All About Reports and Dashboards

If you have questions about your data stored in Salesforce, reports are how you get answers. First though, you’ll need to specify exactly what you want to know. Once this has been defined, then you can use configuration options to create a useful and personalised report on your data.

Essentially, a report is a list of records which meet certain criteria. They can be all of one object, or alternatively they can show records of a primary object and related objects. Filters can be applied to narrow the focus. Columns are added as required. There are four report types: tabular, summary, matrix and joined. More on these later.


Reports are used to make dashboards. Dashboards show report data graphically such as with a bar or pie chart. This can be useful for getting a high level and easily consumed view of your data.

As an administrator the first thing you’ll need to do when generating reports is to gather requirements. This will mean asking some questions such as what date range or type of records to include.


To create a new report:


  1. Go to the Reports tab
  2. Click New Report
  3. Choose a report type
  4. Click Create
  5. Configure the filters
  6. Customise fields to display
  7. Choose report type (e.g. tabular, summary, matrix, or joined) grouping if necessary
  8. Add a chart if desired
  9. Run Report
  10. Click Save As
  11. Name it and choose which folder it is stored in
  12. Optionally, add the report to an object detail page by going to its page layout -> Report Charts

The four report types are:

  • Tabular. Similar to a spreadsheet, they are an ordered list of records. Limited ability to use these in dashboards.
  • Summary. These are like tabular reports but they allow data to be grouped by certain fields. For example it would show the records grouped into ones that shared the same type. These are the most common reports. Good with dashboards.
  • Matrix. Like summary reports but they allow you to group by two fields instead of one. So for example you’d see records grouped into record type, but then also by another field such as record owner. It’s good to click “hide details”, as this will clean up the display. Is used well with dashboards.

  • Joined. Joined reports allow you to essentially view multiple reports in one. Reports with their own types, filters etc are displayed in blocks in the space that would usually be just one report. You can add up to five blocks. These aren’t compatible with dashboards.

To create a dashboard:

  1. Go to Reports tab
  2. Click New Dashboard
  3. Drag a chart type onto a component
  4. Drag a data source onto the component
  5. Give it a title
  6. Click the wrench icon for additional configuration options
  7. Click Add filter for more granular control of data displayed
  8. To make it a dynamic dashboard (instead of running user defined), go to the drop down in the top right corner and check “run as logged in user”
  9. Click Save and Run Dashboard

You can subscribe to automatically run reports and get notifications when a report is updated. To do this:

  1. Go to report editor
  2. Click Run Report drop down menu
  3. Click Schedule Future Runs
  4. Fill in details
  5. Click Save Report Schedule

Follow a report or dashboard simply by opening its page and clicking Follow. If you don’t see this go to Setup -> Feed Tracking -> Reports -> Enable Feed Tracking.

You can share snapshots of a dashboard to Chatter too. To do this first enable the feature, go to Setup -> Reports and Dashboards Settings -> Enable Dashboard Component Snapshots.

You can also find a range of prebuilt reports in the AppExchange. Once installed these can be accessed in Setup -> Installed Packages.

Understanding the Release Process

Every four months, Salesforce does a “release”. This is where new features are added. This is a fairly transparent, even collaborative process; given the vast numbers of stakeholders involved. Seasonal releases are in Summer, Winter and Spring.

On the Salesforce Success Community there is something called the Idea Exchange. This is where anyone can submit ideas, or vote and discuss ideas that have been submitted. Ideas in the idea exchange are the basis for each new release.

There are a range of different resources to learn about each release; to suit different learning styles.

Salesforce recommends a 7-part strategy for succeeding with each release:

  1. Learn. As an administrator it’s your responsibility to learn about each new release, so you know what the new release will bring. At least a month before each release I think is a good rule of thumb. At this step it may be useful to categorise features based on how important or urgent they are et cetera.
  2. Educate. Share your knowledge about the release with stakeholders in your organisation. Receive input about what features they are interested in using.
  3. Plan. With reference to the release schedule and input received, plan how you’ll roll them out. It’s best to first do the ones that are easiest and have the most impact.
  4. Communicate. Stakeholders in the organisation should be aware of coming changes. This can be done through newsletters, chatter groups, webinars et cetera.
  5. Test. Standard functionality should be pretty robust throughout releases, however the work of individual users and existing customisations may be impacted. Use a pre-release sandbox to test these.
  6. Go live. The Release happens automatically at a predefined date. At this point you’ll need to run through your plan in the production org. There shouldn’t be too many surprises if you’ve tried it first in a pre-release sandbox.
  7. Iterate. Monitor how everything is going. Be open to feedback. Keep a door open to questions et cetera.


