dashboards
A dashboard is a collection of components that graphically displays your custom report data and gives you a snapshot of key metrics and performance indicators. Dashboards allow users to consume large amounts of information in a simple, easy to understand, graphical view. Research has shown that our brain can interpret graphical representations of data, such as graphs and charts, much more easily than large rows and columns of data.

Dashboards are excellent for management to monitor Key Performance Indicators (KPI) company-wide in real-time. Dashboards allow users to standardize on one source of truth for their data. Gone are the days of managers spending countless hours compiling error prone data from various disparate systems in Excel spreadsheets and rolling them up to executives. Dashboards are also a great way to share summary level information with all users. For example, support representatives can see overall sales performance numbers, but not the individual opportunities. Regions can see how other regions are performing, but not the opportunities.

Dashboards allow users to consume large amounts of information in a simple, easy to understand, graphical view and standardize on one source of truth for their data

Dashboards allow users to consume large amounts of information in a simple, easy to understand, graphical view and standardize on one source of truth for their data

Finally, dashboards are critical for driving executive support of Salesforce. Executives are busy people.  The ability to see sales, marketing, support, and other information in one graphical view is the Holy Grail for them. Thus, consider configuring your dashboards to send graphical emails on a scheduled frequency to executives. Delivering critical metrics to their inbox helps to get information to them quickly and drive them to the Salesforce application if they wish to view the data in more depth.

When setting up dashboards for your users and executives, I recommend keeping these points in mind:

  1. Accurate Dashboards & Reports – Reports and dashboards are only as good as the data they are based on. To ensure quality reports and dashboards, you must ensure and enforce data quality.
  2. Data Refresh – When you refresh a dashboard, the dashboard data refreshes for anyone else in your organization that has access to that dashboard. Additional refreshes submitted during a refresh and up to one minute after the completion of a refresh are ignored; users view the most current data. Note, you can leave the dashboard and perform other functions in Salesforce while the data refreshes.
  3. The Running User – The running user is the Salesforce user whose security settings determine what data is displayed in a dashboard. If the running user is a specific user, all dashboard viewers see data based on the security settings of that user—regardless of their own personal security settings. For dynamic dashboards, you can set the running user to be the logged-in user, so that each user sees the dashboard according to his or her own access level.

Getting Started with Dashboards

So you have realized that dashboards are great to have, but how do you make dashboards a reality? The next step would be to survey the management team and your top Salesforce users to determine what the best set of dashboards would be, leaving aside whether or not you’ve captured this data in Salesforce. Satisfying your management and top users with dashboards that they have requested is key in gaining support for your Salesforce implementation.

Also, as I described in my How To Manage Your Salesforce Change Management Program post, consider using the same request methods, such as Salesforce Cases, Ideas and Chatter to provide a way for users to make dashboard requests.

Here are the top items, in order of priority, that you and your organization should focus on to start creating dashboards:

  1. Survey Top Management – What information does your CEO, Vice President of Sales, Vice President of Marketing, Vice President of Support, etc. need to effectively run the business?
  2. Survey Top Salesforce Users – Use the Salesforce administration reports to determine who your top users are and target them. What information do they need on a daily basis?  What information would make their lives easier?  What information do they need in an ideal world?
  3. Survey All Salesforce Users – What information would make their everyday lives easier?  Prospecting information? Lead age information?
  4. Data Requirements – Does your Salesforce environment contain the data that your executives and users are requesting? You may need to reconfigure Salesforce, such as adding or modifying custom fields, page layouts, workflow rules, etc. to accommodate their requests and/or requirements.

I hope this blog post was helpful in your quest to learn more about Salesforce dashboards. I encourage you to also check out Salesforce.com’s Quick Start series on Reports & Dashboards to learn more about this important feature. Please feel free to post a comment below if you have any questions or have dashboard tips to share.

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