In Part I of this series, we tackled avoiding duplicates, data validation, scoring models, Salesforce Connect and more. How do we make our data work for us if we have a system full of old leads, inaccurate contact information and defunct company accounts marked as active?
In part II, we dive further into data management practices, including naming conventions, audits, and documentation. When it comes to data, it’s “garbage in, garbage out.” If your data is dirty, your users will fail to find and capture opportunities in their pipeline.
Here are some simple, Salesforce-specific, things we can do to preserve data integrity in any org, big, small, old or young.
If you can develop these before you build your Salesforce org, please do. Ideally, naming conventions should be a part of the business process design. For established orgs, we use naming conventions to assist with data clean up. Naming conventions create consistency and meaningful predictability – it’s formulaic thinking and are useful for both record creation and metadata labeling.
The hard part is figuring out what is meaningful to the organization. Answering this question should be part of a formal business decision process – have the right people in the room & come to some agreements. Naming conventions should be simple, clear, consistent and easily explainable. Here are some examples:
— The naming convention for opportunities might use Create Date Year + Client Name + Product.
— For a contact, First Name + Last Name, no punctuation, salutations or “Unknown.” From the administrator or developer’s perspective, naming conventions can be pivotal to well-organized data management.
— MetaDATA is still data. At the top of the list, use description fields. These fields should explain the purpose & use of the field (i.e. field used for accounting group to calculate X. Used to create custom list views for partner community). If a field is tied to another field, call it out in the description. It’s like commenting code, a declarative way to guide someone through the complexities of your org.
— When naming Apex classes, start with the object name; if it’s a test class, it should mimic the name of its parent & be amended with “TEST” (OpportunityAddressCreation & it’s test class OpportunityAddressCreationTEST).
Naming conventions can be created for almost anything: fields, validation rules, reports, page layouts. Once the rules are established by the business, they should be thoroughly communicated. And most importantly, they should be enforced. Create a tip sheet. Explain that effective data management is one of the cornerstones of effective organizational management.
Systematic Data Audits Combat Dirty Data
A lot of factors contribute to dirty data, but we’ll touch on a few that can be recognized using reports:
— Reports can help uncover what fields are most/least utilized. If no one populates the field, it might say something about its usefulness. Conversely, a missing key piece of information may mean it should be required.
— Running reports using create dates & last modified dates can be a way of understanding when & what records to purge – particularly with leads. If a lead was created four years ago & was last modified the same day it was created, chances are good that the lead is not viable.
— Consider field types; having too many text fields leads to misspellings or inconsistencies; entering the contact’s title as Manager vs. Mgr. – a picklist might be a better option; using a text field instead of a number or currency field allows users to enter alpha-numeric data where dollar figures belong.
— Sometimes field names are to blame. Users might not know what a field is for. The name of a field may mean a lot to the person who created or requested it, but nothing to the rest of the users. In this situation, adding help text or validation rules can help a user understand what is needed.
— Study “who” enters the data. You can glean useful information based on “who” creates records as well. If that same bunch of leads we mentioned earlier is attributable to one or two people, there may be a need for a quick email or retraining.
— Finally, user error isn’t always the source; poor design can contribute to data problems. Something as simple as poor page layout design can contribute to an increase in bad data. If the other phone number field is at the bottom of the page, can you blame a user for putting two phone numbers in the first one they see? Group like fields together so users know they have options.
Training + Documentation
Salesforce has three major releases a year which require certified professionals to take maintenance exams as continuing education. How can we expect users to keep up?
Users are “certified professional users” of the system.
— Distributing release notes to users before your organization makes any change that directly affects users, every time. Make sure everyone understands current vs. future state.
— For complex changes, conduct training sessions or calls or send out a video illustrating the change.
— For smaller changes, use email.
— We suggest having messages come from a Salesforce-specific inbox rather than a user.
— Keep a public repository of tip sheets, FAQs and training materials–and share it.
— Not sure what a tip sheet is? Think of the most frequently asked process-related questions. (How do I create an opportunity for a certain business process?). If you notice a pattern, it might be a perfect opportunity to create one. Allowing users to help themselves saves time.
Create an onboarding package for new users – both to Salesforce in general and to your individual org. These are larger documents that can be delivered in person but are easy enough to use independently. Documentation should be easy to follow; users should be able to identify what sections of the materials are most pertinent to them. There should be general knowledge (i.e. defining Account) & job or function-specific information (i.e. Accounting business process X, Sales business process X).
If users understand the importance of data integrity & what it means to them, keeping the system up to date should be easier for everyone. A knowledgeable user is less likely to contribute to bad data as frequently as someone who’s given a user ID & released into the CRM world without so much as a “welcome”. Investing in users is an investment in the organization.