6 Benefits of a Salesforce Data Dictionary

Let’s face it, a Salesforce implementation can feel overwhelming. I’ve gone through it myself, having to work backward and reverse a failed Salesforce implementation myself. But when you break it down step by step and realize the benefits of a Salesforce data dictionary, it’s not quite so daunting. Below we’ll define six benefits of a Salesforce data dictionary, examples, best practices and tips to get started.

Why you need a Salesforce data dictionary

What’s one thing every Salesforce org has in common? They all need a way to keep employees on the same page through the ever-changing sales processes, products, integrations, and data fields. This is where a data dictionary for Salesforce comes into play.

So, what is a Salesforce data dictionary and how can a Salesforce data dictionary help you get your organization on the same page? A data dictionary is an intuitive and business-focused solution that allows you to document and create a shared vocabulary that’s specific to how your organization uses Salesforce.

Digital enablement solutions like Spekit make it relatively simple. It pulls your metadata into the Spekit Salesforce data dictionary in real-time to ensure users always have the most current and up-to-date information rather than accessing outdated and incorrect data. Even better, it automatically updates and reflects your changes. Our award-winning digital adoption platform provides Salesforce in-app guidance to assist you every step of the way, making it easy to automatically update and reflect any changes you make. Here are the other simple but powerful ways it can help:

  • Spekit syncs all fields, objects and picklists using a secure API connection for metadata only, never customer information. This safe and secure way of syncing the data you need (and not the sensitive info you need to protect) ensures data integrity.
  • You can assign internal subject matter experts to collaborate and check accuracy.
  • It can also be done through importing and exporting bulk data through Excel spreadsheets to make sure you get mass amounts of data synced right away.
  • Lastly, you can make sure you are tracking simple and complex integrations into your org through custom metadata.

Let’s take a deeper look at why data accuracy, user knowledge sharing and collaboration with a Salesforce data dictionary are so critical for enablement and streamlining business processes.

It’s important to realize that your data is only as good as your users’ understanding of it. Why? Look at some of the highest-performing companies like Google and Amazon. What do they have in common? They 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 CRM platforms like Salesforce.

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 understand and use Salesforce data fields.

Using a data dictionary for Salesforce has a range of benefits across your organization. We’ll take a look at six data dictionary benefits below.

1. Create a shared vocabulary

Let’s start with a common scenario:

“Hi manager, I’m trying to put together a report on the average portfolio amount  by account but can’t find it.”

“Hmmm… 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. Not to worry, 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. Centralizing this information and documentation is a critical step in this process to enable your team.

PRO TIP: If you’re thinking, well how do I know the terminology everyone is using? Start by taking inventory of your existing fields and objects metadata and export it into a shareable, editable spreadsheet. Then, assess how and where those fields are used across the org to identify duplications and determine what you need to keep. Finally, map this information to the teams and people who use it all to begin creating a shared vocabulary among the org.

2. Reduce employee errors

User errors are seemingly unavoidable when starting out in a new Salesforce org. Think about it this way, the first time you took a particular workout class, did you awkwardly stare around the room when the instructor yelled, “Eagle pose!” or “Burpee!” It’s natural to look around to find 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.

Think about a new employee who wrongly moves an Opportunity record to the next stage in the process because a teammate taught them to do it 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. That’s a big problem!

This is only accentuated in large or growing companies where, due to the large amounts of data, these individual errors 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.

PRO TIP: Talk with your biggest users or champions to learn how your teams use Salesforce and look for inconsistencies across the teams. If everyone uses Salesforce differently, it’s harder to all be on the same page. Map your discovery data to the metadata audit to find areas for alignment. Once this is complete, the margin for user errors diminishes.

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 processes. 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. A developer must take this 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 challenges with onboarding and learning the intricacies of your company’s internal business processes will hold you back without the proper documentation available.

Database and CRM documentation are critical in getting your technical, and often, more costly employees up to speed quickly on the applications they are building or the architecture of your systems.A high-level data model that reflects how data flows from one end of the business to the other is a great birds-eye view for any developer to access when onboarding rather than guessing or assuming incorrectly.

4. Build faster

Businesses of all sizes need to innovate to keep up with a changing world. The 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. Consider these questions: 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. 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.

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? Scary thought, right?

Think about that for a moment because according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s likely to happen. Even in a changing world, the 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 rose to become the 7th most in-demand software skill in new job postings within just a few years. Demand for specific roles within the Salesforce ecosystem grew 10.7x faster than the average job posting.

Fostering a culture of documentation, and using an automated solution like Spekit 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 might not be obvious to your reps. 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. Think about the complications that come from 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 revenue-generating tasks.

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 also has a Chrome Extension that lets all users access your documentation directly in their workflow without ever leaving their browser!

The best part: You can get started for today with our FREE out of the box content that helps you build beautifully enriched help text for Salesforce.

PRO TIP: The documentation process is far easier with Spekit because it updates changes automatically rather than having to go back and fix broken fields or update picklists and communicate changes via email or training sessions.

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. As a result, you’ll spend more time building and less time searching for answers.

If you’re looking for digital adoption platforms that complement your Salesforce training, take a closer look at Spekit! It’s perfect for Salesforce solutions architects, Salesforce admins, and Salesforce ops leaders who are tired of having to manage Salesforce definitions in spreadsheets. We’ll help you create a completely bespoke Salesforce data dictionary for your business – integrated at a metadata level.

Learn more about Spekit’s Salesforce Data Dictionary here, or to see Spekit in action, sign up for a demo today. Our free resources make syncing Salesforce and Spekit easier than ever!