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Supporting a Client's Migration from Crystal Reports to SSRS

Healthcare | Data Services

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TEKsystems led a migration from Crystal Reports to SSRS format, enabling stronger alignment and better performance with other programs to support meaningful use initiatives. We converted nearly 100 reports, provided feedback on the transition and suggested efficiencies throughout the process.

A long-time leader in the healthcare industry, the client offers healthcare solutions industry-wide to customers including biotechnology and pharmaceutical manufacturers, retail pharmacies, hospitals, homecare providers and specialty practices. Across the business, the client specializes in pharmaceutical distribution, healthcare information technologies, medical-surgical distribution, pharmacy automation solutions, consulting and medical care management.

All businesses rely on clear, concise reporting to present data and aid in decision-making.Business intelligence (BI) software helps organizations view and analyze this data, allowing them to identify trends, view new information and make better-informed choices. Data collection becomes more challenging as an organization grows and more people become involved in the evaluation process. The right BI solution will allow the organization to share information efficiently, enable collaboration and deliver meaningful analysis.

SAP Crystal Reports and Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) are two BI applications used to design and generate reports. Crystal Reports, a market leader, has been challenged by the introduction of SSRS in 2004, and Crystal Reports’ high licensing fees, combined with SSRS' enhanced functionality and Microsoft platform, has caused customers to convert legacy reports to the SSRS format. Much of the conversion must be manual due to formatting and compatibility issues, and in-house conversions can be complex and time-consuming.

SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS),Crystal Reports

In the healthcare industry, recent legislation aimed at improving the quality of patient care has placed greater focus on the use of health information technology (HIT) to create detailed metrics. For example, organizations with an electronic health record (EHR) implementation require accurate reporting to demonstrate meaningful use of their software and qualify for incentive payments. Further, many healthcare systems have increased demand for analytics and integrated reporting across their entire organization as they seek to improve operations and deliver stronger clinical outcomes. The client, a healthcare IT company, relied on Crystal Reports to measure success of the applications it provides to its customers.

TEKsystems, who has a long-standing relationship with the client supporting its business development initiatives, discussed the use of Crystal and SSRS with the client. Having completed conversions from Crystal to SSRS for other clients, TEKsystems’ expertise and experience with BI solutions was valuable to our client. Through our discussions, the client recognized the advantages to SSRS, including more robust capabilities, stability and ease of use. Additionally, a shift to SSRS would support the client’s move to a Microsoft platform, enabling greater integration with other programs and systems as well as help steer subsequent meaningful use initiatives. However, the client was not able to complete such a transition in-house due to a lack of resources and expertise.

The client launched an intensive selection process with three vendors, including TEKsystems. The competing vendors participated in a pilot program that involved converting five client reports under a set time frame. Each vendor was evaluated based on quality of delivery and ability to work independently.

TEKsystems leveraged our Bangalore Solution Center in India to evaluate the reports in the pilot program, as the Bangalore team had extensive experience in completing data conversions and, specifically, Crystal Report migrations. The other vendors also presented off-shore teams to complete the initial evaluation through the pilot program. The client evaluated the responses of each vendor at the conclusion of the pilot, comparing each vendor’s output and looking for the best fit. TEKsystems presented recommendations and feedback to the client, including suggestions on how they could restructure their reports and streamline the upcoming conversions. Overall, the client evaluated vendors on quality of output, value added to the conversion process, ability to work independently and timeliness of conversions.

While each vendor utilized off-shore support for the pilot program, and the client was open to an off-shore solution, the client also approached the project with a degree of hesitancy about the risk involved in an off-shore model. The report conversions were a significant initiative for the client, comprising an important component of the latest release of their clinical software application. Since this application was still in development, the converted reports needed to be built into a product that was still fluid. Any delays in project discussions or clarification of expectations would be extremely detrimental. The client needed strong accountability and timely communication from their vendor, and an off-shore solution would limit their ability to receive both.

TEKsystems developed an on-shore solution for the client, presenting a knowledge transfer model from the Bangalore team to the on-shore team. The leadership from the TEKsystems’ Data Services team, as well as the knowledge gained from the pilot program, would support the on-shore team. This option would allow the client to benefit from TEKsystems’ expertise and experience with report conversions but enable the work to be completed locally - giving the client greater insight into the work being done.

TEKsystems deployed a team of nine resources, including three senior SSRS developers, three intermediate SSRS developers, two QA developers and one on-site project manager. These team members were placed with the client within a three-week period, allowing the client to immediately start work once development was complete. The team followed an Agile-like methodology, utilizing daily scrum meetings and daily pipeline meetings to keep the client apprised of progress.

TEKsystems completed the conversion of all 95 reports from Crystal Reports to SSRS within the required four-month time frame. The client was able to include the SSRS reports in the latest release of their clinical software application and meet their internal deadlines for success.Our ability to complete the report conversions on time enabled us to deliver the project under the estimated cost, at approximately 20 percent below budget. With this architecture shift, the client now has a more robust, stable and easier to use reporting platform that better positions the organization to compete with larger companies in the healthcare space. Further, this reporting transformation also moves the client closer to achieving meaningful use.

To the client, success was defined as the completion of the 95 report conversions within the required timeframe in order to avoid issues with the termination of support from Crystal Reports and to meet the deadline for the release of the next version of their revenue application. TEKsystems’ ability to successfully complete this engagement was driven by:

  • Partnership. The client needed a partner that could provide insight and accountability, and communication and open discussions were needed by both TEKsystems and the client. Having a strong relationship helped both parties clarify expectations, discuss roadblocks and ensure success.
  • The Right People at the Right Time. Given the tight timeline to complete the reports, the project initiation stage was key to setting the tone for the work to come. The client needed talented developers with the expertise to guide the conversions and kick the project off as smoothly as possible within the first few weeks. A mistake in hiring would delay the conversions; two or three months into the project would be too late to correct or make new hiring decisions.
  • Understanding Critical Requirements. As the team worked through the conversions, they uncovered limitations between the Crystal Reports and SSRS environments. TEKsystems worked creatively to solve these issues and present a solution to meet the critical requirements of the client. For example, bar-coding was not identical between the two report formats, but the client had to have a way to read the bar codes. TEKsystems manually changed the font on the bar codes in order to allow the client to access the data needed. Similarly, we also had to manually create vertical bars between columns in the SSRS reports, as SSRS did not have the same functionality as Crystal Reports for certain formatting.
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