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Data is King

susiekokoska Applications & Integration Services, CRM

Have you made an investment in Salesforce to transform your business, only to find that you cannot report on your business requirements due to missing or illogical data?  Perhaps your open pipeline report has opportunities with close dates from 2 years ago, an active contract report counts expired contracts or your NALA account report has accounts from APAC. The key to getting valuable information out of your CRM is ensuring that you are putting valuable information into your CRM. You know the old saying – “you get out what you put in”. To optimize your investment in CRM, be sure to evaluate your data model, scrutinize your data requirements, and then enforce data integrity with system features. There are plenty of ways to improve data integrity, and you can use some or all of the below suggestions to get you on a path to meaningful data and its reports and dashboards.

  • Less is more: Does your account page layout resemble a lengthy legal document such as a mortgage application or insurance claim form with endless fields to fill out. Do you have to scroll more than once to reach the bottom of the edit page? If so, it’s time to evaluate the fields that you have on the account page. My motto is – if you do not have the field in a report or use for a process or workflow, then you do not need it. If you are managing your competitors and partners in SFDC, it makes sense to expose a field like the account type field. But if you do not segment your accounts by employee count or annual revenue, then why keep those fields on the page layout? Do you store birthdates or home numbers for your contacts? If no, remove them from the page. You will find that your users will enter data more thoroughly if they are limited to the number of fields on the page. Scrutinize each and every field on every page.
  • Require almost everything: Even if means creating a picklist value that is equal to the word “None” to represent no selected choices from the list, a field with a value has more meaning than a blank field. Whether through page layout requirements, field properties or validation rules; your fields should be required at some point in the lifecycle of a record. Exceptions can occur such as when accounts may not have a phone number or email addresses are missing on contacts, but aim to make these exceptions, not the rule.
  • Use dependent picklists: Enforce data integrity with dependent picklists wherever possible. To avoid illogical data in reporting such as states showing up in countries where they do not exist or loss reasons entered for a closed won opportunity, enforce field values that depend on another field’s values.
  • Implement global picklists:* If you haven’t heard of global picklists, take the time to read up on them ASAP. These picklist fields offer consistency across objects. Rather than maintain a redundant picklist such as Country in multiple objects, create a global list and reference it in each picklist field across your instance. When a change is made to your picklist values, the change is made in one place and all fields will be automatically updated.
  • Enforce picklist values where appropriate:* Again, if you have not heard about this new property on picklist values, read up on this ASAP. Now you can restrict picklist values to the actual values you want in your data. You chose to create a picklist to track data that had defined values to be used in reporting, filtering, or workflow. But through data load, any value can be loaded into a picklist field on a record. By enabling “strictly enforce picklist values” on a new picklist field, your days of dirty data from data load are behind you.
  • Use “Yes/No” picklists in place of check boxes: Because a checkbox can’t be required on a page layout, an empty checkbox field might indicate a false value or the field may have been overlooked during data updates. To avoid the ambiguity surrounding checkbox field usage, “yes/no” picklist fields can be used in place of checkboxes as these fields can be required through page layout requirements.
  • Use Help Text: If you have expectations on what type of information should be put into a field that might not be so obvious to the end user, make sure to provide instructions in the Help text of the field properties. I.e Suppose you have a rating field that is 1-5. Make sure your users know if the 1 is the lowest value or the highest value in the listing.
  • Use validation rules: Validation rules are crucial when it comes to preventing a user from entering incorrect data. I.e. create a rule that will not let a user close an opportunity with the close date in the past, create a rule that requires an ERP ID field be entered when an account type is “Customer” or prevent a lead from being converted if the qualification fields on the lead record have not been documented. If you know the rules of when data is expected to behave a certain way, it is easy to enforce those rules.
  • Use workflow to identify issues with critical fields: Whether an upcoming close date on an opportunity, an approaching milestone violation on a case, or a renewal action date on a contract, issues with producing bad data can be avoided by taking a proactive measure with workflow. By using a field update, an email notification or a task, you can avoid data going stale or produce negative results by taking action on it.
  • Avoid using redundant fields on related objects: As field values can be used in reports across objects, you can eliminate the use of redundant fields on related objects. I.e if you have a division or business unit field on the account record, you may not need to re-create the field on an opportunity, but can access the field through the relationship.
  • Enable field history tracking: To help you understand anomalies in your data, enable field history tracking on critical fields that will track changes in value so that you can take action if needed.
  • Use duplicate management: Salesforce duplicate management is as strict or flexible as you need for your organization. But enabling at least an alert when a duplicate is detected will help you from creating a mass of duplicate accounts, contacts and leads. If it make sense, you can lock down your system further, but the rigidity of the rules can be customized for your requirements.
  • Use custom objects: You can segment your data across related objects to track data that has more than one value or data that should be tracked over time. For instance, rather than entering fields for Product 1, Product 2 and Product 3 on an account record, consider adding a related object for associated products. Rather than storing a login rate field on an account that is updated and overwritten over time, consider adding a custom object to record the login rate with the time interval that is associated with the rate.
  • Run exception reports: Create reports that identify unacceptable data in your system and distribute them. Examples of exception reports are Open Opportunities with Close Dates in the Past, Expired Contracts in Active Status, Unread Leads, or Active Accounts without Activity in last 90 days.
  • Supplement your data: If you have the budget, consider using Data.com or another data enrichment tool that will keep your account and contact data up to date. Providing a tool for your users that can update standard Account fields like Website, Phone, Employees, Annual Revenue, and Industry will take the burden off your users from manually entering this type of readily available information. Supplementing your data will provide more accurate reporting, searching and filtering, as well as improving the user experience. Providing contact information will also help your users get to the right person faster. Offering a list of potential contacts at a company you have no history of working with can offer a starting place for your users. Or maybe being alerted that a company has recently placed a new CEO could offer a new opportunity for your business to get in the door to offer your products or services.

Let’s face it, many busy sales people will not scroll through an opportunity record with 200 fields looking to update as many fields as possible to provide better insight into their customer, competitors or sales strategy when they are rushing off to their next meeting. But updating a sales stage and next step field might be a feasible task to pull off to provide a meaningful pipeline report each week. Or when a user needs to scroll through a list of Billing States that are not limited by Country, finding the right choice can be frustrating and time consuming, and may result in a user ignoring the field altogether. Of course your company might require a happy medium of data between 2 and 200 fields on a page layout, but make sure you have done your research on what those fields are, when they should be used and how they should be used. What you want to see out of your system should drive what you put in the system.

*Global picklists and picklist restrictions cannot be enable on existing picklist fields, these features released in Spring 16 are only available for new fields

About The Author

Susie Kokoska is a certified Salesforce.com Administrator, Developer and Sales Cloud Consultant. She has experience in implementing and designing Salesforce solutions for 13 years; with process knowledge surrounding Sales Methodology, Marketing Automation, and all areas of Business Development functions from lead generation to retention strategies. She was one of the first 200 certified administrators of Salesforce.com, a recognition that shows her comprehensive background with the product.