Make your Salesforce dashboards count

on Mar 5th, 2014 in Cloud, CRM, Uncategorized, | Comments Off on Make your Salesforce dashboards count

Dashboards are used on the Salesforce platform to provide insight. Whether you are using Sales Cloud, Service Cloud or some other custom Force.com solution dashboards create a visual representation of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) so that users get a real time view of the metrics that matter to them or their organisation. Dashboards are an essential component of a solution that adds value but they are an extremely flexible tool and if you don’t give your dashboards some thought and consideration when designing and creating them you could end up with a bunch of dashboards that are confusing or just difficult to understand. So what should you consider when designing and creating your dashboards?

1. Know your KPIs
Technically speaking dashboards can be based on any data that we choose to store in our Salesforce orgs. There will be lots of data that may be important but it doesn’t necessarily provide any real insight to the performance of some aspect of the organisation. For example historical account records. It is really useful to keep historical accounts for all kinds of reasons but that doesn’t mean a dashboard showing us how many historical accounts we have or the month-on-month trend of historical accounts is in anyway useful to assess how well some critical aspect of the business is currently performing. Make sure you understand what the KPIs are for your business and make sure they are all accounted for in your dashboards. Get consensus and agree with all of your stakeholders what the KPIs are and how they should be measured.

2. Summarise
Dashboards are great for giving an overview that can be consumed and digested quickly. That is the beauty of dashboards – they allow lots of key information to be quickly read and understood.  Don’t be tempted to over complicate your dashboards with too much granular detail that makes the information difficult to consume. Make sure your users have the option to drill down to the underlying reports so they can get at the detail if they wish but keep the dashboard concise and simple.

3. Don’t leave anybody out
It is usually always the case that the first dashboard that gets considered and created is the executive dashboard that provides the overall view of the business. There is no argument that this dashboard is important and it gives your executives another reason to frequently login to Salesforce. But executives are only one sub-set of your user population and they generally represent a very small proportion of your users. If Salesforce is to be adopted as an effective operational tool for any business function then there needs to be dashboards to support middle management (e.g. managers and team leaders) as well as dashboards that individuals can refer to when planning their day-to-day activity such as activity related metrics or other individual performance KPIs. Typically dashboards will be split by user role so make sure there is something for each demographic in your user community and get their input in the design process.

4. Look forwards and backwards 
Dashboards can be used to help predict what is coming in the future as well as providing insight into what has already happened. Retrospective reports show you what has happened so the business can learn lessons and draw conclusions. Reports that look forward, such as sales pipeline, provide insight into what is coming so the business can take any corrective action whilst there is still a chance to do something about it. A sensible approach can be to have one dashboard column that represents historical performance, one column that represents the current state and one column that looks forward.

5. Looks count
Even once you have distilled the information on a dashboard to the bare essentials there can still be a lot to take in so it is important to try and make your dashboards visually stimulating. Dull dashboards will soon lose their appeal and whilst it sounds superficial it does make a difference. Use a variety of chart types if you can and avoid lengthy titles that span multiple lines. Make the charts as visually engaging as possible by using conditional highlighting and chatter photos.

 

6. Evolve
Over time your business will change. Long term strategies will change and you will have short term tactics where the monthly and quarterly focus shifts depending on what is important at that time. If your dashboards are to remain relevant and meaningful then they need to reflect what is important to the business. Make sure you keep your dashboards aligned to the business goals.

So remember… keep your dashboards concise, focused, relevant and make sure there is something that each of your users can relate to.

Salesforce have published some useful examples that can serve well as a starting point for either sales or service related dashboards. Checkout the Sample Salesforce Dashboards PDF.

Salesforce.com Spring 14 Release – My Top Features (Part 2 of 2)

on Feb 7th, 2014 in Cloud, CRM, Mobility, Uncategorized, | Comments Off on Salesforce.com Spring 14 Release – My Top Features (Part 2 of 2)

 

Salesforce.com Spring 14

 

Last time in part 1 we had a first look at the Salesforce.com Spring 14 release notes. This week in part 2 we delve a little deeper into the release notes to uncover some more gems.

 

1. Communities in SF1 – When Communities were introduced in 2013 it was a big milestone and Communities will clearly play a big part in the future strategy of Salesforce. Now we are seeing Communities proliferate the wider corners of the platform. Mobile is another aspect that features heavily in the strategic roadmap and this was clear when we witnessed the birth of Salesforce-1 at DreamForce 13. Strictly speaking Spring 14 is the first officially documented release of SF1 but we have all had a chance to play with it since its launch at DreamForce 14 back in November. Now with the convergence of Communities and SF1 the value of both solutions becomes deeper and enriched.

 

2. Orders standard object – Orders are a logical extension of CRM so it stands to reason that order functionality out of the box is a no brainer for Salesforce. Orders have been available only as part of a pilot up until now but as of Spring 14 they will be available to all organisations from Professional Edition upwards. Not everybody will use orders I’m sure but there will be a lot of organisations that benefit from the feature. The Order object will be closely linked to the Account and will follow the sharing model from the parent Account. Orders also come with an Order Reduction feature to allow the processing of returns or reductions on orders that have been activated. It looks like Reduction Orders will only be available on Enterprise Edition and upwards though – no Professional Edition support. If you want a quick overview of how orders will work then check out the Orders Cheat Sheet at https://help.salesforce.com/help/pdfs/en/salesforce_orders_cheatsheet.pdf.

