Use Case 2: Automating Salesforce Dashboards for your Boss

We’ve talked about the general philosophy of centralizing data in Salesforce, and both the advantages and challenges of making your CRM system your analytics platform and “single source of truth.” Automating manual imports was our Use Case 1, and we now continue the series with a focus on automating reporting for your boss.

Your boss asks to see a weekly dashboard of your online marketing activities and web site traffic. Do you:

  1. Spend 3-4 hours each week exporting or copying and pasting data from various online systems into an Excel spreadsheet, cleaning it up, and then creating graphs?

  2. Spend 3+ months and $50,000+ to implement a Business Intelligence system and data warehouse

  3. Spend a few hours connecting data sources to Salesforce, building the reports and dashboards, and then set it once to automatically update and be emailed to your boss weekly


Unless you are dealing with huge volumes of data (otherwise known by the misused buzzword “big data”), the choice of number 3 should be obvious. An independent survey of more than 4,000 Salesforce customers found that they were able to cut the time needed to prepare reports by an average of 52 percent using Salesforce’s reporting module.

By automating dashboard updates in Salesforce, not only can you get your boss what she / he wants, but you can refresh the data any time you want with the click of a button, for a real-time update on the data. And you could get the dashboard emailed to you daily, while your boss gets it weekly or monthly. That way you can be on top of any trends and spot potential problems sooner, all without any manual updating of spreadsheets.

You often already have some of the data you need in Salesforce, and integrating additional missing data has the added benefit of making that information available for other purposes, right where you do much of your work as a marketing or sales professional — Salesforce.

Here’s How:

Step 1. Get the data you need into Salesforce

This can be challenging in some cases, depending on what data you need in there. Hopefully you already have lead source tracking data (we are clearly biased but recommend our Campaign Tracker app for this purpose, and there are lots of other options for apps or developing your own lead / registration tracking).

For web site traffic, CloudAmp’s Analytics Dashboards product automatically imports web site traffic and visitor metrics into Salesforce, and stores the data natively in Salesforce for use in reports and dashboards. Other Apps such as Zapier can integrate data from marketing SaaS apps like MailChimp, Twitter, Shopify and more into Salesforce. And of course the larger data integration platforms like Mulesoft’s CloudHub or Jitterbit’s Connect can sync data from hundreds of other on-premise and cloud-based applications into Salesforce.

Advertising metrics like impressions and clicks can be more of a challenge to get into Salesforce. Unfortunately, outside of Google, most online advertising companies either have internal-use-only APIs that are not available to their customers, or they are very choosy in who they allow access to their advertising reporting APIs (for example, Linkedin and Facebook only give access to a few of their select partners, unfortunately). So that part of your funnel may require an export or cut and paste from an advertising dashboard or two, if you want to include it in the dashboard.

Step 2: Building the Reports and Dashboards

Once you have the data you need loading regularly into Salesforce, time to build some reports and dashboards. The dashboard and report builder in Salesforce is one of my favorite parts of the product, but it has a bit too much depth for me to cover here, so I’ll just link to Salesforce’s reporting and dashboard overview, and embed an introductory video here:

One tip would be to “clone” existing dashboards that you have already, either ones that were provided with various apps above, or internal ones that you have built. That way you have a good starting point, and can modify to suit your needs without affecting anything that others may be using. And be sure to “Save as” any reports into your own dedicated folder after you customize them, so you don’t alter any current dashboards that may be referencing those reports.

Step 3: Schedule the Refresh and Emails

In Enterprise Edition and Unlimited Edition of Salesforce, you can schedule dashboards to refresh daily, weekly, or monthly. If you have Professional Edition you are out of luck, and if you have Group Edition of Salesforce you are really out of luck, as it does not support dashboards at all (other than those included by Salesforce).

The data in Salesforce dashboards is not automatically updated. For those on the correct version of Salesforce, you can schedule the dashboards to refresh, so you don’t have to manually refresh them. As part of the refresh, you can have an HTML version of the dashboard emailed to you and/or others in your Salesforce organization.

  1. Click the arrow on the side of the “Refresh” button when you are viewing a dashboard.


  2. Select the notification settings (if desired):

    1. Click To me to send an email to your user’s address.

    2. Click To others… to send an email to additional Salesforce users.


  3. Schedule the refresh

    1. Choose Daily, Weekly or Monthly

    2. Select start and end dates

    3. Select the Preferred Start Time for the refresh

  4. Click Save


One tip is to make sure the refresh schedule makes sense relative to how frequently data is being loaded into Salesforce, otherwise it can be confusing if some data is updated as frequently as the dashboard refreshes, but some is not (for example, the dashboard is refreshed and emailed daily, but one of the data sources for the underlying reports is only updated in Salesforce once a week). Clearly labeling the graphs with time periods and refresh schedules can also be helpful.

That’s all there is to it! Your dashboard will be automatically refreshed, and a nicely formatted HTML email will be sent to you and your boss with all the graphs as PNG graphics, clickable to the source reports just the same as when the dashboard is in Salesforce.

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