Don't Have a Salesforce Data Dictionary? Here's Why You Need One.

Melanie Fellay
November 20, 2023
September 17, 2021
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In today's age of Big Data, new roles like “Chief Business Intelligence Officer” and “Data Evangelist” are emerging every day. The market for AI-powered Business Intelligence or analytics tools is also increasingly competitive, with some of the largest data companies like Salesforce rolling-out their own game-changing analytics solution, Einstein.

In fact, the highest-performing companies like Google and Amazon all share a metrics-driven culture where they leverage data to make key business decisions. This helps them quickly and efficiently identify areas for improvement, and with the right data and documentation at hand, they're able to investigate implications and make changes quickly to their CRM. This is where a Salesforce data dictionary comes in.

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 to understand and use Salesforce data fields.

Using a data dictionary for Salesforce has a range of benefits across your organization.

1. Create a shared vocabulary

“Hi - I’d like to pull a report on the average portfolio amount by account but can’t find it”

“Oh - 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 it. 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 your Salesforce across your custom objects, fields and picklists, fields, objects and 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.

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. That way they spend more building and less time searching for answers.

2. Accelerate your Salesforce team ramp-up time

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.

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, that a developer must take 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 challenge in learning the intricacies of your company's internal business processes will hold you back without the proper documentation available.

Database and CRM documentation is critical in getting your technical, and often, more costly employees up to speed quickly on the application they’re building or the architecture of your systems.

3. Build faster

Businesses of all sizes need to innovate if they wish to survive. 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: 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, such as when inheriting the CRM or database of a company during an acquisition or merger.

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.

The result: More time spent building cool *hit.

4. Eliminate risk

What would happen to the deadlines on your roadmap if the top or longest tenured member of your Salesforce team quit tomorrow?

Think about that for a moment because according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it's likely to happen.

In fact, their 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 is now the 7th most in-demand software skill in new job postings. Demand for specific roles within the Salesforce ecosystem are even growing 10.7x faster than the average job posting. Therefore, it’s no surprise that people are quitting their jobs more than ever before.

Fostering a culture of documentation, and using an automated solution to help you document your org is one of the best protections you can make to protect the velocity and sustainability of your team.

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 comes with a Chrome Extension that lets all users access your documentation directly in their workflow without ever leaving their browser. The best part: We have a free tier that you can use to create beautifully enriched help text for Salesforce, starting today. Click  here  to learn more about how Spekit can bring sanity to your Salesforce