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The Healthy CRM: 5 Data Management Best Practices

2.7.17 By: Lila Pigott

Welcome to our series The Healthy CRM, a boot camp for your CRM processes. Once a month in 2017, we’re going to help you get your CRM into shape with a healthy dose of best practices and organization tips.

You’re six weeks into 2017 and your New Year’s resolutions are going strong. You’ve left junk food behind, you’re keeping up with your goal to read more, and you find yourself exercising regularly. Now where else can you make your life better? Yep, you guessed it- your CRM practices.

As many of our clients start to document their business processes to help clarify the roles in their organization, they also notice a need to document and manage how their data is being handled. Creating some basic guidelines around data management is essential as your organization begins to build reports and really use your CRM. Making sure your team knows how to use the appropriate fields or look for duplicates will help protect the investment of your CRM. Here are five best practices for managing your data.


Know the rules of the road

Just as you built a plan around your business processes, you’ll want to build a plan around your data management. Start by creating a team consisting of more advanced users, then work with them to document how your data will be used. For example, if your team intends to pull a weekly report on leads or donors and they will be sorting by city, make sure to include this in your documentation. This will help users see what fields are necessary to keep data clean and reports working.

Bonus Tip: Setting up naming conventions can be time consuming but in the long run your team and data will thank you. As you assess what information will go into each record, discuss how certain information will be recorded. For example will you use suffixes such as Inc. or LLC? If so, make sure they are used every time and in the same way to ensure accurate data.


Identify the enforcers

Laying out rules and documenting the process will go to waste if you don’t also identify who will be enforcing the rules and processes are followed. Within each department, especially those who have a heavy hand in data entry or data management, identify who will be making sure all the processes are followed. Additionally, discuss what happens if they are not followed and how your training processes can fix this.

Bonus Tip: As with all things in technology change, stakeholder buy-in is key. If key team members are struggling to accept the change, this should be addressed before any further change. Making sure everyone is on board ensures the success of the CRM and the team.


Invest in training

Make sure each employee, especially new a hire, learns all the processes properly. By giving enough time for learning and entering data you can help increase your amount of correct and clean data. Eventually, only the new best practices will remain and old bad habits will die away.

Bonus Tip: Invest in retraining! Find ways to also be supportive of current employees relearning the processes and how they translate into your CRM by paying attention to user adoption resources. Additionally, always make sure your new data management processes are documented properly.


Use advanced native capabilities to your advantage

Salesforce offers a lot of out-of-the-box capabilities to help you maintain clean data. By using what’s already in your instance you can improve the quality of your data. One of the best options is validation rules, which act as a checklist of must-haves before a record is saved. With validation rules, if a required field, such as a phone number or city, isn’t entered when you hit save the record will produce an error message. Using validation rules will stop the the record from being saved until the record is filled out correctly. Another option for keeping clean data is to use Salesforce’s duplication management tool to help users find duplicates or create reports of duplicates already in the system.

Bonus Tip: We created an infographic to help you compare two commonly used deduplication tools, DemandTools and Cloudingo. You can see how they compare, what they offer, and their discounts for nonprofit users here.


Adjust your data sensitivity and automation

The beauty of Salesforce is the flexibility of the system. There are many ways to protect your data but permissions, ownership, and workflows are some of the quickest ways to get started.

Permissions will make sure that only certain users can see their respective data points or make changes. This can come in handy if you have volunteers or technology-challenged users (or just don’t want to overwhelm everyone by granting full access). Ownership allows you to assign specific users to records, helping to clear up any issues around who owns what accounts.

Finally, workflows can help you automate some of your processes and fill in fields or assign users. For example, let’s say you have a new lead or donor entered into Salesforce who lives in California. You could automate who the lead or donor is assigned to by setting up a workflow that all leads in California go to a specific user and notifies them of this ownership.

Bonus Tip: You can learn a lot about Salesforce’s data protection features in their online help and tutorial pages. We recommend this Trailhead on Data Quality if you’re looking to dive deep into the basics of what Salesforce can offer.


Data management is a big part of seeing healthy ROI from your CRM. Create basic guidelines around how you handle your data and then make sure to reassess every few months, just like a check up. By keeping an eye on how your data is being entered, used, and managed you can make sure your database is healthy post-launch and your team is getting the most from the system.

Looking to learn more tips on how to best use your CRM? We post helpful content from top Salesforce influencers regularly on Twitter. If you’re a Twitter user, check out our tweets and give us a follow. #HealthyCRM


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