By Libby Brouwer

Salesforce events always offer an opportunity to get to know others enthusiastic about the Salesforce platform. As part of Salesforce’s efforts to continue to highlight the excellent work of Salesforce Admins, they’ve carved out the #AwesomeAdmin Zone. Keep an eye out for this area at Dreamforce 2015 as it’s sure to be hopping. If you’re new to Salesforce Admining, it’s a great spot to get some of your questions answered by seasoned Admins who are eager to share their knowledge.

Last week at the NYC Salesforce World Tour I had the pleasure of volunteering at the Reports & Dashboards booth with #AwesomeAdmin and fellow Philly Girly Geek Kathy Chicotle. In addition to it being a total blast, it was incredibly enlightening. Answering question after question about building reports and customizations reminded me that there are overarching commonalities regardless of your industry. What are some of those things? Read on.

Start with the Business Process

I can’t tell you how many times I asked the Admin with whom I was speaking what the underlying business process was of the Report we were discussing. The role of an Admin requires much of the same insights as being a Business Analyst. It’s up to you to make sure that the decisions being made fit into the context of your instance. If you ever have the opportunity to listen to Jeff May discuss Admins as BAs, seize it.

When you are building a Report, trust but verify. Ask the requestor to describe for you in plain English what he or she is trying to accomplish with the Report. Often the requestor will come to you with preconceived ideas of how you should build the Report. That’s great some of the times but can also be misleading. You, as the Admin, know your instance and its architecture better than your users. So while someone might be requesting certain Fields or Objects be pulled into the Report, make sure you’re understanding the context of what you’re building. Perhaps there’s a better way to get at that information that hadn’t occurred to your coworker.

If you’re starting from scratch with a shiny new Salesforce instance, take the time to really scope out the reporting needs before you build. Having a clean slate from which to work is a luxury. Enjoy it! If there is already a whole host of Reports, see if there’s a way to add a field to an existing Report to fulfill the need and avoid creating one more Report.

Standardize Naming Conventions

Naming conventions are your friend. There are no sub-folders for Reports & Dashboards so it’s up to you to keep things in order. Reports have a way of multiplying like bunnies if you aren’t careful. The next thing you know, they’re so out of control you don’t know where anything is. Let’s put a stop to that.

My preferred method of organization is to use the basic formula of Heading: Report Name. For instance, if you have built a Report to see how many members are renewing annually and who they are, the Report name would read — Membership: Annual Renewals. Let’s say you also want to see a Report of your LYBUNTs (Last Year But Unfortunately Not This Year) and SYBUNTs (Some Year But Unfortunately Not This Year). Those would be namedMembership: LYBUNT and Membership: SYBUNT respectively.

How is this helpful? This will group all of your “Membership” Reports together thanks to the power of alphabetical order. Now, when you go to look for your “Membership” Reports, you don’t have to dig for them or remember what the exact name was. Boom, they’re right there.

Use Standard Salesforce Time Filters

The discussion of LYBUNT and SYBUNT Reports raises another interesting point — how to filter for dates. I’ve seen any number of Reports that have been built with a filter for “2015” or another equally restrictive time period. Whenever possible, use the Range function for dates. This gives you a wide variety of options spanning FY (fiscal year), CY (calendar year), Quarter, Month, Week, Day, and beyond. There are also options to filter for “Next 30 Days” or “Previous 30 Days” as well as other time windows if you want your Report to float with you and not be affixed to a certain month. This will give you greater flexibility as you build your Reports and save you from having to build a new Report every year.

Keep Custom Report Types Streamlined

Do you really need a new Custom Report Type for that? Remember, the more Report Types you have, the more confusing it will become to build Reports. Just as I recommend naming conventions for the Reports themselves, these are also helpful for Custom Report Types. Keep things clean and tidy and use titles that reflect what the Report Types do. You’ll be so much happier in the long run.

Join Your User Group Community

Want a place to ask those, “How do other people do this?” questions? Join your local User Group! Login to the Salesforce Success Community and click on the User Groups tab. This will provide a list of all the amazing User Groups out there. Many of the larger cities also have a specific Nonprofit User Group and a Girly Geeks chapter. Search your city and see what comes up, then go mingle. They’re a fantastic way to meet other #AwesomeAdmins like yourself as well as those who hold other Salesforce roles. Plus, it’s always great to chat with folks who are as enthusiastic about all of this as you are.

Libby Brouwer

Libby Brouwer is a consultant at roundCorner and works with clients in the nonprofit landscape on a daily basis. Having always had one hand in fundraising and the other in technology, she has a passion for helping clients realize the benefits of one educating the other. Libby established the Philly chapter of Girly Geeks in January 2015, hosting monthly gatherings in the Greater Philadelphia area. 

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