One of Salesforce’s most valuable perks is that it generates mountains of data. You can track progress towards goals, share information with stakeholders, and devise new plans to grow your business. However, like any reporting, the data is only as good as its application. So, how do you put your Salesforce data to work?
Salesforce allows users to build custom reports and dashboards to display nearly any information. Both reports and dashboards break down your company’s data into valuable summaries. However, there are a few cases in which you would prefer one option over the other. Let’s take a look at what each one does and their key differences.
What is a Salesforce report?
Reports provide a list view of data pulled from your records. You can define the criteria for the information you’d like to see and organize it into rows and columns. Then, you can sort the data further by filtering or grouping it. If the results are easier to digest visually, you can also create a chart.
Since you’ll likely create multiple charts, you’ll need a way to keep them organized. You can find your reports in folders, where they’re stored automatically upon creation. Depending on who needs to access them, you can share or hide them with users in your Salesforce org. For example, you can share folder access based on a user’s role, permissions, or license type. If it’s just for you, you can create a private folder so only the creator will see its contents.
What is a Salesforce dashboard?
Sometimes, a visual diagram helps you quickly digest your data. However, there are times one chart doesn’t provide enough detail to understand your data. These situations lend themselves to dashboard displays. A dashboard gives you a set of visual representations of metrics, data, and trends based on your records. Each of these components connects to one report. This means that if you create a report, you can convert its results into an image and group the pictures into a dashboard. You can include the results in multiple dashboards and select different graphics for each dashboard.
Reports give your insights greater depth for multi-faceted projects. For example, if you want to see an overview of your sales or customer service teams’ performance, you can make a dashboard with each team’s key metrics. Like reports, dashboards are stored in folders with customizable privacy settings. This way, you can include all the users that need access and exclude the users who don’t. You can also get updates from the dashboards you follow in Chatter.
Choosing a Report Type for Reports and Dashboards
When you plan to convert data to a report or use it in a dashboard, you’ll first need to decide on the report type. Report types are like templates that help you organize your data. Depending on which one you select, it will offer specific categories of data for you to choose from when creating your report.
The four types of Salesforce reports are:
- Tabular reports
- Summary reports
- Matrix reports
- Joined reports
Tabular reports display your data in rows and columns for an overview of individual records. These work best when you need to export results in a sheet but don’t need many calculations. For example, it would work best with simple calculations like summing up numbers at the bottom of each form instead of multi-step processes. They work well for exporting information like contacts, activity, or transactions. Keep in mind that tabular reports cannot group data or create charts and that you should limit the rows if using them in a dashboard.
Summary reports offer more options for grouping data than tabular reports. With these, you can group your data by row for subtotal calculations and charts. They’re easier to use when creating components for your dashboards and allow you to view deeper insights. For example, you can calculate subtotals for your rows before generating the grand total for your report. You can then use the data to organize rows and group the data accordingly. Keep in mind that ungrouped data will show as a tabular report when you view it on the report run page.
Matrix reports are laid out similarly to tabular and summary reports but give you ways to organize your data. You can create summaries of your data by rows and columns as opposed to just rows. With summary reports, you can create components for your dashboards with fewer limitations. They can compare calculations from rows and columns and show exponentially more data points. Matrix reports are best for situations where you need to sort data by more than one factor, like date and location or person and transaction.
As the name implies, Joined reports allow you to compare data from two of the above reports in one view. These reports aren’t accessible in all Salesforce editions, so you’ll want to check that you have Enterprise, Performance, Unlimited, or Developer editions before creating them. When you create a joined report, each of the two reports shows up as a block with its parameters. They will have their own rows and columns with independent sorting and filtering preferences. The reports that you choose don’t have to be the same kind. So, for example, you could combine matrix and summary reports instead of two matrix or two summary reports—this helps when you want to compare data from two different accounts or projects.
How to Choose a Report Type
Like many things in life, your data won’t give you an answer unless you ask it a question. The first part of building a report or a dashboard is to find out what you need it to do. For example, if you want to keep tabs on your sales department, you’ll have to dig deeper in to see what that means. You want to be as specific as possible when building your reports.
Some questions you should ask include:
- What is the purpose of this report?
