Every Salesforce org needs a way to keep their employees on the same page through ever-changing sales processes, products, integrations, and data fields. This is where a Salesforce data dictionary comes in.
The highest-performing companies like Google and Amazon all share a metrics-driven culture, which gives them the ability to leverage data to make key business decisions. Unfortunately, companies looking to adopt this strategy often share a common problem: their underlying data is a mess. Why? Because they rely on employees to correctly enter their data into platforms like Salesforce. As a result, their data is only as good as their users’ understanding of it.
A Salesforce data dictionary is a central source of knowledge for the organization that describes data: its meaning, relationships to other data, business usage, and format. This tool helps everyone from management, admins, analysts, and developers to understand and use Salesforce data fields.
Using a data dictionary for Salesforce has a range of benefits across your organization.
1. Create a shared vocabulary.
“Hi – I’d like to pull a report on the average portfolio amount by account but can’t find it.”
“Oh – that’s because on the account record that data point is called account size.”
Does this scenario sound familiar? Probably more than you’d like to admit. It’s perfectly normal for companies to have multiple ways of defining a single term within their organization. That said, when it comes to internal communication – this can be a real pain.
Your company and industry-specific terminology are likely heavily embedded in Salesforce across your custom objects, fields and picklists. This language that doesn’t get adopted overnight. For some, learning the difference between “ARR” and “MRR” is just as challenging as memorizing the difference between “ser” and “estar” in Spanish class. In short – it takes time and practice.
2. Reduce employee errors
If you’ve taken a workout class for the first time, you’ll remember awkwardly staring around the room when the instructor yelled, “Eagle pose” or “Burpee” until you found someone to copy, even if they were doing it wrong.
That instinct to follow others is natural and, in this case, inconsequential. But, when it pertains to company data, errors resulting from telephone games are costly.
An example is when a new employee wrongly moves an Opportunity record to the next stage in the process because their teammate taught them incorrectly. Not only will this throw off your pipeline forecast, it will also affect your organization’s ability to rely on these metrics to measure KPIs around your revenue or business processes.
This problem is accentuated in large or growing companies where, due to the large amounts of data, these individual errors often go unnoticed for longer periods of time. Having your processes properly documented in your Salesforce data dictionary using Spekit and easily displayed in-context to the end-user can decrease the room for misinterpretation.
3. Accelerate the ramp-up time of your Salesforce team.
Ask any developer or admin who recently joined a company: the hard part about learning their new stack wasn’t deciphering the code itself – it was bringing context to it.
There’s a reason why it can take several months for any new technical hire to be fully ramped up on their new company’s Salesforce. The customizable nature of Salesforce is a blessing and a curse for that very reason due to the multitude of formulas, workflows, process builders, triggers and more, that a developer must take into account when looking to understand or make a change to any Apex code.
In fact, you may be a tenured Salesforce developer but the challenge in learning the intricacies of your company’s internal business processes will hold you back without the proper documentation available.
Database and CRM documentation is critical in getting your technical, and often, more costly employees up to speed quickly on the application they’re building or the architecture of your systems.
4. Build faster.
Businesses of all sizes need to innovate if they wish to survive. Ability to change is so important that some have argued that rate of change should be the single most important business metric.
Yet, the inability to answer some of the simplest answers around a requested change might be holding your team back from innovating and building quickly: Are any external data sources feeding data into this field? What is that API name referring to? Why does this data point have this data type? Where else in the process is this API name used? Just think about your own team for a minute, how often must someone ask a question like this before making a change and how much time in aggregate is this taking away from building automation?
This is especially true when handling the integration of databases that do not share the same definitions but do share similar data, such as when inheriting the CRM or database of a company during an acquisition or merger. Capturing the history, dependencies and integration mappings behind your metadata in a centralized Salesforce data dictionary will reduce the constant friction and context switching endured by development teams and marketing analysts alike. The result: More time spent building cool *hit.
5. Eliminate Risk.
What would happen to the deadlines on your roadmap if the top or longest tenured member of your Salesforce team quit tomorrow?
Think about that for a moment because according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s likely to happen.In fact, their data suggests that more than 25% of your Salesforce team today won’t be on your team a year from today. Depending on the source, the average person obtains a 10-30% salary increase when changing jobs.While Salesforce used to be a luxury for many companies 10 years ago, it is now the 7th most in-demand software skill in new job postings. Demand for specific roles within the Salesforce ecosystem are even growing 10.7x faster than the average job posting.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that people are quitting their jobs more than ever before.Fostering a culture of documentation, and using an automated solution to help you document your org is one of the best protections you can make to protect the velocity and sustainability of your team.
6. Integrate and report on data easily
Knowing that “irr_c” in Salesforce maps to “rate_return” in your internal database is probably not obvious to your reps or developers. It’s perfectly normal for companies to have multiple ways of defining a single term within their organization – our language wouldn’t be nearly as rich if it weren’t for synonyms.
That said, when it comes to data reporting or system integrations – it’s a real pain. This is especially true when handling the integration of databases that do not share the same vocabulary but do share similar data, such as when inheriting the CRM or database of a company during an acquisition or merger.
Capturing all of these synonyms and mappings in a single data dictionary or Salesforce wiki will reduce the constant friction and context switching endured by development teams and marketing analysts alike. The result: More time spent on getting stuff done.
I’ll be the first to admit that documentation is a pain, and often the last part of the process that anyone wants to be responsible for. But any well-documented organization will tell you that this investment is well worth the improved data quality and long-term efficiencies around faster development and onboarding velocity as outlined above.
What’s more, there are new solutions that help make this process easier than ever. Spekit, for example, is uniquely designed as a hybrid between a Salesforce data dictionary and a wiki that meets the documentation needs of your technical and non-technical employees alike.
It comes with a Chrome Extension that lets all users access your documentation directly in their workflow without ever leaving their browser.
The best part: We have a free tier that you can use to create beautifully enriched help text for Salesforce, starting today.
Click here to learn more about the Spekit Data Dictionary.
Having an accessible and detailed Salesforce data dictionary with all of your fields, processes and other terminology defined is critical to get your teams speaking the same language with a shared understanding of your data and terminology, spending more time building and less time searching for answers.