Salesforce Professionals Face Challenges in Managing Constantly Changing Data Environments
Published On: April 14, 2020
Every data professional has faced the prospect of cleaning up a messy data environment, but probably none more than Salesforce analysts and developers. Salesforce—the household name in CRM platforms—is used by more than 150,000 companies to collect and analyze customer data, from the first sales touch to the end of the customer relationship. And within those organizations, many people have their hands on that data, which can create a nightmare for Salesforce analysts and developers charged with maintaining an organized Salesforce environment.
At any given moment, salespeople are updating records, leaders are requesting new reports, and operations managers are trying to automate processes that are triggered by actions within Salesforce. Keeping up with the changes and ensuring that critical workflows don’t break is a challenge.
Two of our SentryOne team members—Jon Philpot and Rachel Sherlock—recently took SentryOne Document for a test drive. Here, they shed some light on pain points they encounter in trying to make sense of the Salesforce environment—and how SentryOne Document helps.
Creating a Clear Map of the Salesforce Environment
“I have run sales operations teams at three different companies, and every time I start, I have to navigate the Salesforce environment by just poking around,” said Rachel Sherlock, Salesforce analyst at SentryOne. “For my role—for anyone who’s in sales operations—it’s important to see how everything’s connected.”
SentryOne Document shows a visual representation of how Salesforce objects are interrelated, which saves time and frustration in understanding how the data is organized.
“Being able to generate a snapshot so I can see objects and fields that are being used and how everything is connected—that can save Salesforce analysts months of time,” Sherlock said. “This tool would come in handy for anyone trying to navigate a new Salesforce environment.”
Sherlock found it especially useful to drill down into particular objects. “You get to control the data that you’re getting,” she said.
Troubleshooting Faulty Salesforce Automations
Jon Philpot, who has built many of the Salesforce automations at SentryOne, said that untangling broken processes and workflows is a common headache for Salesforce developers. When users change fields that are tied to programmed automations, important business processes can break, such as the initiation of a sales order that gets sent to accounting after a salesperson marks an opportunity closed/won.
“Some common situations involve developers building automations, and then months or years later, someone changes one of the pieces that the automation depends on,” said Philpot. “If you’re a developer who worked on that three years ago, or you’re new to the company, it’s hard to go back and figure all that out again.”
Philpot used the data dictionary capability in SentryOne Document to solve this problem, saying that the ability to create a data dictionary with SentryOne Document is vital to preventing wasted time in troubleshooting automations.
“I’ve tried to build something similar in Salesforce as a custom object,” he said. “But I haven’t come up with anything that’s nearly as good as the data dictionary in SentryOne Document.”
Cleaning Up Reports
Over time, every Salesforce environment becomes cluttered with old and irrelevant reports.
“I’ve seen cases where Salesforce report folders are so filled with junk, users can’t even find reports they’ve created themselves,” said Sherlock.
The SentryOne Document metadata snapshot capability creates an organized view of reports so that administrators know what they can toss. Sherlock said that having this comprehensive list can give Salesforce admins and analysts the confidence to tackle report clean-up projects without fear of deleting important data.
Ensuring Data Flow Among Other Systems
Most Salesforce environments are integrated with other business systems, including marketing automation, accounting, and reporting systems.
“With Salesforce, you often don’t really know what fields people are using or how complicated an object is or how many objects something is tied to,” said Sherlock. “If you make a change and don’t look at the background of it, you could break something that was feeding into a Power BI report. Or you might have two different fields that are being used to identify named accounts—and different reports are showing different data.”
SentryOne Document shows a visual representation of how one object is related to others, when an object was last updated, and who updated it. Salesforce pros can use this visualization to help ensure that integrated processes across the organization don’t break when changes are made to objects.
Tracking Changes in the Data
The number of changes that are constantly made in a Salesforce environment make tracking data lineage difficult. Both Sherlock and Philpot attest that in many environments they’ve seen, the number of objects that get frequently updated is “crazy.”
Using SentryOne Document to generate a visual representation of changes in the data helps highlight areas for troubleshooting.
“It’s kind of scary to see how much is being updated on a daily basis,” said Sherlock. “But it’s nice to know that we can use this to troubleshoot.”
Philpot said he was going to use SentryOne Document to clear out fields and automations that aren’t being used, which will have an immediate impact on the accuracy and speed of data delivery.
“We have a lot of custom fields for our activities records, and we keep reaching our limit on the number of fields we can have,” he said. “So every time we add a field for a new project, we have to figure out which ones we can delete—which throws off the data warehouse and messes up reporting.”
Sherlock added that every Salesforce analyst knows how important it is not to delete critical Salesforce data, so most are very cautious when undertaking a cleanup project.
“The fields are only as good as the information people are filling them with,” she said. “And sometimes this data is how a business development representative is measured in general. So if we miss something and eliminate a critical field, and that goes into a report that’s submitted to the CEO—that’s not good. It’s important to know which fields people are using for reporting.”
Sherlock said that SentryOne Document shows objects that she didn’t even know existed. “And if I want to get rid of a generic email domain, for example, I can immediately see everything that object is touching and what processes would be affected if I deleted it.”
Sherlock said this method is far better than the native capabilities in Salesforce at this time. “Salesforce is starting to add that ability, but it’s at a very basic level,” she said. “You would just have to delete the field and see what breaks.”
Managing Security and Permissions
The number of people in an organization who have Salesforce logins can make managing permissions unwieldy for Salesforce pros, too.
“SentryOne Document can help us drill down into user tables and see who has access to what in a way that’s easier to understand,” said Sherlock. She said the SentryOne compliance manager recently asked for a diagram that showed which users touched what data across the company. “I immediately thought of this.”
Transferring Knowledge and Onboarding
By far one of the biggest time savings SentryOne Document brings is simply generating a clear map of the environment so that others in the organization—and new team members—can quickly get up to speed and become productive in using Salesforce. Given the significant investment Salesforce represents for most companies, increasing value from this powerful CRM platform starts with making every user productive as quickly as possible.
“The last time I was at Dreamforce, a lot of the sessions were for Salesforce admins about documentation,” said Philpot. “A lot them admitted that if they gave their two weeks’ notice tomorrow, they would not have up-to-date documentation to pass along. Passing off these systems is not an easy thing.”
Sherlock agreed, circling back to her original point that having a solution for understanding the topography of the Salesforce environment can save months for new Salesforce admins, analysts, and developers.
“When you’re coming into a new org, you need some context,” she said. “People named things the way they wanted to years ago, and new people don’t know what those things mean or do.”
SentryOne Document can help data pros and users across the organization find their Salesforce footing much faster to keep critical sales data flowing and get the most out of the Salesforce investment.
Want to Take SentryOne Document for a Test Drive in Your Salesforce Environment?
Check out product manager Tyler Lynch’s blog about using SentryOne Document for Salesforce, take a tour through our online demo, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to start making sense of your Salesforce environment.
Michele Crockett, director of product marketing, is responsible for developing and implementing go-to-market programs for SentryOne products. A longtime technology marketing professional for companies including Microsoft, HPE, and others, Michele was the former publisher of SQL Server Magazine and editor of Windows IT Pro Magazine.