Business Tips | Dashboards and Data Viz

Many small and mid-sized companies have found Crystal Reports to be a trusty tool to create custom reports from multiple data sources. While these reports contain a lot of valuable data, however, they aren’t easy to digest. It’s not hard to understand why; the visual aspect just simply isn’t there. Pages and pages of data might be comprehensive, but it can be difficult to make decisions based from them.
Fortunately, Crystal Reports users with iDashboards can bridge the gap between raw data and actionable insight. A Crystal Reports dashboard transforms static information into a dynamic experience. Rather than simply reading a PDF of information, you can create interactive charts and graphs, filter data, and drill down to the granular details.

How to Leverage Data from Crystal Reports

Transferring data from Crystal Reports into iDashboards is easy. Simply select “Show SQL Query” in the Database tab in Crystal Reports Designer, and SQL code will automatically be generated. This code can be copied and used to create a view on the database with minimal modification or even used directly in the iDashboards platform to create charts and graphs using the drag-and-drop dashboard designer.
This shortcut saves Crystal Reports users an enormous amount of time when it comes to getting their dashboards up and running. You also get the benefit of having consistent data on your reports and charts. The data on your dashboards is retrieved in the same way as your Crystal Reports data, so you are guaranteed to see the same numbers you are used to seeing. You are simply leveraging your existing infrastructure to create custom dynamic dashboards.

Benefits of Crystal Reports Dashboards

Crystal Reports Dashboards Benefits
If you create and utilize your dashboard effectively, it can have a dramatic impact on your business. Here are just a few of the benefits of using Crystal Reports & iDashboards together:

  • Consume data faster: Visual information is processed rapidly and automatically, whereas written or numerical data requires more deliberative, sequential processing. This means that visualized data can be interpreted, and acted upon, quickly and efficiently. Visualizing data makes it easier to draw parallels between related metrics, identify trends, and compare values.
  • Tell a story with your data: Data visualization allows users to look at data from different perspectives and connect them to their business narratives. It can also establish important context to help business users better understand the relationship and connections between data sets.
  • Interact with key metrics: Incorporated drilldowns provide more detailed, granular information to the end user. With iDashboards’ Interactive Intelligence, charts and graphs with related data interplay and animate as you hover over different values, helping you more easily identify key insights.
  • Save time: Since Crystal Reports integrates seamlessly with your dashboard tool, you end up saving a lot of time. Instead of having to constantly pull data and compile reports, you can focus on actually analyzing your data and ensuring data quality and integrity.
  • Get real-time updates on your data: One of the biggest gripes about traditional reports is that as soon as it’s created and printed out, it’s already outdated. Dashboards can be set up to automatically update when your data does. This eliminates the need to constantly compile lengthy reports and helps you identify potential problems early,
  • Share data and data visualizations with others: Dashboards improve collaboration, communication, and teamwork. You can easily share data with your team members to establish accountability and transparency of data.

Designing Your Crystal Reports Dashboard

Designing Crystal Reports Dashboards

Bringing data from a Crystal Report to life through a dashboard requires a basic knowledge of design. Good design takes the audience and purpose of the dashboard into account. Once you’ve determined what data you want to present, then you can start thinking about the most effective way to communicate that with your key stakeholders.

Layout & Composition

Before you dive into your dashboard software, you should plan out a general layout for your dashboard. We call this step storyboarding, and the general idea is to sketch out the placement of the charts within your dashboard to create a cohesive and intuitive view for your end users. Here are some tips for the beginning stages of dashboard design:

  • Focus on a clean, uncluttered design. Whitespace allows the eye to rest and register information.
  • The charts and graphs on your dashboard should flow left to right, as if your audience is reading a book.
  • Add keys, legends, and labels when appropriate to provide important context to your graphics.
  • Avoid information overload! Refrain from creating a chart unless it has a distinct purpose and is contributing to the larger narrative of your dashboard. (Confused on which chart type would work best with your data? Check out this infographic.)

Colors

When creating a Crystal Reports dashboard, you want to be smart about the colors that you use. The goal of data visualization is to simplify information, and colors can turn raw data into digestible bites of information. Here are some guidelines for successfully using color in your dashboards:

  • Avoid bright colors. People find softer, natural colors more visually appealing.
  • Avoid using more than five colors. If you have to use more, keep them complementary or contrasting (depending on the type of data and the story you are trying to convey).
  • Use an online color palette tool, such as Adobe Color.
  • Use a complementary color for text to ensure readability.

Click here to view our dashboard example gallery and see how you can bring data from Crystal Reports to life.

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Tom Meacham

Tom Meacham is a Sr. Solutions Engineer here at iDashboards, focusing on consulting and solution development. Tom loves adventure, tacos, and the oxford comma.

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Even if you’re not the artistic type, this guide will have you thinking like a graphic designer and making informed choices that support your data narrative.

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