One of the top reasons companies purchase Salesforce.com’s CRM Cloud is to derive clear quantitative metrics on their business. Reports in Salesforce are lists, summaries, and analyses of your data, which you can display on screen or print. They consist of a set of data that can be filtered, grouped, and displayed in a customizable graphical chart.
A dashboard is a collection of components that graphically displays your custom report data and provides a snapshot of key metrics and performance indicators. Both reports and dashboards help organizations present data stored within Salesforce in a manner that allows users to use their data in a meaningful and productive way and allows executives to manage in real-time from the system.
For now, let’s discuss reports and save dashboards for another post.
Reports are needed to deliver clear quantitative metrics about your data and are the foundation for building dashboards. Let’s look at report formats, report security, and how to get started with reports. Salesforce supports four report formats, each with varying degrees of functionality and complexity. Let’s explore them in more detail starting with the simplest report format:
Tabular reports are the simplest and fastest way to look at data. Similar to a spreadsheet, they consist simply of an ordered set of fields in columns, with each matching record listed in a row. Tabular reports are best for creating lists of records or a list with a single grand total. Note, they can’t be used to create groups of data or charts, and can’t be used in dashboards unless rows are limited. Examples include contact mailing lists and activity reports.
Summary reports are similar to tabular reports, but also allow users to group rows of data, view subtotals, and create charts. They can be used as the source report for dashboard components. Use summary reports to show subtotals based on the value of a particular field or when you want to create a hierarchical list, such as all opportunities for your team, subtotaled by Stage and Owner.
Matrix reports are similar to summary reports, but allow you to group and summarize data by both rows and columns. They can be used as the source report for dashboard components. Use matrix reports for comparing related totals, especially if you have large amounts of data to summarize and you need to compare values in several different fields, or you want to look at data by date and by product, person, or geography.
Joined reports let you create multiple report blocks that provide different views of your data. Each block acts like a “sub-report,” with its own fields, columns, sorting, and filtering. A joined report can even contain data from different report types.
The Salesforce security model seamlessly extends into its report functionality to ensure that the information you see is only the data to which you have access to. This includes records you own, records to which you have “read” or “read/write” access, records that have been shared with you, records owned by or shared with users in roles below you in the hierarchy. In general, if you can view the data, you can report on it.
In addition, you can view only those fields that are visible in your page layout and field-level security settings. Note, field-level security is only available in Enterprise, Unlimited, and Developer Editions, but can be added to Professional Edition for an additional fee.
Getting Started with Reports
Salesforce reports allow users to run reports on their data very easily by simply using an intuitive Report Builder. When setting up and creating reports, you’ll want someone that is familiar with the objects being reported on and their relationship to other objects to report on the data effectively. In other words, the knowledge of or the ability to quickly understand the data model is important. This can be the owner of the data for which the reports are being run or the Salesforce Administrator. Salesforce comes pre-configured to run reports across all standard objects. To start with, I recommend that you use standard reports as the basis when creating your custom reports.
I hope you found this beginner’s guide to Salesforce reports helpful. I encourage you to also check out Salesforce.com’s Quick Start series on Reports & Dashboards to learn more about this important feature.