Getting more OUT of Salesforce using Reports and Dashboards

Typically in our projects, clients have given some thought to how users will interact with the system.  This can include insight into even the fields that user will be required to complete.  But for many of our customers, the output is either an afterthought or not a thought.  I’ve always found this strange.

I tend to think of CRM projects and Salesforce deployments as a push/pull.  We require that users enter data, and then we use that data to help drive business decisions.  But if you haven’t thought through WHAT you want the outcome to be, I don’t think that the project can be completed.

To that end, I believe that one of the most important aspects of a salesforce project is the desired reporting data.  And its so easy to build reports and dashboards to get what you want out of Salesforce!  Here’s how we usually start:

Start with the outcome in mind – if you want to see This Year vs Last Year data, then its key that we have good data in the Close date in an Opportunity for Example.  But if we can get that, there are multiple ways to get TY/LY data in a nice presentable format.

Make sure that someone is in charge of Public reports  – that person should be good at building reports, and careful about changing them.  We’ve had clients who give everyone the ability to modify the public dashboards, and then call to complain that the dashboards don’t make any sense.  Having one throat to choke for those views is critical in any organization, regardless of size.  My partner once broke one of the public dashboards we use every day.  He didn’t mean to, he was just in there messing around.  Even for certified consultants, its better to have 1 person in charge

Make sure your dashboard speaks to the audience  – Don’t add a ton of Support analytic to the Marketing Dashboard – it just clutters the picture.  Dashboards are easy to build, and easy to assign to specific roles in Salesforce, so built targeted dashboards for targeted audiences.  We have 9 panels on our corporate performance Dashboard – the one for Sales, and we have 6 panes for our Project Manager Dashboard – the one for PM’s.  Only one pane is shared across those 2 dashboards, because my PM’s don’t really care about the details of the pipeline – they just care about totals, and Sales doesn’t care about all the details of a project.  Keep it specific, succinct and precise

Make sure Reports and Dashboards are part of your Process – when we do our weekly Project Management meetings – I have a GoToMeeting screen up – and I show the open projects pane on the dashboard (and eventually the detailed report)  This does 2 things – it shows the PM’s that we are paying attention to not just the projects, but the data in Salesforce, and it re-enforces that timely data management on their part is a critical part of their jobs.  When we started, I could get the “oh, I haven’t had a chance to update” but after awhile, everyone knows that excuse isn’t going to cut it.  MAKE SURE that views of the reports are part of your weekly routine (sometimes I even see monitors at client sites where important Dashboards are displayed.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this too.  As always, thanks for reading…

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