The modeling track at CA World closed Thursday morning with a two part hands-on workshop on ODBC reporting and Crystal Reports. As a user community president, I know this topic has been hot on our members’ list of functionality they want to understand and leverage since CA began packaging Crystal Reports with ERwin.
I was also very anxious to attend the session. I had dabbled with the Data Browser reports that CA had converted to ODBC. I have limped around Crystal Reports customizing these reports with limited success. I just haven’t had enough free time to really understand the tool. My hope was that this session would make me more comfortable with using Crystal Reports and ODBC reporting.
The lab was very valuable to me. ODBC reporting has a vast amount of documentation in ERwin, actually too much. The lab started with the basics of creating SQL commands to retrieve the data model data from ERwin. This is where ODBC has fallen down for me. The metamodel is documented in a 700+ page document. What are missing are an ERwin model of the model data and a smaller, concise data dictionary report/summary of the common data model artifacts available for reporting.
The hands-on time in this lab was welcomed. The lab went at an acceptable pace and was lead in an easy-to-understand manner. The content of the lab really warranted a longer lab since we spent about 2 hours on the ODBC reporting aspect of the lab leaving 30 minutes for Crystal Reports.
The Crystal Reports portion of the lab was a whirlwind tour of the tool. A valuable part was the explanation of the various schemas of ERwin data presented within the tool and what they contain. We also copied a SQL statement and used it in conjunction with the Crystal Reports report wizard. It did guide us to format a nice looking report. The verdict on this tool is that it will take a little time understand how to use it, but it offers some nice options for a more advanced reporting with greater formatting controls.
Some of the session participants questioned the complexity of the reporting solution. There has initially been a misunderstanding that CA was moving to Crystal Reports for all reporting. ERwin 8.0 seems to offer more basic reporting options in the Bulk Editor tool. The ODBC reporting option opens the doors to more advanced reporting from ERwin. It is indeed for complex, but the typical ERwin user will not have to use it.
At my shop, I see us building a Cognos Framework to give a friendlier face to this data. The real value will be when we are able to access Model art data via ODBC and Crystal Reports. The integration of data model metadata to analytical reporting data on user reports and portals will be a nice feature to add in our BI environment.
I give the session a thumb up with some qualifications. I think it would have been much more successful as a 2 session ODBC reporting class and a 2 session Crystal Reports class. There is a large amount of subject matter to cover that is most successful with hands-on labs. CA is headed in the right direction with this training.