimately their customers).
When it comes to custom reports there is some uncertainty. I am not sure how the Infinity platform handles custom reporting. I am sure that there will be some kind of function to integrate custom reports with RE8 but most probably via SSRS.
There is a lot of investment in Crystal in the community so it is obviously of concern to think that Crystal will no longer be used. This, though is not strictly the case. It should be quite possible to use Crystal against the BBEC and RE8 database. After all Crystal can run against any kind of database. Many RE7 users develop reports that run directly off of the database rather than using the custom mechanism inside of RE. This offers much more flexibility.
One other possibility that I am currently looking into is developing a Crystal Report engine to integrate with the Infinity platform. That way data can be exported from RE8 and BBEC and linked to a Crystal Report in the same way as is currently the case in RE7. It does seem a shame to waste all the Crystal knowledge out there. Watch this space…
What are your thoughts on the shift to SSRS? Do you currently use SSRS with RE7 or other products and how does it compare to Crystal Reports. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Whenever I write a bespoke customisation for a client that needs to look up a constituent based on some biographical information I normally use the functionality available behind the scenes in IDLookup. If you are unfamiliar with IDLookup, it allows users to feed in an Excel or CSV file of names, addresses, aliases, attributes and all sorts of biographical information. Then based on criteria that you define, it will look to see if one or more constituents already exist in The Raiser’s Edge. I use much of the look-up functionality in other projects simply because Blackbaud chose not to make this functionality easily available. There is no back-end interface to their regular constituent look-up screen which is a real shame. The nearest feature is the IBBRecordFinder interface.