Let’s take a deep dive into what makes a good manual data management process. A good manual data management process gives your company’s Salesforce users visibility, context, and actionability into your data. Relational databases can be confusing. This is especially true for folks that think that relational data management is the same as dealing with single table views. The following considerations are how to nail it in a relational context.
Visibility of Salesforce Data
So what is a definition of ‘Good Visibility’ into Salesforce data? The short and sweet, definition is: “Good visibility lets a user see all relevant data in one view.” But, what is relevant? It depends on the use case, but sometimes it involves more than one Salesforce object, like an Account, and its Opportunities & Contacts.
For example, when you want to see all the open Opportunities related to your top 10 Accounts, you could open all those records up in separate tabs in a browser. If you did so, you would be breaking the good visibility principle because you’d need to go to each individual tab to get the data in view. Not to mention you’d have to refresh each relevant tab that has related data when you make a change.
Not being able to see everything in one view actually means our brains have to work harder when it might not be necessary. Specifically, the spatial visualization part of our brain, the part of our brain that mentally manipulates things that are not immediately in view, has to work harder. Therefore, when a user has to go to a different screen to see data they need to see, he/she is engaging the spatial visualization capacity in a big way. Every time you aren’t providing visibility into the data someone needs to see, it’s like you are asking them to think as hard as the puzzle in the image here for every record they need to jump to:
Sure you could probably get the answer to this if you thought about it, but why should you even have to think about such things especially over the course of a busy work day?
What Fixes Visibility Problems?
To fix these visibility problems, relational data can be represented hierarchically in a tree-like structure. This is an interface paradigm that is well accepted among users especially as it applies to working with files on a computer operating system. We’ve seen great adoption of this paradigm by our customers in their use of GridBuddy grids.
You could also put everything in a flat view like you might see when you export a multi-object Salesforce report to Excel. The problem with this is that for all the “child” data in your view, entries will get repeated for each instance of its “parent”. While this is okay for some, it leads to problems because repeating data is confusing when viewed, and calculates into inaccurate data summaries.
What Solves Context Issues?
Computer software should provide the ability to take the strain off users’ eyeballs. Filtering, sorting and search capabilities are powerful tools that provide users the context they need in these situations. It is especially important in a relational context that these capabilities are multi-object, meaning they need to give users the ability to define filtering and sorting criteria across all objects in a data set. Filtering capabilities should also provide the ability to only show certain records based on the presence or absence of the records they are related to. This capability helps users take advantage of the true relational nature of their data when narrowing down the records they need to work with.
Actionability Against Salesforce Data
Actionability is the ability to do any CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) action on your data throughout the data lifecycle. Suppose you have the perfect Salesforce report. It provides you all the visibility you want, for example, it shows you your Accounts with Opportunities in one hierarchical view. It also gives you the perfect context, enabling you to filter down to your top 10 accounts and their open Opportunities. You look at the Oppties and see that a few of them have moved into procurement, and you need to change their stages and close dates. What do you do?
This is where actionability comes in. In this example, unfortunately you’d have to open those Opportunities into separate browser tabs to edit them and then refresh the report after the edit. That’s because Salesforce reports don’t provide actionability in this regard. Doing this workaround also breaks the visibility principle again because you have to do your edits in a separate view.
The problem doesn’t stop with editing. What if you wanted to create new Opportunities or even create new Accounts from this view? What if you were looking at a list of Leads and wanted to create new Tasks on the fly? Actionability would give you the ability to create these records from the same view, no problem.
With performing any CRUD action, we’ve found that the ability to do these inline often works the best. In other words, having list views with inline create, edit and delete capabilities is key. This helps you act on the same data you see in the view without having to go somewhere else. In addition, the ability to do these data changes in mass is essential. Web-based relational data management systems need to be on par with Excel (the most popular data management system in the world), and users are often surprised and frustrated when common things like fill-down and mass copy/paste are not present in web-based data management systems.
Actionability covers one other dimension in business systems. Business systems differ from spreadsheets in that there are tons of rules and processes that are defined in them. Sometimes, these rules trigger automatically, sometimes the user initiates them. An example of the latter is when a sales user needs to generate a quote based on Opportunity data. Being able to initiate this action from the same view where you are doing all your other work not only makes users more productive, it’s in keeping with the visibility principle described above.
To conclude, the three principles of a good manual data process are visibility, context, and actionability. When users can see all the data they need in its proper context, they are able to appropriate and act on it. The investment in developing your manual data processes in your Salesforce org that help users be productive and help them derive benefit from the system every time they use it will return its investment manyfold. Some real benefits we’ve seen with our customers are increased productivity, accelerated user adoption, reduced training costs, better data quality, and diminished dollars in data cleaning projects and custom development. Or quite simply, we like to say, “Happy Users = Happy Data!”
Want to Create Great Data Management Processes in Your Org?
Come by AppBuddy's booths at Dreamforce 2014 (Moscone North #1030 or Moscone West #808) to talk to an expert about how you can increase productivity, improve data quality and accelerate user adoption in your Salesforce data management processes. Or hear AppBuddy Co-Founder and President, Marc Aubin, share more insights and take questions on this topic at a special Dreamforce lunch and learn.