How to Create an Opportunity Report and Dashboard

One common use of reports and dashboards is to display Opportunities data. There are two steps involved in doing this:

  1. Create an opportunities summary report
  2. Create a dashboard based on the above report

A vertical bar chart and pie chart showing Opportunities grouped by stage


To create an opportunities report:

  1. Begin by opening the Sales app
  2. Click on the Reports tab
  3. Click New Report
  4. Under Report Type Go to Opportunities -> Opportunities
  5. Click Create

Next you’ll need to configure the report:

  1. Begin by configuring the filters. For example select the opportunities to include based on who owns them, the date range et cetera. If in doubt just show all by having no filters
  2. In the section below there’s a drop down where you can select the report type, select Summary report
  3. We want to see Opportunities grouped by their stage so we’ll go to the list of fields along the lefthand side of the screen then click and drag Stage onto the part that says “drag a field here to create a grouping”
  4. Click Save and Run Report

Finally you’ll need to create a dashboard from this report data:

  1. Go to the Reports tab once more
  2. Click New Dashboard
  3. Click and drag the desired chart type onto a dashboard component
  4. Give the chart a name
  5. Click and drag the report you just created from the data source tab into the part that says “Drag data source here”
  6. Click Save and Run Dashboard

Voila! This is is a simple example but the same method is basically used for all reports and dashboards.

Introduction to Salesforce

Salesforce is a cloud-based platform designed to help businesses sell, service, market, analyse and connect with their customers. It has standard features in the form of apps, which facilitate cloud storage, automation and communication. Beyond standard functionality, the platform itself can be customised to meet individual business needs.

At its core, Salesforce is a CRM. Customer Relationship Management. This is technology designed to optimise the sales and support processes among other things. It can directly grow sales and improve the customer experience. Hence the name salesforce. In Salesforce the CRM is standard functionality.

Salesforce has a lot to do with data and how its stored. To understand how data is organised there are three key terms:

  • Object. Analogous to a spreadsheet. Refer to a particular type of data such as contacts or events.
  • Record. Analogous to a row in a spreadsheet. Individual instances of an object. For example the person who is saved as a contact.
  • Field. Analogous to a column in a spreadsheet. Fields are associated with an object and serve to store bits of information about records, such as the phone number of a contact record.

Standard functionality includes a suite of common objects with predefined fields; optimised and ready to add records to. To name a few:

  • Accounts. The companies you’re doing business with. Can also be “person” accounts for solo traders.
  • Contacts. People who work at accounts. This is a good example of two objects being related.
  • Leads. Potential prospects, someone you might contact to see if they’re interested in buying something from you.
  • Opportunities. Qualified leads that have been converted into… well, an opportunity. Qualifying a lead creates an account and contact.

The Salesforce platform is what allows you to build your own objects, relationships and automations. Every business is different but most “things” have certain qualities, occur in different instances and are related with other things. This is why the objects, fields, records and relationships model can be applied well across all businesses.

Lightning is basically a modern user interface designed to be used more efficiently. It’s particularly useful for Sales reps.

Salesforce1 is a mobile app which allows most of the same functionality on-the-go.

-Based on Salesforce Trailheads-


Salesforce Cloud Benefits

I just completed a module on Trailheads called Salesforce Cloud Benefits. There are two units: understand the age of the customer and succeed with a complete CRM.

As someone who regularly reads and analyses entire books, I’m surprised at how difficult it is to talk about these two brief units. At its very core though it can be distilled to a simple message: the present and future of business is customer-centric, and CRMs are the best way to succeed in that environment.

Overall the impact of this module has been to make me feel that it’s smart to hang one’s hat on Salesforce over the long term. I think that’s the point. What other company is allowing you to provide exactly what your customers demand? It is viscerally convincing and yet somehow dissonant. If I take a minute to cool off from the psychological tactics, intellectually it probably is smart for many businesses to use Salesforce.

I’m convinced that different modules come from different voices within Salesforce and this one came directly from the marketing department. They’ve placed themselves at the very centre of an ongoing movement (the age of the customer) which threatens to leave non-adopters behind. I’m curious how this movement would be received in academic circles.

Understand the age of the customer

This doesn’t refer to checking the customers’ ID, but rather understanding that we are in a new time where customers expect a personalised experience. This new phenomenon of business and technology was virtually put on par with the steam engine and electricity.

