For salesforce.com admins, working at an extremely data-driven organization is a blessing. It means that the leaders in the organization actually care about collecting data, the quality of the data that is collected, and all of those fancy charts and reports that make the data come to life so they can make good decisions.

However, that doesn’t mean that managing all of the custom objects, fields, workflow rules, validation rules, views, apps, reports, and dashboards — not to mention any custom development that might have been created to automate, capture, and report the data — can be very difficult. As mentioned, I do consider working for a data driven executive team as a blessing, and have witnessed smart decision making as result of accurate and comprehensive data time and time again. But is there such a thing as too much data? When does it stop being helpful, and what can a salesforce.com admin or business analyst do to help his or her executive team avoid data overload in salesforce.com and focus on the right data?

Companies that discover the full potential of salesforce.com, or any CRM system for that matter, will gain the ability to track and report on just about any aspect of their business. That said, it’s your job as the salesforce.com admin to implement the system in a way that will make it an asset to the company and help your executive team make informed decisions.

Here are a few tips that can help you on your mission:

  • Always keep the key metrics in mind: When asked to implement a process in salesforce.com, make you sure that you, the line-of-business leader, and the executive sponsor are very clear on what the key metrics are that you are trying to affect. If they haven’t given you this already don’t wait for them to tell you, be proactive and get into their head. Ask yourself questions like, what would tell me whether my process is failing or succeeding? Think about what you would want to track and see daily/weekly/monthly. Then bring that to the line-of-business leader and get their buy-in. Do not implement anything until you have their full buy-in. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for failure.
  • Do not be afraid to question the value of a report: Especially if you get a request for a reporting need that will most likely be extremely time consuming to implement. Ask if the report is an important metric that will drive smart decision making. If the answer is no or maybe make your reservations known to the person making the request. It doesn’t have to be a confrontation, simply make them aware that the request is complicated and ask them if this is a necessity or potentially just a nice to have. Most executives don’t know the work that goes into creating a report or creating the mechanisms that will allow you to report on something. It’s your job to let them know when something will be complicated and time consuming, so that they can better manage your time. Although no business leader likes being told no, they are also mindful of resources and don’t want their analysts spending all day on a report that they will look at once instead of a much easier set of reports that they will review daily.
  • When preparing and presenting a dashboard make sure to keep two questions in mind:
    1. What question do we want this report/chart to answer?
    2. Is the report/chart meeting this need?

When you ask these questions over time you will see that although one dashboard may contain many reports and may look very impressive, only some of the charts are actually answering valuable questions. Only those will drive any type of decision making and the rest are probably just nice to haves. In addition, knowing the answers to these questions will make your presentation more valuable and effective for the executive team.

photo by: opensourceway

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