Crystal Users Cautious and Guarded

Key to satisfaction: product support

From the sound of it, Business Objects SA shouldn’t expect to encounter too much resistance from users of Crystal Decisions software.

Most of the Crystal users we talked with have been using the company’s products for at least five years. Almost all say that they’re not inclined to consider switching to a solution from another vendor in the wake of Crystal’s acquisition, and most, in fact, report that they’re cautiously optimistic about the deal.

Nevertheless, some users admit that they’re skeptical about Business Objects’ strategy. They fear that the BI powerhouse has purchased Crystal Decisions simply to eliminate a competitor, and say that if that’s the case, they’ll switch to a product from a competing vendor.

Like most report developers, Crystal user Pete Sral says the company’s reporting software already does pretty much everything that his company requires. He asks only that Business Objects continue to support the product in the manner to which he’s been accustomed. Of course, if Business Objects enhances Crystal’s software, so much the better: “Not knowing what Business Objects has to offer, I am optimistic that CR will have … features added due to the merger,” Sral observes.

If the value’s not there, or if Business Objects fails to support the product as well as Crystal did, would his company switch? “They would have to monkey it up real good for us to look at other products,” he acknowledges.

Another report developer with a provider of hosted payroll services says his company has been using Crystal Reports for at least six years. He admits that he’s taking a “cautious and guarded” approach to the acquisition, largely as a result of being burned in a previous IT career. “One of my assets [of] my current employer is that I am known as the 'Crystal guru'. If Crystal were to be phased out, then my worth would diminish. I know—it has happened to me in the past with hardware and software. I used to be in charge of a VAX system [developed by the former Digital Equipment Corp.]. I barely touched PCs. Then VAX's went the way of the dinosaur and I had to re-educate myself and find a new niche.”

At the same time, this report developer says that he doesn’t know where else he’d go if Crystal’s features or support should suffer under Business Objects’ ownership. “I don't know which system I would switch to, though I do have to use ReportSmith a lot, as my company supports it for our clients,” he says. “But I use Crystal for a variety of databases. For a good long time I could continue using my [existing Crystal Reports] software to extract data.”

Jim Tyler, a report developer with an IT services company that caters to the financial industry, is another long-time user of Crystal’s software. Tyler says that he doesn’t know how the deal will affect him, but confesses that he “prefer[s] dealing with a company that does one thing well and is competitive versus a diversified company who also may try to eliminate the competition.”

He doesn’t know what Business Objects has in store for Crystal’s product stack, but says that his organization will probably switch if he’s unhappy with the combined company’s support. Does he have a specific competitor in mind? “I do not know which one,” he laments.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.