As I learned how to perform every function in the Project Management module, I started printing out reports & forms for each of the functions. And while I love the multitude of documents & reports offered by Viewpoint, none of them included our logo or contact information. After so many years in business, our forms had a certain professional look that we did not want to get away from, so right out of the gate we needed modifications.
I started simple by using the PM Create & Send Templates. I created a couple of documents & it was easy (you must be at least an intermediate Microsoft Word user). In fact, I ended up upgrading the look of our forms. Then I was informed about Crystal Reports & it was suggested that we purchase our own copy of the software. Truth be told, I have never heard of Crystal Reports.
While we ordered the software, our Controller decided to hire Viewpoint to create a custom Change Order & Change Order Request form. We needed these forms right away to implement the module & we needed to get them right. In the meantime, I got the software installed & ordered a couple of Crystal Reports books. Five years ago, when our implementation occurred, Viewpoint was not offering Crystal Reports classes yet. I could not find any local classes to train me either. So I had to bear down, with the books. I found the best book to be “The Complete Reference Crystal Reports XI” (which is for the version of Crystal we are running). *Tip – Check with Viewpoint Tech Support on which version of Crystal Reports their staff supports/recommends before you make a purchase.
I personally learn better hands-on, so that was my approach. My first attempt with Crystal was simply to add a logo to an existing Viewpoint report. Viewpoint makes it all very simple & allows you to copy one of their reports with the same settings, parameters, etc.. It was easy to get in there & start modifying the reports. But I will tell you that Crystal Reports is not an intuitive software, so don’t expect to go in their cold turkey, you will need to study or get some REAL training. The very simple task of adding a logo took me a lot longer than I anticipated, but it was the start. Unless you or someone from organization is going to study Crystal Reports, you might want to leave this to a professional.
It is important to note that even though I started creating our own Crystal Reports, I was never totally alone in the process. I made tremendous progress with the help of Viewpoint’s tech support. The amazing techs are not there to train you, but when I had a specific hurdle that I could not overcome, they were there to push me in the right direction. I could not have accomplished so much without them.
In the five years since we started, I have since added over 40 Crystal Reports for ANF Group for the different Viewpoint modules; plus I have enhanced these reports many times along the way. A big benefit has been that I was able to load custom forms required by certain Architects & Owners (RFI forms or CORs), and diminished the duplication of work that these custom forms cause. Crystal Reports was also key in eliminating a multitude of spreadsheets that we were using & our staff saves dozens of hours each month. We now have reports, with key data used across all the departments, in our organization from Business Development all the way to Project Close-Out.
I will tell you that I keep a list at my desk, with the top reports that I would like to add to our repertoire. My list has never been shorter than 10 reports & I think that speaks to the power of this software. You can customize this software & its reports, in so many ways that it is limited primarily by your own imagination & company needs. For me personally, Crystal Reports became an obsession of sorts & almost a weekend hobby, but not everyone is going to feel this way & that is perfectly normal. However, if you decide to look into the “Crystal” ball, I am sure you will like what you see.