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5 Data Management Habits That Will Help You Succeed in Your Role


Editor’s note: As of January 2022, Essential Habits for Salesforce Admins has been refreshed and is now available as a Trailhead module. This blog post was updated in August 2022 to reflect the content changes. Learn more about the data management habits that will help you succeed in your role in the new Essential Habits for Salesforce Admins badge.

At Salesforce, we’ve identified four core responsibilities that all admins share: user management, data management, security, and actionable analytics. And underlying these four core responsibilities is your personal success. To keep our responsibilities actionable, we’ve broken them down into habits—actions you can take on a regular basis over time! We believe these habits are essential for success.

In this post, we discuss the second core admin responsibility: data management.

Why is data management important?

Garbage in, garbage out is a good phrase to remember. Your Salesforce org is home to important business processes and data such as lead management, open opportunities, or newly opened cases from your customers. But, these records are only valuable if the data is current and complete.

Users are easily discouraged when they can’t find the information they need or, worse, if the information is wrong. This can cause users to lose trust in the system which will, in turn, reduce adoption as they turn to alternatives such as spreadsheets or sticky notes.

Ensuring you have clean, high-quality data can do a lot to boost adoption! It takes consistent and diligent work to maintain a single source of truth.

Now, every core responsibility is comprised of habits. A habit is a recurring action taken consistently over time. There are five habits underlying the data management core responsibility. Let’s take a look at each one.

Cloudy with a megaphone and Codey holding Astro up on his paw. Image shares the five key data management habits: Review and Maintain Backup, Cleanse Data, Review and Refresh Sandboxes, Maintain and Improve Your Org, and Maintain and Improve Your Data Dictionary.

Essential habit 1: Review and maintain a backup solution

Trust is our #1 value at Salesforce. That means we prioritize the availability and security of our platform above all else. No technology is infallible, however. It’s always wise to ensure your data is backed up and available to restore.

There are many options available to back up or restore your data on the Salesforce Platform, including those found on AppExchange. We recommend researching the solution that best fits your needs based on the complexity and compliance requirements of your organization.

If you didn’t already know, Salesforce comes equipped with an export feature. In the case that you don’t have another backup solution at your business, we recommend configuring a weekly export with all of your data.

Once you’ve configured the data export, you’ll receive an email each week when the ZIP file is ready. It’s important to download this file soon after receiving this email, as the ZIP file will be deleted after 48 hours. Make sure you store your files in a safe location to prevent any data loss.

Slide showing three quick steps to create and maintain a backup solution.

As you consider what you’ll include in your backup, we recommend you include all of your data! Salesforce is built atop a relational database which means records frequently depend on one another. By exporting all data, you can ensure that none of these references will be missing.

This includes images, documents, attachments, files, and CRM content. Remember, whether you’re quoting prices or requesting documentation to close pieces, these files can be business critical. So, it’s important to include them. Lastly, we recommend that you schedule the export to run during the weekend. At the very least, schedule it to avoid peak hours for your users.

📅 Make it a habit: Now, we recommend reviewing your backup solution for 30 minutes once a month. Use this time to confirm that your backups are working correctly, and review any recent changes to your org, such as adding or removing objects and fields. And don’t forget to ensure all backups meet compliance and data retention policies.

Essential habit 2: Data cleanse

Deciding how to cleanse your data can be complex, and not every company has the same needs. While we’re discussing cleansing options that are a standard part of the Salesforce Platform, you may want to do your research to find a solution you prefer. AppExchange has a number of options for you to explore.

That said, we recommend you start with matching rules and duplicate rules. Configuring these rules will allow you to determine how the system recognizes duplicate records and what actions it will take when it flags a new duplicate. Taking these steps will reduce the number of duplicate records in your org, which will really improve your user experience. Score!

You can review duplicate record sets using custom reports. And, on the topic of reports, a “Clean Your Room” report or dashboard can certainly come in handy. Think of data that’s important but may be missing or incomplete in your org; for example, the phone number of a contact. It may not be appropriate to make this a required field, but it’s still something that you’ll want to catch because it’s very important to business. Creating a report that shows all contacts with a blank value in the phone number field can be an excellent way to track these issues.

To create a duplicate report, you’ll need to create a new custom report type. You’ll want to include your target object—accounts, for example—and then also include duplicate items. You’ll want to include the fields that are most relevant to you and make sure to include Created By and Created Date. This can help you as you audit the duplicates in the list. Lastly, after you’ve created the report, make sure you subscribe to it, just to save yourself a little time and effort.

Three steps to create a custom duplicates report.

So, cleansing an org sometimes goes beyond just the data in your org. Think of all the ways your users interact with Salesforce—reports, dashboards, list views, email templates, and more. These are all things you can review and clean up as well.

And, this idea also applies to some metadata that your users may be unaware of but can really impact you as an admin. This may include custom fields, custom objects, roles, profiles, permission sets, or permission set groups. These all benefit from review and cleanup from time to time!

