Q: What tips do you have for choosing the right report format to quickly access critical data?
In most systems, setting up reports can be a daunting task that is often given to the IT Systems Administrator. In Salesforce®, anyone can go in and use the wizard to quickly and easily generate a report.
That said, it’s important to understand what report formats are best for various types of data. The way to do this is to start out by determining the central data question that you are trying to answer: what information are you looking for? If you need a list of key customers to call in a particular week, a tabular report format works the best. If you want more options for manipulating and organizing data, summary reports allow you to group rows of data, view subtotals, and create charts. Matrix reports are the most complex kind of report, and provide a powerful aggregation of key metrics that can be used to manage your business.
Custom report types can also be created. These reports enable you to choose which standard and custom objects to display, define the relationships between objects displayed, and select which objects’ fields can be used as columns in reports.
Q: Why should dashboards be used?
Graphics on top of data add an emotional component that drives you to quickly react to a potential downturn or issue in your business. For example, if you login and see a red indicator that something is wrong, you are much more likely to respond immediately than if you have to search for the data before you determine there is a problem.
Dashboards are a one-stop-shop for information, and allow you to immediately see the “outliers” in your data – the signals that there may be a problem in an aspect of your business. This allows the things that need your attention to bubble up to the surface without any additional effort on your part. For example, gauge graphics that show in the red all of a sudden after having been in the green for weeks. Or a list of users who haven’t logged into Salesforce recently that suddenly has 25 names listed.
Dashboards can be customized for Sales, Service and Support, Marketing, and more. Through the AppExchange, Salesforce offers convenient dashboard downloads such as Sales KPI, Marketing Metrics and Data Quality Analysis, which can save you time.
Q: What are best practices for performing trending analysis?
Many businesses use a separate transactional system and data warehouse. However, Salesforce provides some of the analytical functionality of a warehouse along with the vast array of transactional capabilities for which it is famous. These analytical features include the ability to easily perform trending analysis via Analytic Snapshots. Many Salesforce customers are not aware of the power of this feature. For example, if a manager wants to look at how long it takes an agent to close cases, week after week, this information can easily be extracted through the Snapshots.
With Analytic Snapshots, you can run reports and save the results as records on custom objects, schedule the Snapshots to summarize data at specific times (i.e., every day at 5:00), and use this summarized data to run reports faster. Analytic Snapshots also enable you to perform enhanced sorting and filtering on specific data in list views, and view trends in data via custom object records.
Q: What common misconceptions can limit a user’s ability to make better strategic business decisions?
Some users are not aware of all of the capabilities, so a common misconception is that Salesforce can’t deliver a specific metric or certain combination of data. For example, I’ve worked with several users who had been exporting data to Excel® — unaware of how easy it is to create powerful charts and graphs in Salesforce. Also, in the last year and a half, there have been many enhancements to Salesforce, and in some cases, these are turned on automatically. Understanding how to maximize Salesforce can help you quickly access critical data to make the best business decisions.