Business Objects Reaches Out to Office

At Microsoft’s TechEd user conference this week, Business Objects SA unveiled an add-on for its Crystal Enterprise reporting environment which boasts tighter integration with the Office productivity suite.

Business Objects’ new Crystal Enterprise Live Office builds on top of an Excel add-in that the former Crystal announced last June. What’s new, officials say, is that the new offering supports not just the bread-and-butter Excel spreadsheet -- a BI mainstay in many organizations -- but also Microsoft’s Word, PowerPoint and Outlook software. Users of Live Office can embed reports and report components in Office versions 2000 and up.

On its surface, the new offering sounds similar to Microsoft’s own SQL Server Reporting Services, but Business Objects officials – who are clearly wary of running afoul of Microsoft – say that there are substantive differences between the two offerings, starting with Live Office’s support for real-time data refreshing.

“Reporting Services is definitely a solid product, but they haven’t yet enabled any live connectivity back to the data source for the business user to be able to do that instant refreshing, so [Microsoft’s offering] is more what most business intelligence vendors have, which is exporting data and cutting and pasting data back into that Office environment,” says Jaylene Crick, senior product marketing manager with Business Objects.

Microsoft’s Reporting Services add-on supports report distribution, lifecycle management, and other features, but Crick maintains that Crystal Enterprise is a mature product with proven support for such capabilities. “Users are not only getting data stored in a data store somewhere, but it’s managed data through an enterprise reporting solution, so they can be more confident that the data is already being managed by corporate IT,” she says.

Business Objects stresses that the new offering is designed for ease-of-use – it installs a navigation bar in each of the Office applications – and features wizard interfaces to facilitate the point-and-click mapping of reports and data sources. Users can also embed reusable report components such as tables, charts and graphics in their documents.

“It’s extremely intuitive, even our own execs, or at least their assistants, are starting to use it. You can be in a PowerPoint, you can use a wizard to log onto Crystal Enterprise, select a report, which can be a sales report, and you can do things like view the fields in the report and bring in data,” she confirms.

Live Office will be generally available in mid-June for Crystal Enterprise Professional Edition, as well as Crystal Enterprise Premium. At this point, Crick confirms, Business Objects doesn’t have plans to deliver versions of Live Office for users of its budget Crystal Enterprise Express and Crystal Enterprise Embedded products.

About the Author

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

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