Change is usually accompanied by some pain along with a sizable amount of opportunity. With Blackbaud’s recently announced changes regarding Crystal Reports and Raiser’s Edge NXT, clients will have a good bit of both. There will surely be some challenges in sorting out how to re-create reports that you rely upon to make decisions, but this is also a good time to take stock of your reporting needs and how you can better serve your stakeholders. Luckily, there are a few viable reporting options for Raiser’s Edge NXT going forward.
What reporting options are now available for Raiser’s Edge NXT clients?
1. Out-of-box Reports & Dashboards
Crystal Reports has been the default reporting solution for Raiser’s Edge for over two decades. Blackbaud continued supporting Crystal Reports in its NXT products because of the level of flexibility and control unavailable within earlier versions of NXT. Over the last several years, NXT Insights Designer and dashboards have matured to point that many standard Crystal Reports are no longer necessary.
The good news here is that these native reporting options require practically no coding or data manipulation IT skills.
The bad news here is that Insights Designer is limited to NXT data only. So, if your Crystal Reports require data only available via Database View, Insights Designer won’t meet all of your needs and you’ll need to look at option 2 or 3.
2. Blackbaud Reporting Database (MDB) or Blackbaud Provided Database Backups
Where the out-of-the-box reporting and dashboards cannot match the complexity of your organization’s needs, you do have options to get the data:
- Raiser’s Edge Database View Export – Your organization can go to Export and create a new Blackbaud Report Database. This will create an MDB file of the data you wish to download and report on. This data can be viewed, for example, in Microsoft Access or Excel.
- Nightly backup(s) – Your organization can request a nightly backup of your NXT database(s) from Blackbaud. Once downloaded your team can then restore the file on a SQL Server and use SQL Server Reporting Services and/or another tool to create your reports and dashboards.
The good news here is that you can access your raw data and use it much like you could with Crystal Reports with similar coding and complexities as needed.
The bad news here is this requires your team to have the technical skills and infrastructure to manage the raw data coming out of Raiser’s Edge. These processes will likely need to be automated; otherwise, you will manually be exporting or restoring databases which can be very time consuming.
3. Third-party Data Services
When out-of-the-box reports and dashboard don’t measure up, and the idea of managing/collecting the data from Raiser’s Edge into a usable form looks daunting, the next option is to utilize a two-fold approach: an off-the-shelf modern reporting solution (i.e. Tableau or Power BI) plus a third-party solution to create and populate a nonprofit data warehouse.
To utilize one of these reporting tools, one option for creating your data warehouse is Zuri Group’s Aqueduct solution which manages the technical process of accessing every part of Blackbaud’s NXT products. Aqueduct creates a complete, client-controlled, dimensional data warehouse with the ability to aggregate additional data sources and provide an enterprise-ready reporting environment.
Another option for Power BI connections is Blackbaud’s Microsoft Power BI Connector. It’s an add-in for RENXT that allows you to gain access to commonly used data elements, a similar set as in Insights Designer.
Once you have the NXT data, you can use Microsoft Power BI and Tableau which are the most popular data visualizations options in the market and provide near limitless ability to ideate and deliver dashboards based on your data. Both provide specific nonprofit discounted licensing and are included in many organizational volume licensing agreements. The skillset to build reports within these environments is based upon the complexity; however, there is a large marketplace of skilled resources and training materials out there to help.
The good news here is that either by having access to the entirety of the datasets through the Aqueduct data warehouse or to the commonly used elements via the PowerBI connector, Blackbaud’s NXT clients can still deliver all the familiar reports previously delivered via Crystal Reports, and so much more! All while using the best-in-class tools and industry standard processes.
The additional good news is that, thankfully, there is life after Crystal Reports. Your organization may choose one of these options as the main way forward or, for many, it may be some combination of all three that meet the needs of a diverse set of audiences. Whichever way you move forward, keep in mind that the potential pain involved in this change is far less than the opportunity that lies ahead.
Have questions about your reporting options?
Ken has 20 years of experience in IT and more than a decade of experience working with nonprofits. He has worked with a broad set technologies over the years and this background makes him uniquely qualified to identify and leverage the right technology to help nonprofits support their organizational goals.