The ROI of your entire Salesforce investment hinges on the business insights that drive your team to generate more quality leads, win more deals and delight customers with a seamless customer experience. That means the importance of creating and maintaining meaningful and accurate reports and dashboards could not be overstated.

Whether you’re just setting out into the exciting world of Salesforce, or you’ve had Salesforce for years, you should know that Salesforce reports and dashboards are the cornerstone of a successful implementation. More than any other CRM or software platform on the market today, Salesforce has made it exceptionally easy to create reports, automate delivery and provide shared access to users based on a robust security model.

And when you run your business on Salesforce (read more on our Lead-to-Cash approach), with sales, marketing, pricing, customer service, accounting and other departments on the platform, you can get a report on just about any metric so long as the data is in Salesforce!

The caveat is that reports and dashboards are only as good as the data you have in Salesforce, and without a solid system architecture, user adoption strategy, integration strategy and overall commitment to data quality, your success can be greatly diminished.

Read more for our Top  Fundamentals of Effective Salesforce Reports and Dashboards

1. Define reporting requirements from the top down and for each work group

High-performance organizations typically have well-established reporting requirements, which are driven by the board and/or executive team. These leaders clearly define the KPIs for the business and become familiar with reporting options and capabilities in Salesforce. When considering your Salesforce implementation, or a revamp of your reporting capabilities, it’s important to gather reporting requirements from the top down and then reverse engineer the data points and system architecture that will drive this reporting.

Basic Salesforce Reports Examples:

  • Quarterly Opportunity pipeline trending
  • Quarterly Lead conversion trending
  • Weekly sales activities by rep
  • Forecasting by product line
  • Marketing Campaign attribution

You should also consider that each Profile in your org (group of users with similar functions and access levels) will likely have different reporting requirements. Your end sales users, for example, need to see reports that highlight how they’re performing against their goals, commission status, opportunities with new leads, opportunities with existing accounts, customer issues at existing accounts and overall sales trends. Other departments, such as customer service, need to see case trends such as new cases per week, resolved cases, outstanding cases and case trends that may highlight potential product or service issues. 

2. Build a solid data foundation

Your reports and dashboards won’t give you the insights you need unless you have an appropriate foundation for collecting key data points. Using standard Salesforce system architecture, including standard objects, will help assist you in the basic architecture of the platform. That includes making sure you have the right setup with Products, Price Books, Quotes and Orders if you want to use the Salesforce out-of-the-box forecasting and reporting by product or service line.

You should also consider the custom fields and values you’ll need, and/or custom objects, when standard Salesforce functionality doesn’t include those pieces of data specific to your business. Ensure picklist values are signed off on by all stakeholders and that values are concise for your reports. You might also consider if global picklists, especially for states/countries, are appropriate to keep values consistent for similar fields used throughout the application.

3. Increase user adoption by increasing usability, training and top-down enforcement

Of course, what good is a system if your users don’t use it?! User adoption is a common complaint for older, legacy CRM platforms because they don’t offer the integration and usability features offered by Salesforce. So, too, can user adoption be a challenge for some organizations with users who are resistant to change or with a poorly designed and maintained system.

If you’re struggling with user adoption, the solution needs to be addressed from the top down using the reports and dashboards identified in your executive reporting requirements. Missing and/or inaccurate data will surface quickly, and you can use these reports as an enforcement mechanism to ensure your users understand the importance of data quality and adherence to your Salesforce processes.

In talking with your users, you might also get helpful feedback in how to improve the usability of the application, either with additional training, an integration to another system or automation.

Learn how our client, UnitedLex, revamped their Salesforce org to advance their executive reporting goals.

4. Implement an integration strategy with other key business systems

Integration is unique to every business and every Salesforce org based on the systems you already have and want to continue using, or based on unique requirements for processes and reporting. Salesforce offers a realm of integration options thanks to the open API, including native integrations developed by third-party applications, custom integrations and middleware tools such as Jitterbit and Boomi.

The substantial benefits of integration to reporting cannot be overstated. If data that is important to business KPIs lives outside the Salesforce org, this can be problematic for both efficiency and reporting integrity since the data may not be aligned between systems. Consider bringing in important data points through a Salesforce integration to greatly improve your business reporting.

5. Use the data to guide how to best format the visualization

Salesforce offers a wealth of standard reports out-of-the-box, as well as several free AppExchange add-ins to rapidly advance your reporting capabilities. But don’t underestimate the importance of customizing these reports using filters for date ranges and custom fields that make sense to your business. When you’re building your initial reports, use the data returned in a report to iterate on those results by slicing and filtering the report in different ways. Try different date ranges, bucket fields, chart variations and sorting options to uncover the best way to represent your data for decision making. Just remember that once you’re happy with your report, you should maintain consistency over time. You definitely don’t want to be regularly changing the underlying reports on your dashboards!

6. Improve your dashboard design

Salesforce Lightning offers a great interface for working with reports. If you’ve had Salesforce for a number of years, and are still using the Classic Interface, we strongly recommend you migrate to Lightning Experience for access to the easiest way to create and run reports and dashboards. The Lightning interface provides an intuitive way to work with date filters and other option. It also offers an eye-catching design to show off your performance metrics!

7. Remember that reports should drive actual decisions

Reports and dashboards will only go so far if you aren’t making business decisions based on the insights yielded. We recommend our clients develop a regular meeting cadence with their user groups to review metrics and discuss insights. For sales users, that might mean a weekly pipeline reporting review. Or, for executive users, that might mean a quarterly performance update with higher-level metrics about the business as a whole.

When considering business insights, be sure to check the data in the underlying report is complete and accurate. 

8. Consider short and long-term maintenance needs

High-performing organizations can use a “set it and forget it” mentality to a certain extent with all the automation capabilities in Salesforce. But ultimately, you will need to enhance functionality and update data points over time as your business changes, grows, or new features are released with Salesforce. Ensure you have a strong Salesforce Center of Excellence and a skilled administrator or developer to help accelerate your Salesforce reports and dashboards goals.

In Conclusion

Improving your Salesforce reporting can help you make more informed decisions about your sales and marketing strategies, your internal operations and your customer service. The metrics can help you identify weaknesses. But, these reports can also help you find what’s working and resonating with your customers.