Crystal Reports has been around a long time. I have worked with it for 20 years and it was around before that. That is an incredible run for a piece of software. Recently I have received questions that are variations on the same theme: How strong is CR’s presence in the market. Here are the main variations:
- Is it still worthwhile to invest time in learning Crystal?
- What are the job prospects for full-time CR developers?
- Can I make money as a CR consultant?
- I am working on a software project, should I consider an alternative for reporting?
- What does SAP have planned for Crystal Reports.
Crystal Reports is still widely used, and I am still busy, but the user base seems to have stopped growing. I have seen the curve sloping down in three areas:
1) Newsletter subscriptions
2) Sales of my e-books
3) On-site and public class requests
Based on my data, Crystal Reports hit a peak around 2008 and then started a slow decline. This may be in part because of the SAP focus on Enterprise customers or because that was the last version with significant new features. But despite that, there are two things that will keep Crystal Reports going for years.
First is customer loyalty. When I started using Crystal Reports in 1995 I was already an expert in a similar tool called R&R Report Writer. In 1996 Crystal Reports v5 came out and my requests for Crystal sloped up while requests for R&R sloped down. Within a few years Crystal had completely taken over my business. But R&R did not go away. The customers were so loyal that another R&R consultant bought the rights to the product and kept it going. R&R is still out there today, nearly 20 years later, and still has a small but loyal following. Now if a tool like R&R can stay alive for 20 years after it was surpassed, Crystal should be solid for the foreseeable future. The user base for CR is much bigger than R&R ever was. And CR has yet to be surpassed, which brings me to point number two.
The second thing that will keep CR alive is its power. Crystal has the ability to tap directly into all types of data, it has a rich formula language, and it has incredibly flexible presentation options. Crystal has also grown a broad ecosystem of independent products that can enhance its power. Crystal can’t do everything, but it is a rare day when I have to tell a customer that I can’t find a way to meet their output or delivery requirements. I keep looking at newer tools and nothing out there is as flexible and comprehensive as Crystal Reports.
So on the one hand, the current decline would make it difficult to launch a new Crystal Reports business. On the other hand, I expect to be doing Crystal Reports for another 20 years.