When creating an email template designed to work with a given object, you have that object’s mail merge fields available to you. But what if you need to bring in fields from a related object as well? For example, you may have a workflow on the creation of a Contact that will send an email which is required to contain details from the Contact’s Account. One of the field types than can be used in a merge field is a formula type. With our simple example above, we can create a new formula field to capture each data element that is required from the Account and keep it on the Contact. The fields can remain hidden from view by leaving them off of the layout(s) and can be available when writing your final email template.

As you may have guessed, I prefer to work on the cloud as much as possible. Lately, I’ve been adding a few apps to my Google Chrome account through their web store. I’ve been impressed at the wide selection and usefulness the apps in this marketplace. Even very simple apps, such as note-taking tools that can open up in a browser tab, have saved me a lot of point and click “calories.” My latest favorite is Lucid Chart (available through the Chrome web store, or just http://www.lucidchart.com).

Lucid chart has robust flowcharting and mapping tools. It’s very quick to get going and the charts are saved as you work on them (in the cloud). It provides integration with Google Drive (formerly Docs) and there is an iPad/iPhone app available.

My normal process is to open up a Mind Map template to quickly gather everyone’s thoughts during a meeting about a new project/need. Then I jump right into a Visio-like flow chart of a particular sales or business process. I like how you can use both formats on the same page and I like how fluid and fast it runs. Nothing stifles creative group-think faster than a slow, clunky tool to capture ideas/processes.

If a Salesforce design comes to mind, I usually throw in a couple of swim-lanes, one for the business process and one for the Salesforce process/user flow.

The cost of the tool is very minimal, my plan is on monthly/recurring billing cycle for $15/mo.

Visualforce is a Salesforce development framework that controls the user interface of any Salesforce application. Available in most editions (with some limitations in Professional Edition), it offers multiple benefits. Here are the top three reasons that organizations may request a developer or admin to work with Visualforce:

Reason 1: Visual Flexibility/Customization

So you want your fields on an object or report to be laid out in three columns, not two? Visualforce is the way to go. Want a custom color on the page? Visualforce. Want the page to look nothing like the Salesforce standard? Visualforce is the way to go. Pages and tabs can be bypassed using Visualforce while still maintaining access to the standard functions (save, cancel, delete, edit, new), related lists and data-sets.

Reason 2: Force.com Sites

Built just about entirely in Visualforce pages and custom controllers, Force.com Sites can give your client-base a bird’s eye view into your org. Or maybe you would like them to be able to submit a record into a custom object you created, such as “compliments”. Visualforce is what you need!

Reason 3: Custom .pdf’s

You can attach a .pdf to an email, create a .pdf through a button on a record, you could attach a .pdf automatically to a record in the Notes and Attachments section (custom controller with Visualforce page). The possibilities are almost endless!

Those are three reasons why Visualforce would be requested. Think of any others? Run with it! As challenging as it can be, when you get that first look at your custom page, custom functionality, force.com site or custom component on a page, you’ll be forever hooked!

Apex Data Loader is a critical tool used by Salesforce.com Administrators to export/import/update data in their Salesforce.com org.

Salesforce.com administrators can speed up their data cleanup and import projects with the Update,
Delete, Export and Insert operations using Apex Data Loader. Queries can be written directly in Data Loader to give expanded capabilities when pulling data.

Data Loader is available for Enterprise Edition or higher.

An Apex Trigger can be used to automate proceses that aren’t possible to automate with a Workflow. For Salesforce Professional Edition and up, Workflows are available and are powerful tools for doing Field Updates, Email Notifications, and Task Generation. But sometimes they aren’t enough. For example, let’s say you want to set a Checkbox field called “Contacted Account?” on the Account object to “True” whenever a completed Event is logged for the purpose of generating Account-level contact penetration views. This cannot be accomplished via a Workflow on the Event object because of the nature of the Salesforce data model. Events can be associated with Accounts, Contacts, Opportunities or even custom objects, so no clean linkage to Account can be established to support a Workflow. However, an Apex Trigger on the Event object can accomplish this Field Update. You can think of an Apex Trigger as a Workflow on steroids. Because Apex Triggers use custom code/programming language, they usually require someone with a development background to build. But knowing what they do can help equip System Administrators to design solutions for their Salesforce org beyond the standard Admin panel. Just remember, if a Workflow can’t do it, a Trigger may be able to.

Did you know that you can create a Report of Reports in Salesforce.com? A common challenge of a growing Salesforce org is the quantity and lack of standardization of reports. Take advantage of the Report of Reports type under Administrative Reports section when creating a new report. This will give you a view into which reports are stale by pulling in fields such as Last Run date or Last Modified date. Another tip to reduce clutter in your report folders is by making all folders Read-Only. This forces users to save their own versions in their Personal Folder, rather than make them public. 

Encourage your users to do the following when navigating within Salesforce.com to save them time:

  1. Leverage tabbed browsing. Rather than click on a link, right click on the link and open it in a new tab. This comes in handy when working lists. You can open new tabs for each new record you want to work, then when done, simply close the browser tab.
  2. Double-click to edit. To quickly edit a record, double click on the field that you want to edit. This allows you to update the filed and simply click “Save” when finished.
  3. Copy the URL when collaborating. Don’t send your fellow users/ colleagues on a wild goose chase. Just give them the link that takes them directly to the record. Go to the top of your browser, highlight the URL, Ctrl/Cmnd-C to copy, and send that link through chatter, IM or email to your co-worker to make it easy for them to view.

A few saved-clicks, over time, can add up hours of productive, client facing time.