Don’t forget to review your automations such as workflow rules, process builders, and flows. You want to keep everything you need and remove the things you don’t. By cleansing these not-strictly-data-actually-metadata items, you’ll find that configuring and navigating your org is much more efficient and takes a lot less time.

📅 Make it a habit: We recommend scheduling a few hours a week to review and cleanse your org. You may find you need more or less time depending on the complexity of your org. We find it best to perform data cleansing earlier in the week to improve the quality of life in the org. It will also make some of your other habits a little easier to complete! What’s better than a nice and clean production org?

Essential habit 3: Review and refresh sandboxes

There are a few different ways to manage Salesforce configuration and deployment, but this particular habit focuses on the use of sandboxes. It’s important to keep our sandboxes fresh and clean, so let’s look at a few considerations for sandboxes.

While deployments can vary in scope and complexity, it’s generally a good idea to ensure your sandboxes are refreshed after each successful production deployment.

It’s important to maintain a refresh schedule for your sandboxes. Not only for yourself, but also for any colleagues that may be working on configuration or development efforts. By keeping a consistent refresh schedule, you’ll reduce the risk of introducing errors into production.

There are several sandbox types you can use, and each has a different refresh interval. Let’s take a look at the differences below.

Slide showcasing different types of sandboxes and information such as how often they should be refreshed, whether it includes setup configuration, if it copies data, if it has templates, and its size.

Now, there’s a lot of information on this slide, but we want to focus on the refresh interval row. For dev and dev pro sandboxes, it’s possible to refresh daily. Partial sandboxes can be refreshed once every 5 days, and full sandboxes can be refreshed once every 29 days. Based on this information, it’s a generally good idea to refresh all of your sandboxes at least once a month.

📅 Make it a habit: We recommend spending about 30 minutes a week reviewing and refreshing your sandboxes. As a best practice, each of your sandboxes should have a designated owner. If you’ve identified a sandbox as a candidate for refresh, you should contact the owner and confirm all in-flight work has been deployed. This will save you from potentially erasing the work of your teammates.

Essential habit 4: Maintain and improve your org

It’s time to maintain and improve our org! We’re going to share some suggestions on how to best enhance your org. But, remember that no two instances of Salesforce are the same. Depending on the level of complexity, or the size of your org, you may need to modify what we suggest to best suit your needs.

Note: Before we discuss optimizing your org, it’s important to caution all admins—please don’t configure directly in production. Instead, spin up a sandbox!

As admins, we really want to focus on optimization not as a feature, but as a state of mind. In order to do that, we first need to prioritize the things that matter most to our business. This means that previous user management habits, such as observing your users and stakeholder communication, can really pay dividends here.

This business prioritization will allow you to focus your efforts on high-yield optimizations. We recommend starting with the Optimizer report. In comparing it to your business priorities, this can give you a great idea of where to begin—and may also provide some easy wins.

In addition to the Optimizer report, we find that Lightning page optimization can be very beneficial. By optimizing Lightning pages, you can reduce page load times. Considering that your users are navigating countless Salesforce pages every day, reducing these load times by even a little can lead to a massive amount of time saved over the course of weeks, months, quarters, and even a year.

Slide showcasing three tips for maintaining and improving your org.

Pro tip: When optimizing Lightning pages, start by reviewing the number of related lists. Reducing the number of related lists on a page is one of the best ways to produce faster page loads. The power is yours!

📅 Make it a habit: We recommend scheduling a few hours a week to optimize your org. Typically, the middle of the week is best. This will help you incorporate feedback from your ride-alongs into your optimization.

Essential habit 5: Maintain and improve your data dictionary

Many Salesforce Admins need to collaborate with other departments like IT regarding integrations to outside systems. A data dictionary is quite handy in these situations!

What exactly is a data dictionary, you ask? A data dictionary documents your objects and fields. It includes the field to data type, such as picklist; any attributes of the field, such as the values of a picklist or the length of a text field; sample results if the field were to be queried; and the business purpose of the field. If a field is used in integrations to outside systems, either inbound or outbound, you’ll want to include that information in your data dictionary as well.

Make sure to keep your data dictionary up-to-date with any changes to your configuration and communicate in advance about any planned changes to your objects and fields. This document prevents a lot of back and forth communication as well as errors and rework. You may also find that other departments really appreciate the effort, which can further develop your business relationships!

Slide showcasing everything you should include in your data dictionary.

We’ve included a template for your reference here. Please feel free to modify it as you need. Additionally, there are solutions on AppExchange, such as Config Workbook, that may help you with this task.

📅 Make it a habit: We recommend spending an hour each week on your data dictionary. This will help you to keep things up-to-date as you make changes to your org.

More essential habits

Now that you have a better understanding of the importance of data management, the habits you need to master it, and key takeaways for you to implement, you’re ready to roll! For a bird’s-eye view of all of the suggested habits and timelines for data management, check out our handy calendar below.

Calendar with a timeline of the five data management habits.

Want to dive deeper? Check out the new Essential Habits for Salesforce Admins badge.

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