Filed under: Administration May 13, 2011

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These are some things to know about Salesforce.com’s Reports capability.  This does not list all the features, but is just a list of comments.

  1. Salesforce’s reporting module does have its limitations because of the focus on ease of use.  Some complex constructs like nested queries and embedded subreports are missing.  It will handle the vast majority of needs, but don’t expect it to be a drop in replacement for Crystal Reports, Access, or an OLAP tool.
  2. There are several ways to get data out of Salesforce to use with another reporting tool.  You can check the AppExchange to see if your tool is integrated with Salesforce.  Data can be extracted via Web Services API calls with ETL tools.  Salesforce provides the Apex Data Loader for importing and exporting data.  Finally, the Weekly Data Export feature will create extract files of all the data in an org.  However, automating the Weekly Data Export is not very feasible.  Note most of these options require Enterprise or Unlimited Edition.
  3. Be sure to use the new drag-and-drop Report Builder.  If you have the older wizard style builder, ask your system administrator about enabling the drag-and-drop Report Builder.
  4. The Salesforce.com Report Builder training tutorial can be found here: http://salesforce.acrobat.com/reporting/
  5. Salesforce has plans to substantially add new features to the Report Builder during 2011 and 2012.
  6. There are many standard out-of-the-box reports.  However, consider that they were built based on out-of-the-box functionality.  Salesforce’s strength is that it is very customizable, but there are trade-offs.  For example, some orgs use a formula field to apply a discount on the Opportunity Amount field, but the standard pipeline and forecasting reports use the standard Amount field and will ignore the discounted amount.  Custom pipeline reports are easy enough to create, but the forecasting reports can be difficult to replicate.
  7. The Report Custom Summary Formula fields can only summarize data such as summing up Amounts.  It does not work at the individual record level.  Creating a record level formula means creating a field on the object just like any other formula field.
  8. If a new object field does not appear to be available for a report, check if a custom report type is being used.  A custom report type only grabs the fields that were available when it was created.  A custom report type can be edited to add any new fields.
  9. Custom report types allow the column names to be renamed, although that is not 100% true.  It is an alternative if changing the field label on the object is not feasible.  This does mean rewriting reports to use the custom report type.
  10. In Professional Edition, a field is not available in reports unless it is also on a Page Layout.  This can seem a bit clunky if a formula field is used only on reports.
  11. There is not much security or permissions along the lines of who can create reports, overwrite reports, etc.  It is mostly at the Profile and/or Role level which is not very useful.  For example, if one person in a department is allowed to create reports, an entire new Profile has to be created just for that person.  Improved security is one of the major improvements planned for 2011 or 2012 release.

 

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