Spring Training Episode 3: Salesforce Reports and Dashboards

March 21, 2014 John Gorup

salesforce spring training

One of the best things about Salesforce is the ease with which data in the system can be represented in useful reports and dashboards. This is a feature that can turn an ordinary system administrator into an MVP to executives who rely on good information to make decisions. In this edition of our “Spring Training” series, I asked some of Appirio’s All-Stars for their tips and best practices around this important feature.

Ray Holder from our UK office reminds us to save regularly when building a report. It is easy to do a lot of work on a report, click the run button then close the browser tab/window before you have saved it.

Ray also had some helpful tips for Mac users building Salesforce Reports that might save you a headache or two. The Mac trackpad is great for scrolling left to right along the columns when creating a report, but be careful, the same gesture is often set up to move back and forward through browser history. You will lose unsaved changes if the browser navigates to a different page. Follow the “Save Regularly” tip and consider changing or disabling the trackpad gesture called “Swipe between pages.”

spring training reports and dashboardsOf course, as we have seen in previous Spring Training episodes on Custom Fields, and Workflow and Validation rules, having good organizational habits is a key to long-term success. Our super-star Jarrod Kingston suggest that administrators use numbers when naming folders so they display in a nice order (for example: “1. Company Dashboard”). Also, to keep users from being overwhelmed by the number of report folders available to users, Jarrod suggests administrators should use Folder Sharing to make sure users only see folders they care about.

When it comes to making your reports and dashboards a little more appealing, Rhonda Ross has a cool trick. Rhonda suggests administrators should create a custom formula field on reports with the object name to replace the “Record Count” label out of the box. For example, if your dashboard is on Contacts, say “Contacts” not “Record Count“.

If you work with Salesforce Reports enough, you will probably find your customizations or data needs will require a custom Report Type for proper reporting. Rhonda added some best practices she follows when creating custom Report Types, including:

  • Add [custom] to the end of the custom report type name. This of course will help you readily distinguish your custom report types from the out of the box ones.

  • Name the custom report type with the name of the Primary object, followed by child objects.  For the child objects include whether the with or without option was selected. This will allow you to readily see what the record type is for, without having to dig into it and decipher what it’s about.

  • Use descriptions to include reason that a custom report type needed to be created. This should be a clear explanation that anyone logging into your Salesforce org can understand.

One final best practice I used to give my clients is to create a Report about Reports, and use it to see how many reports are in your systems and how often they are being used. As Salesforce implementations mature, the number of stale reports continues to grow, which can confuse new users joining your organization.

As this series concludes for now, I hope that you have found the advice from our team of All-Stars useful. In the Salesforce world, beautiful, cutting-edge applications get all the attention (you will never see a really nice report folder structure presented at the Dreamforce Keynote, for example), but the better organizations are at maintaining strong administrative practices the healthier the system you will have overall.

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