To start, we need to understand that there are differences between support, consulting, teaching and community forums. Each of these is a distinct facet of software work experience. In a nut shell, support of Crystal Reports, RAS and Business Objects Enterprise SDKs extends to helping or showing how to accomplish a specific task. Support will not debug applications, or write applications. Nor will support teach basic or advanced development skills. Those facets are better served by other groups. Consulting can be obtained through SAP Services. Training is available through the SAP Education organization.
Second, there are two ways for developers using Crystal Reports or RAS or Business Objects Enterprise SDKs to obtain help with their applications; Community Forums and Phone.
The SAP Community Forums are a free service provided for SAP customers. The forums are intended to be a place for the SAP user community to request help and advice, and to share knowledge, expertise and resources. While some members of SAP support teams may participate in these community forums, there is no guarantee that a response will be provided or that it will be provided in a timely manner or even that the response will be accurate.
Note that the forums are divided into what I would call distinct sections and subsections. Each subsection has a header describing what products that particular subsection is responsible for. As an example the .NET Development – Crystal Reports forum header specifies the following:
General explanation of what Crystal Reports and Business Ojects Enterprise SDK support will and will not do
- Support will provide resources which would include help files, application samples, KBases, articles and more.
- Support will help with runtime deployment issues, but can not help creating a setup project as that will be created by a 3rd party applications (e.g.; InstallShield).
- Support will not write the application from scratch. This is consulting.
- Support will not debug existing code. This is also consulting. However Support will determine which part of the code is at issue and may provide advice on how to best proceed or provide a small sample application demonstrating the functionality (e.g.; exporting to PDF). It is then up to the developer to integrate the working piece into their application.
- Support will not help with applications created by a 3rd party. E.g.; if you buy software that uses Crystal Reports from Acme developments, you will need to go to Acme for support.
- Support will help with issues related to upgrades – providing that after the upgrade the system is in a supported environment. Examples of where support will not be given;
1) Upgrading of COM ASP applications from XI R2 to XI 3.1as COM ASP is no longer supported in XI 3.1.
2) Issues with Crystal Reports XI release 2 (11.5) in VS .NET 2008. CR 11.5 is not supported in .NET 2008, only CR 10.5 and CR 2008 are.
3) Issues with out of support versions of Crystal Reports and Business Objects Enterprise. However, note that you can still post your queries regarding out of support products to the forums. I still see queries regarding CR 8.5 or more rarely even earlier versions of CR. Obviously, answers may be hard to come by, but we will certainly try.
- Support will not fix product bugs. These need to be reproduced by support and escalated to R&D. A bug may be accepted, postponed or rejected. Reasons for these decisions are beyond the scope of this blog. However you will be informed of the decision and the reasons for it. If a bug fix is accepted, usual ETA will be six months or more. Though recently I have seen much quicker delivery times. But I suspect this depends on all kinds of variables, from complexity of the fix to available resources.
What are the forums good for then
Forums are a great place to exchange information, supply links to resources and provide support for issue that are not too complex. My rule of thumb is; once the thread goes over one page, it is probably time to consider phone support. This may happen with complex issues, issues that are difficult to explain, instances where language starts to become a barrier and other. E.g.; there may come a point when you are asked to consider creating a phone case.
Note that it is not possible to attach sample applications, logs, reports or any other files to forum posts. This is be design. Typically, if any files need to be shared you will have to create a phone case (see bellow). Occasionally, we will offer to contact the author of a thread over email so that files can be exchanged. This is at the discretion of the support technician and will depend on;
a) Time availability as phone case do take precedence.
b) Anticipated time commitment to reproduce the issue. Speaking for my self. If an issue reported on the forums will take more than about 15 to 20 minutes to reproduce I will probably not have the time to pursue it and a phone case will have to be created so that a dedicated technician can work it.
c) Support Technician’s skill level
d) Support Technician’s “passion” for the issue. As bad as it sounds, given two issues on the forums to look into more closely, I’ll pick the one closer to my heart, what ever that may be. Note that I do not have that choice with phone support…
e) Support Technician’s schedule. Upcoming training, vacations, etc., will come into the decision making process.
f) Rapport. Believe it or not, demanding exchange of files, inappropriate language, etc., will more than likely not skew the technician to go above and beyond the regular limits of what the forums have been designed for. Keeping communications friendly and / or professional is always more appreciated and conducive to more effort than rants and raves…
A few tips when posting to the forums
- If this is a critical issue to you and needs to be resolved ASAP forums, more than likely, are not the place for your query. While you may get lucky and get a quick, accurate resolution – do consider phone support.
- Check out the sticky posts at the top of each forum
- Before posting to one of the above forums, consider if the issue originates in the Crystal Reports designer (CRW32.exe). If the issue is present in the CR Designer, post your query to either the SAP Crystal Reports Design or SAP Crystal Reports – Data Connectivity forum. Remember, if it does not work in the designer, it more than likely will not work in an application using any one of the SDKs. Same goes for functionality. If it can not be done in the CR designer, more than likely it can not be done using any of the SDKs. And of course, similar is the case for BOE.
- When posting to the forums, provide enough information. See the Rules of Engagement. Also, see the blog What do I need to do to get the fastest issue resolution?
- Search for an answer before posting. The forums contain tons of great information.
- Use the search box at the right top corner of the forums. This search will return results for KBases, articles, wikis, blogs, sample applications and more. And when posting to the forum, don’t forget to say what searches you actually did do.
- It is highly encouraged that you post your query into the correct forum. Posting into the wrong forum will at best result in slow response, possibly asking that you post to the correct forum and at worst the query will be completely ignored. Though we discourage all moderators from using that approach. The following forums are available to application developers using Crystal Reports or Business Objects Enterprise SDKs:
Business Objects Enterprise users will typically have a support contract and are able to create phone cases at will. Posting a query to the forums is useful if time is not of the essence or if the query is regarding location of resources or simple programming concepts. Those with only a Crystal Reports installs typically do not have unlimited phone support contract available to them. However a single phone support incident / case can be obtained at this link. Remember if your issue turns out to be something requiring a fix, you will be refunded your phone case.