Think of your Salesforce environment as a custom car. You start with the basic model and add a new engine or special tires over time. Eventually, you wind up with the custom car of your dreams…but then something stops working. You take it to a professional for repairs…but there’s no information to guide them through all the customization, so they have to take the whole thing apart to find the issue and put it back together.
In the same way, Salesforce is designed so that you and your organization can tweak it to better suit your needs. But if you don’t have good documentation for all of the custom elements of your Salesforce dream car, you’re liable to run into trouble down the road.
Salesforce documentation is not just something you do once, and then it’s done; it should be an ongoing process, like an oil change or a tire rotation. So here are some best practices to get your Salesforce documentation back in order.
Document the *Why*
Let’s go back to the car example. Your mechanic needs more than a list of your new parts to understand how everything in your system works, and the same is true for Salesforce documentation. Adding background on why your organization made the changes it did gives better context to the person who’s managing the system (or trying to fix a problem).
Comprehensive documentation helps everyone understand the impact of the changes, whether they’re looking at it a day, a week, or even years after that change has been made. Think of it as your car manual—something that maps all your processes, integrations, and key information.
Create Data Dictionaries
Similarly, your organization’s data dictionary contains information about all the data elements in your system and how they relate to each other. There are several ways to manage this data: manually or through a third-party tool from AppExchange.
You’ll need to keep (and periodically update) your data dictionary in order to help create reports and set up automated processes. In addition, a well-maintained data dictionary saves your admins tremendous amounts of time because it empowers users to build their own reports.
There are three steps to creating a data dictionary.
- List the objects in use.
- Write down the fields associated with them.
- Finally, document how they connect to one another.
Keep Track of Integrations and Add-ons
Documenting your integrations and add-ons helps you to manage them without digging through emails and old files. Imagine a technician needing to repair some custom electric work you did to your dream car three years ago, but you don’t have a wiring diagram to give them. Or worse, imagine inheriting the car from the person who did the work in the first place, and you have no idea how any of it goes together.
When it comes to documenting your integrations and add-ons in Salesforce, here’s some of the information you’ll want to make sure that you gather so that whoever is working with the system down the line knows how everything fits together.
- What integrations currently exist
- Who the stakeholder is within the organization
- How the integration is supported
- How the license is managed
- How upgrades are managed (Manually or automatically)
- Who uses the integration at your organization
Changelogs are exactly what they sound like: a document of all the changes made in your organization. They should include why you made the change, who submitted it, and when the change occurred. Clear change logs give you a comprehensive audit trail of everything that’s happened within Salesforce, so you know what, who, and why it was changed.
2 Bonus Documentation Tips
We could write about proper documentation processes for days. But to keep from dumping a whole encyclopedia in your lap, we’ll leave you with two final tips:
1) Enter information into the Knowledge Center and Chatter: These tools help you share your documentation across the org and make it searchable within Salesforce. (Because information you have but cannot find is not much better than having no info at all.)
2) Include custom functionality: Document unique and business-critical functionality to better understand how to troubleshoot an issue. (If these changes are the ones that really make people’s day-to-day lives easier, knowing how they work is going to get people back to working at peak efficiency that much easier.)
Getting Started with Salesforce Documentation
Documentation plays a central role in making sure any business stays on track, but especially when you consider how easily customizable something like Salesforce can be. Getting into the groove with good documentation habits may seem like an uphill battle at first, but if you start setting aside time each week, you’ll soon see how much effort you can save yourself in the long run.
Remember, the most important goal of any piece of Salesforce documentation should be to create a shared manual that can serve your organization for the future, no matter how your workforce or technology changes.
If you need help with your documentation strategy, or any other Salesforce-related project, our senior-level Salesforce consulting team can help. Whether you’re just getting started implementing the solution and need help with data migrations, or you’ve run Salesforce for a while but could use a hand getting things shipshape, we’ve got you covered.
Contact us today to get started.