Business Views offer tremendous advantages over traditional Crystal Report design processes by removing the most difficult data-intensive tasks from report design. This facilitates a change in the way that report creation occurs, as less database-savvy report designers can take on the bulk of report designing, leaving developer or DBA-oriented tasks to the specialists. This approach also results in less re-work and speeds report creation, which is arguably the most costly aspect of owning a Business Intelligence solution. Business Views provide a variety of benefits:
With large complex data warehousing projects using many tables and complex joins, the report designer might not have the requisite knowledge. If the report designer is required to join the tables for the reports, he might not use the most efficient join resulting in poor performance. Business Views allow for a division in labor, whereby the more technical database administrators and developers can create the joins between tables and data sources and the business-oriented report designers can concentrate on designing reports to satisfy the business requirement.
As a result of this division of labor and the reuse of the Crystal Repository, business people do not have to be as technically savvy, effectively resulting in less technical skill required to develop reports.
One of the major drawbacks when having to specify the data joins in each report is that this creates a large amount of redundant work. Should the database change, there is no way to reflect this other than modifying each of the individual reports. Business Views enable you to create the join once and if the join changes, you only need to change it once.
Data in corporations typically sits in multiple data sources. A requirement might exist to pull information from multiple data sources and consolidate this information in a single report. A Business View enables you to join disparate data sources together. The data connectivity uses the same connectivity available in Crystal Reports and Crystal Enterprise themselves. For example, this means that the administrator can join SQL-oriented databases to ERP data sources and finally to a JavaBean. All you would see is the list of available fields and you would not have to concern yourself with the joining of the fields.
Organizations typically have two or three environments. Most would have at least a Test/Development environment and a Production Environment. In some cases the Test/Development environment is split into separate environments. During the development process, reports are designed against the development environment, tested against the test environment and finally put into production. In prior versions of Crystal Reports, the report had to be opened and the data source mapped to a new data source. Business Views, through the use of dynamic data connections that create a Crystal Report parameter to dynamically switch the data connection, can dynamically change the data source. In the previous example, you might have test, development, and production as parameters that would drive the data source selection in each environment.
Another aspect of this dynamic data connection switch is that it can be easily incorporated to switch databases based on business logic. For example, many organizations archive data to keep their production databases efficient. However, users often need to view data from the archive. Using dynamic data connections, users can easily switch data sources at runtime yet maintain a single report.
Business Views enable you to set up security such that data is filtered based upon who the user is. This can be based off security within an "entitlements" database or the Crystal Enterprise user model can be used to create the security model. This way, rows and columns can be secured by users or groups.
You can also determine who is able to see a particular Business View. This results in users only reporting off Business Views to which they have access. For example, it is generally accepted auditing practice that accounts receivable personnel should not be able to see accounts payable information and vice versa. By using the user group functionality in Crystal Enterprise, the accounts receivable group would be given access to only the accounts receivable Business Views.
The Business View Manager provides the capability to export a Business View to an XML file and this file can then be easily imported into another Crystal Enterprise repository. This simple form of transportability makes swapping of Business Views a simple exercise. For example, the organization has a Crystal Enterprise system in Europe and one in North America. Administrators might want to share their Business Views or split the development task between the two continents and swap various components of the Business Views. It also simplifies the storage of source code, should the organization have a source code storage requirement.
In certain circumstances the cost of building the Business View outweighs the benefit. Crystal Enterprise 10 gives you the capability to use Business Views, or to access the data source directly without using Business Views. For example, an organization upgrading its reports from earlier versions might be satisfied with the current state of its implementation and hence might never use Business Views. Crystal Reports 10 even allows for a combination of Business Views and direct data source access, via subreports.