The Ultimate Guide to Report Types With Evan Ponter

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Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to the man behind the Ultimate Guide to Report Types and the Ultimate Guide to Report Types Part 2—Evan Ponter, CRM Product Manager at Hostelling International USA. 

Join us as we talk about all the ins and outs of reports, how to avoid constantly remaking reports, and when you might want to get into more complicated solutions.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Evan Ponter.

Why you need to understand the question behind the requirements.

Evan got his start on the platform working for a nonprofit, but it wasn’t until he switched to a for-profit company that was working at scale that he really came to understands the ins and outs of Salesforce. “I was one of the main resources at that company their reporting, so I was getting pummeled with requests,” Evan says. When he moved back to the nonprofit world, he was able to bring this knowledge with him and eventually create the Ultimate Guide to Report Types.

“People want any kind of information they can get their hands on,” Evan says, “and since people are putting it all into Salesforce, it becomes even more important to figure out how to get that data back out in a way that’s intelligible and actionable to start to use to make decisions.” That means it’s not just about understanding literally what report someone is requesting, it’s thinking a little deeper to try to understand what question they’re trying to answer. “You can go down that rabbit hole and try to start building that report for them,” Evan says, “but if you don’t know what question you’re trying to answer you’re sort of chasing everything.”

How to simplify reporting in your org.

If you have an understanding of how your report is going to be used, you can also build it with a mind towards the future, so if they need to answer the same question next year you already have a way to do that. If you’re having trouble getting your report requester to explain what question they’re trying to answer, Evan recommends framing it this way: “We’re going to have tabular data in these report results, what does each row represent?” Basically, you’re trying to get them to think about what they actually want to see. Sometimes even just asking them to draw an example on a napkin or Post-It note can provide a lot of clarification because it makes it concrete.

One major thing Evan recommends is setting up a single custom report type for every object you use in your organization without enforcing any object relationships in them. “The trick is, once you set up those report types you can edit the custom report type layout and bring in the field from any parent, grandparent, or great grandparent object,” Evan says. You can pull in data from up to sixty related objects, which means you can reference values from almost anywhere else in your org and get those complex data joins you need.

Choosing the right tool for the job.

While Evan primarily supports building out from custom report types to get what you need, there are some other tools that you can break out in specific situations. Bucketing can also be useful, depending on what you’re trying to do: an annual report where you’re trying to group people together but you know that the grouping might change, for example. You might use a joined report if you want to hide to the details of each report and just see a summary, like an opportunity scorecard or some sort of members joining versus members leaving overview.

“Matrix reports make a lot of sense when you want to group by two different fields but you don’t want to see the same categories repeated in the inner group,” Evan says. That helps you clean up details and just focus on the aggregate values you’re hoping to see without anything distracting from it.

“What I think a lot of organizations suffer from is creating a one-off report and saving it as the ‘2016 Donors,’ and they use it for maybe a month and then it just sits there for the next ten years,” Evan says, “and every year they’re recreating the same report and updating for the current year.” There are many ways to make it dynamic, so build that and show them how to toggle it themselves to look at whatever timeframe they want. Evan has a lot of really great, specific tips to get a handle on your reports so be sure to listen to the full episode.

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