I found it enlightening in a philosophical sort of way, and it even took about an hour to sink in. Impressive. It made me realise for the first time what Salesforce’s broader thinking about the world is and I feel that helps me as a consultant in a big way. Here’s what they believe businesses need to do in this new age:

  • Put the customer at the centre of everything they do
  • Have a single view of the customer across touch points—email, in-store, and online

They talk about something called the customer gap. Is this a made up problem for businesses meant to aggrandise CRMs? Perhaps, but I think there is value to it.

In the modern world customers expect businesses to know them. Closing “the customer gap” requires using the data from customers to create personalised experiences, product recommendations, promotions and support.

Succeed with a complete CRM

I found this unit useful because it made me think of Salesforce not just as the user, but as the user pre-purchase. Or of how Salesforce senior management would talk about their product on the highest possible level. From a bird’s eye view. In particular I was struck by the realisation that Salesforce is comprised of:

  • The CRM with 10 core apps (service cloud etc)
  • 3,000+ AppExchange partner apps
  • Custom apps built on the Salesforce platform
  • The ability to connect with outside business systems

It seems so simple when stated like this. Of course a business won’t use most of it. The idea is that they are available on the wider system, as required.

This image pretty much sums up the entire module: our technology allows you to make your customers much happier.

I think this module needs another unit to make customers realise the drawbacks of Salesforce, because their surely are some. Mostly the high price and associated opportunity cost. I think Trailheads should be a place of learning, not advertising. A unit about how to think whether it’s a good decision financially would build trust.

Global and Object-Specific Quick Actions

Actions in Salesforce allow users to, well… perform actions. There are standard actions such as create or edit records. You can also add custom actions. Further, actions are either global or object specific.

Actions usually have a small number of fields associated with them. These will appear when users click the action so that some information can be quickly filled out. Required fields will either need to be added or given default values – or the record won’t save from the quick action.

All actions must also be added to the relevant layout, if they are to be available to users. This aspect can be confusing: quick actions have layouts but are also themselves added to certain layouts.

Global Actions

Global actions are named so because they can go anywhere that actions are supported. For example the home page, chatter tab, object pages and custom lightning app pages.

To create a global quick action:

  1. Go to Setup -> Global Actions
  2. Click New Action
  3. Select the type of action
  4. Enter a label, name and description
  5. Customise further, as required
  6. Click Save

Examples of global pages include the home page, user profile page and chatter home pages. Notice that none of these pertain to any specific object. To make a global action visible on these, go to Setup -> Global Actions (in Lightning). Or, Setup -> Publisher Layouts (in Classic).

Notice that “Quick Actions” and “Salesforce1 & Lightning” are distinct layouts.

You’ll see all the global actions appear in the palette. Simply drag them onto the layout below, correct the order and click Save.

Global publisher layouts (which appear on home page, chatter etc) can only have global actions. But global actions can go on object specific action layouts. Object specific actions can go on object page layouts but not on global publisher layouts.

It is possible to create multiple distinct global publisher layouts and assign them to different user profiles: thus different users will see different quick actions in the global publisher.

Object-Specific Actions

To create a new object specific action go to the object’s management settings, then:

  1. Go to Buttons, links and actions
  2. Click New Action
  3. Select the type of action, this will determine which fields come next
  4. Customise as prompted
  5. Click Save

Then, you’ll have the opportunity to customise the action in a screen that is similar to the page layout editor. You can add which fields appear in its layout and add predefined values.

Finally you’ll need to add the action to the relevant object’s page layout (accessible in an object’s management settings). Once this is done, click Save.

-Based on Salesforce Trailheads-

Salesforce1 Navigation Bar and Compact Layouts

In Salesforce1 the  icon opens the navigation bar. Here you can go to many different places on Salesforce. Most often you’ll go to objects.

To customise the navigation menu, go to Setup -> Salesforce1 Navigation. Next, add the items you wish to the “selected” box. They’ll retain their order and the top one will be the landing page when opening Salesforce1.

Compact layouts are a convenient tool for showing key fields of an object at the top of the detail page. This is so they can be seen at a glance and is very convenient for Salesforce1, where people may be walking around, the screen is smaller et cetera. Compact layouts are similar to page layouts but they can only have up to 10 fields.

To create a compact layout, go to an object’s management settings and click “compact layouts”.

Simply name the compact layout and add the fields you wish to include (keeping in mind that the order will be retained). Click save.

Once the compact layout has been created you’ll need to assign it. Click compact layout assignments. Select the compact layout you wish to use and set it as the primary one for that object.

-Based on Salesforce Trailheads-

Zero to One

Zero to One. This was an audiobook, narrated by the primary author, Peter Thiel. Thiel was cofounder of PayPal, is a director at Facebook and is an economic advisor to Donald Trump. It was originally compiled as entrepreneurship lecture notes by Stanford student Blake Masters.