- Who is its audience?
- How well can your audience interpret data?
- Does this report need to show change over time or a one-time event?
- How specific does your data need to be?
- What language do your users speak?
- What information MUST you include?
- What information can you leave out?
- How long will the audience have to review this report?
- How often will they review this report?
- Do you need text descriptions to accompany the visuals?
This is not an exhaustive list of questions, and you’ll likely find that there are more elements to consider when building your report. However, these can set you up with enough structure to know the purpose, audience, and details of the information you want to present.
Standard vs. Custom Reports
You can customize the reports and dashboards in Salesforce to show you just about anything you want to see. This lets you get in-depth details on your sales team, performance, marketing initiatives, overall ROI, and more. With a bit of practice, you can create detailed breakdowns that help your team set and achieve their goals.
To determine how to perform calculations with your reports, you’ll need to know whether you’re working with a standard or custom report. A standard report is any report that you fill in from a template. Once you edit specific calculations and fields, the standard report becomes a custom report.
Both types of reports can accommodate grand summary reports, but you’ll have to know which type you have before setting up the equation. Take a look at these use cases to see if this kind of report is a good fit.
When to Use Grand Total Summary Reports
Sometimes, you’ll need a breakdown of your team’s progress. As explained above in the report type examples, certain data is easier to understand when you can rank sums by category and then by the grand total. A simple formula can help you visualize your information so you can put it to use.
For example, consider a situation in which you’re looking at how to allocate your marketing budget. You’ll want to figure out your company’s revenue by its source to see where you make the most sales. You could also look at sales by territory to see the highest-performing areas. This could help you understand where your budget will see the highest returns. You can visualize both of these situations with a grand total summary report in Salesforce.
If your data fits these parameters, then you’ll want to look at it as a grand total summary report:
- Do you need to view the overall sum of your information?
- Do you need to group elements to see their share of the total?
If you answered yes to these questions, then you can create a custom summary formula at the summary level that will display the information. Take a look to see if you have a custom or a standard report, and follow the steps below to create the formula.
Generating a Grand Total Summary Report
Regardless of whether you have a custom or standard report, the summary formula will go in at the summary level within the “Fields” pane in Reports. Here are the steps to create and insert the formula:
- Under “Formulas” in the field window, double-click “Add Formula.”
- Enter a name for the formula and a short description of its purpose.
- From the “Format” picklist, select “Percent.”
- Under “Decimal Places,” select the number of decimal places you want to be displayed.
- Select the display area where Salesforce should display the calculated formula
- If you want to calculate the percentage according to rows, then select Grouping1.
- Note: Grouping1 won’t display if your report was not already grouped before creating the formula.
- Now, it’s time to build your formula:
- To display the percentage of fields by grouping at a summary level, select “RowCount.” This will take into consideration the total number of rows in each group and use the formula structure PARENTGROUPVAL(summary_field, grouping_level)
- The complete formula will be: RowCount / PARENTGROUPVAL(RowCount, GRAND_SUMMARY)
If you follow the steps above with a custom report, you will receive an error. With a Matrix format report, the formula “RowCount / PARENTGROUPVAL(RowCount, GRAND_SUMMARY)” will result in an error that reads, “Error: Invalid custom summary formula definition: Incorrect number of parameters for function ‘PARENTGROUPVAL().’ Expected 3, received 2.”
This error occurs because you must define three parameters for this report format. For example, this might look like the following: PARENTGROUPVAL(summary_field, parent_row_grouping, parent_column_grouping)
Thankfully, this error is easy to fix. All you have to do is use a slightly different formula. For Matrix format reports, your complete formula would be:
RowCount / PARENTGROUPVAL(RowCount, ROW_GRAND_SUMMARY, COLUMN_GRAND_SUMMARY)
Grand total summary reports are one of many ways that you can turn your data into usable insights. You can learn about your company’s health by looking at the performance of individual departments, campaigns, products, or customer relationships. When you understand what you’re looking for from your data, you will know precisely how to get the results.
This is only one way that you can organize data from your Salesforce org. There are other formulas and layouts that can help you get more out of your CRM. Next, check out how you can group your reports to keep data together with this article from Salesforce.