 

3. Skills – We have all seen skills endorsement in LinkedIn. Salesforce Skills works on a similar principal allowing users to add skills to their user profile. Other users can then endorse their colleagues for skills on their profile. To close the loop Skills are searchable from Global Search so users can quickly identify individuals within their organisation with a particular skill set. I was pleased to see that Salesforce have included administration and moderation features so that system administrators can choose to control whether users have the freedom to add new skills or whether it should be an admin only task. Furthermore administrators can configure skill and endorsement objects with custom fields, page layouts, triggers, workflow and validation rules. I think Skills will be a real value add to larger organisations allowing them to leverage the diverse range of capabilities in their workforce from all corners of the organisation. Skills will be in Pilot in Spring 14 so you will need to request access from your Salesforce AE or support rep.

 

4. Text() Function Picklist support expanded – In the scheme of things this is not the biggest feature but it has been something administrators and developers will be thrilled to see. The Text() function, used to leverage picklist fields, can now be used in Workflow Rules, Approval Rules, Approval Steps, Auto-Response Rules, Escalation Rules, Custom Buttons and Links. What does this ultimately mean? Well it allows more flexibility and freedom to use picklist fields when automating business logic using clicks not code.

 

5. Permission Sets – Mass user add – A relatively trivial change but it is a victory for all administrators that have suffered the pain of having to add users to a permission set one-by-one from each user record. The addition of permissions sets was much welcomed by administrators with large complex orgs where they had to maintain many different user profiles to accommodate slightly different variations of user profiles. Permission sets made it easy for administrators to keep the number of user profiles relatively low but whilst allowing the flexibility to grant certain permissions to a cross-section of users regardless of what user profile they had been assigned. If you created a permission set that you wanted to add to more than one or two users to though it was a tedious exercise. Well not anymore!

 

Summary
So there you have it. Lots to look forward to from the next release. You can download the latest release related content, including release notes, at http://www.salesforce.com/newfeatures/. As with every Salesforce.com release the Spring 14 release will be staggered across multiple weekends with different Salesforce.com instances upgrading each weekend. The first of the sandbox instances will be rolling out from 7th February and the first production instances will start the following week on the 14th February. For details of full rollout schedules for all instances check out http://trust.salesforce.com/trust/maintenance/.

 

About Damien
I am a Senior Salesforce Consultant in Ciber’s UK Salesforce practice. For more details on Ciber’s range of Salesforce.com specific services including training, bespoke development, solution delivery and support check out our website on http://www.ciber.com/uk/index.cfm/technologies/salesforcecom/.

Salesforce.com Spring 14 release – My top features (Part 1 of 2)

on Jan 30th, 2014 in Cloud, CRM, | Comments Off on Salesforce.com Spring 14 release – My top features (Part 1 of 2)

Salesforce Spring 14 LogoWe may still be in the throes of Winter, at least we are in the UK, but the Salesforce Spring 14 release notes have been unveiled giving us a mouth watering glimpse of what we can expect from the next release of the of the award winning cloud technology. In an attempt to distill the 319 pages of new feature goodness down into something more digestible I’ve summarised my top features from the Spring 14 release and there is something in there for everyone.

 

 

1. Launch Flows from Workflow Rules – This has the potential to be a real game changer in my opinion. The freedom this will afford Administrators and BAs is colossal. Although there is no question of the capability that Flows have offered up until now they seem to make it into a relatively small number of solutions. That is mainly attributed to the fact that the only type of event that can initiate a Flow is a user’s mouse click on a button or link. Although there was always the option to leverage Flows with VisualForce you are then into developer territory so the chances are if you know how to code you would just create the whole solution using VisualForce and Apex. With Spring 14 you will be able to launch a Flow from a Workflow Rule. Trigger Ready Flows, as they will be officially known, will open up a world of possibilities for non-developers and shift the line that divides declarative solutions and Apex Trigger based solutions. So lots of requirements that would have previously required an Apex Trigger will now be possible using Trigger Ready Flows that require zero code. Don’t get me wrong, Apex Triggers will still have a place and there are lots of situations where a Trigger Read Flow cannot do what an Apex Trigger can. For example Trigger Ready Flows cannot be used with Time Dependent Workflow and not all standard objects will be supported. Also there is limited support for use with multi-select pick lists and multiple currency environments. I should point out that this is currently a pilot feature which means it is only available on request so you will have to ask you friendly Salesforce AE or support rep for Trigger Ready Flows to be enabled in your org. If all goes well with the pilot I would hope to see Trigger Ready Flows become generally available later on this year.

 

2. Flexible sorting in reports – This is a relatively simple one but I’m sure the research and development required from Salesforce to make it happen was anything but simple. Basically when you create a summary or matrix report with groupings you can now specify which field you wish to sort-by for each grouping. Simple yet extremely useful. Features such as this are a good thing for the Force.com analytics suite which is now showing real maturity with rich with advanced features that require no code.

 

3. Create Cases from Salesforce Side Panel in Outlook – Straight forward feature but the user experience in Outlook is consistently improving with each release. Mobile is clearly high on the agenda for Salesforce but it is good to see they are not neglecting key desktop integration that remains relevant to many organisations.

 

4. File storage increase – 612MB – 2GB – A generous increase in file storage for all users! As customers build up archives of activity and associated files the file storage limit can cause real issues and force the need for strictly enforced archiving solutions. Also as we see usage of Chatter growing at ever increasing rates and Chatter file sharing growing with it this increase is welcomed and offers some considerable breathing space.

 

Badges in communities5. Badges in Communities – Up until now badges have only been available in Work.com but it is great to see a gamification feature making its way into the core product. Users can award badges to other community members without the need for a Work.com license. Even external users in your communities can give badges to other community members.

 

Summary

Spring 14 is clearly going to be a strong release with some exciting features making their way onto the platform. The stand out feature is Trigger Ready Flows, even though the feature is only in pilot for now. For more details on the latest release including the release notes, training videos and developer resources check out http://www.salesforce.com/newfeatures/.

 

Stay tuned for my next post on the Spring 14 release when I’ll be covering more features that are included in the release.

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