Hearing his voice added a deeper insight into the book’s content. I could feel the experience behind his words. I could peer into the inner life of a Silicon Valley elite. How he viewed the world and those in it, as an insider. Surely an intellectual too.

He sounded mild and even tempered throughout, yet not boring because he sounded present and somehow healthy. Punctuated by sub-communicative insights. A hint of contempt for another elite person or organisation. A crack of sympathy for the unfortunate. Sometimes I felt this was contrived. It was interesting to hear someone speak about Facebook for example as an insider who had authority over it.

On to the content. I wasn’t struck by any great structure of the ideas. Being an audiobook it was hard to picture how the book was structured, as would appear in the contents. That can mean that the content itself is better though, remaining in the organic units of lessons, rather than being “boxed in” to an overall pleasing layout or architecture of ideas when they needn’t be. That’s how the content seemed to me overall: organised into lessons rather than a system. Then again “notes” is in the title.

It seems to me that the two great contemporary entrepreneurship books are The Lean Startup and this. Having read the former I felt compelled to contrast the two. During listening and now. The former felt more procedural and systematic. Whereas this felt more concerned with principles and fairly high level advices; the reason being that if you understand the principles and essential pieces then you can apply them to many or all scenarios and the details sort themselves out or don’t matter so much. Different people tend to prefer detailed or high level thinking, but I think it’s good to read both.

I feel Peter is more boss than Eric Ries. Thiel’s references to Shakespeare, Goethe and Tolstoy were impressive but it’s a rare person who can also speak personally about the likes of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg as well. The book did feel a bit like a shrine to Thiel’s greatness or ego. It’s almost as if he rejected or never learned the value of humility. I suppose he intends and does a lot of good overall though which sufficiently justifies egoism in my view. It doesn’t beautify it but in this case the book is beautiful.

As the name suggests, this is a book primarily for ventures doing something new. I think the most central business message he had was that one should aim to be a monopoly: because in competition profits get competed away. The easiest way to be a monopoly is create something new.

Aim for technology that is 10x better than the nearest competitor. This was a message to engineers. This was balanced and contrasted by the message that you need a good sales strategy as well to succeed. The best ideas don’t always win, they have to succeed in the market to do that.

Some parts were very practical advice. Such as the importance of suitable cofounders and company culture.

It got philosophical at the beginning and towards the end. The thought experiment that there are four possible outcomes for humanity. The concept of “the singularity” being the logical end to technological advancement. Interesting, however briefly covered, and something that I’d want to look in to further. It made me realise that science fiction is probably good to read if you want to be a tech entrepreneur; thinking and feeling in terms of technology that doesn’t exist yet.

Introduction to Salesforce1

Salesforce1 is a mobile app which allows people to access most of their data on Salesforce from their smart phone. By its nature as a limited version of Salesforce and something that’s used “on the go”; it’s particularly important for the administrator to set it up effectively. Ahead of time.

If Chatter is enabled and the Salesforce1 navigation menu doesn’t have something else set as the top item: the user’s Feed will be their landing page. In this way the app feels a bit like using Facebook on mobile.

In the feed, there is: (1) A search bar, (2) sort and filter options, (3) feeds drop down menu, and (4) feed items.

There is also an Action Bar, which displays different actions based on which page you’re on. In the feed it shows global actions. In records it shows various items such as: productivity actions, standard and custom buttons, standard Chatter actions, and global and object-specific actions assigned to the layout for that record type.

There is also the navigation menu. This is somewhat like the navigation menu in Salesforce, except it displays vertically rather than horizontally.

The navigation menu has four parts. A search bar, menu items (which you’ve selected to be listed first), smart search items (displays recently searched items) and an apps section (with any items you place below the smart search area).

At a lower level there is the record view, which is unique to each object. Similar to Lightning, it has three tabs: feed, details and related lists. It also has a highlights section up the top, which is determined by the compact layouts for that object.

-Based on Salesforce Trailheads-

List Views

Records are displayed in “lists”. In lists; each row represents a record and each column a field. It’s a bit like spreadsheets but more dynamic, because you can filter and sort  them.

For our current purposes, a list only includes records of one particular object. To access an object’s lists; click on the object’s tab. There should be a drop down menu of available list views for that object. You can also edit the current list view by clicking Edit or create a new list view by clicking Create New View.

There are various options when creating a new list view:

  • Name
  • Filter by record owner
  • Filter by field
  • Filter logic (e.g. 1 AND 2)
  • Fields displayed

This process determines which records are shown in the lists. Finally though, the lists can be sorted. This is done by clicking on the field header to sort by. It orders them alphanumerically.