The true value of keeping your data in Salesforce is that you can report on it using pre-built or custom reports. With reports you can create visibility amongst your co-workers and management teams, and use the data to create actionable metrics and dashboards. 

To take full advantage of reporting, my advice is to follow these four basic steps:

1. Start at the top

Before you start reporting, talk to your managers and find what their reporting needs are. When you start at the top of your organization, you will avoid the pitfall of creating unnecessary reports and will end up getting more done. Aligning with your team’s needs is crucial.

2. Train before you create

Many people lack thorough understanding of the true capabilities of reports and when they start creating them this often results in a lot of redundant and ineffective reports.

For example, one common mistake is that users create too many reports. At first you may think this is good but when you end up with 50 reports of the same type you will quickly develop a headache trying to manage and navigate through this duplicate data. This is where training your users on how to use reports can save you a lot time, future headaches and can free you up to do other more important things like tackling new initiatives and projects. 

Salesforce offers a number of solutions to help you train your users.  For those of you who are Premier or Premier+ customers this means you can take advantage of the online training catalog, the Premier Toolkit and customizable end user training.  All of which can empower you and your users to create not only great reports but also learn about other Salesforce products and features.  Another great training resource open to everyone is’s YouTube channel to find training videos.

Lastly, for those of you who want more in-depth training feel free to check out some of the Salesforce training and certification options here to empower yourself and your users. 

3. Be a reporter

Being a good reporter is all about asking the right questions. Take a note and start asking who, what, when, where, why and how in order to uncover the needs of the people within your organization. Having a clear idea of people’s pain points will allow you to create Salesforce reports that are more impactful. 

4. Give less, go faster!

When you don’t clutter your coworkers with huge amounts of information in the form of reports, it allows them to focus on what is pertinent to them and do a better job.

For instance, picking out the 3 reports that a service reps need as opposed to giving them 20 reports (some of which apply to them and others that don’t) would make a huge difference for their efficiency.

Again, sharing less but better reports gives your users the ability to make decisions faster, understand how they are driving results faster and also hone your organization’s ability to display data specific to what is being measured in the report.

What  I challenge you to do with reporting in Salesforce going forward is to Start At The Top, Train (your users) before you create a report, be a reporter in your company when it comes to developing great reports and give less so that you can go faster.

But wait... There’s more!

Some useful things that you can bookmark to help turn you into a reporting rock star are... 

The Analytics Workbook – This is a great guide because it not only shows you the “how-to” type of answers you are looking for as a beginner to Salesforce reporting but also it provides business cases where these reports become useful.  You’ll love it!

The AppExchange – I cannot say enough good things about the Salesforce AppExchange, a community of partner applications that can make your life easier.  You can use the AppExchange to search for pre-built reports that aren’t native to your Salesforce instance, install them and get the instant additional value they offer.  Who knows, after you download a reports app from the AppExchange you might even be able to craft your own customized reports by seeing how others have done it!  After all, we reinvent the wheel? Right?

The Salesforce Channel on YouTube – This is a great resource that is constantly updated with new content, features, best practices and more.  Whether you are looking for help with reporting or something else Salesforce related this is a great resource worth bookmarking

With these tips, tricks and best practices you’ll be a reporting rock star in no time at all .  I look forward to seeing you at Dreamforce next year and wish you continued success as you learn more about reporting in Salesforce.

This blog post is based on the Dreamforce'12 session "Reporting for Dummies":