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A Salesforce admin’s guide to deduplication

By: Melissa Foley

I’ve recently been asked many questions about deduplication. It’s a popular topic in our office with an upcoming Salesforce Nonprofit User Group based around the subject. Specifically, we’ve been talking about how do you edit duplication and matching rules. Deduplication and matching rules are what determines if there’s a potential duplicate record and creates a duplicate alert on the record you’re viewing.

Besides native options in Salesforce and several tools to help you dedupe your Salesforce instance on the AppExchange, your organization will need to make changes. Specifically, you’ll want to carefully review how duplicates are created, how your instance can prevent them, and how you can communicate with your colleagues to keep your data as clean as possible.

Below I’ve listed how you can tackle the greater issue of deduplication in your Salesforce instance.


When you know you have a problem but before you do anything...

Think: where are your duplication problems coming from? What objects are creating duplicates? How do they enter your database and what are the current processes for how this data is entered? If you can spend some time digging into the root cause of the issue, most likely a process error, then you will be better equipped to prevent duplication issues in the future.

Next, you’ll want to get up to speed on best practices. Schedule an hour to take this Module. This is an essential step for a new Salesforce administrator. Colleagues unfamiliar with Salesforce or database best practices might suggest fixes that will be counter-intuitive to keeping your data clean. By reviewing best practices you can be better equipped to tackle this issue and create sound processes.

Now, before you take any step further, perform a backup of your data. Hopefully, you won’t need this, but better safe than sorry.


While you make some fixes...

If your issues are big enough, then you’re probably considering an app. While you need to think about the specific needs of your Salesforce instance and organization, you can find a comprehensive overview of your options in this Google spreadsheet. This document was made with nonprofit users in mind all thanks to the App Advice and Consumer Reports group in the Power of Us HUB. If you’re an NPSP admin, then we highly suggest joining this group.

Whether you decide to install an app or find yourself merging records, you should check your matching and duplication rules. You’ll want to set up rules that will match 75% of your deduplication issues. Consider using the fuzzy matching method to put more checks in place to help keep your data clean. Although you can learn how to set up duplication and matching rules in the Module linked in the first section, you’ll can also find instructions for how to do this listed here.

Finally, while you’re making new rules and considering tools, you should review your field structure. By using picklists and setting up or removing required fields, you could make a major impact on the cleanliness of your data. This is especially true when using picklists.


After you’ve set up new rules and tools...

Alright, now you’ve made some major changes to your structure and corrections to your data. You need to get to work setting up processes. Document the new procedure for entering data and all rules you want put in place to keep your data clean.

To get you started, think back to the first section where you determined the underlying issues causing duplications. Document the steps that should be taken when entering data or merging records. Lay out who can do merges and how to determine what data is kept (the original record, new data or a combination?). If this is part of your training process for new hires or you’ll need to update current users, set aside time to retrain and update any of your training documentation as well.

We also suggest you lay out rules around merging. Here are some rules to consider:

  • Almost never merge accounts.
  • If you're doing merges of any size in production, it's typically best to do them when the system is quiesced (read: nights and weekends).
  • Set aside time to thoughtfully perform merges. Never merge anything when you are stressed or tired.
  • Always perform a backup before any major deduplication work is done.

Finally, review or set up access controls for your users by editing their user permissions. There’s good documentation and a few Trailheads around this topic that can be found here.


Ready to tackle your deduplication project?

Remember, it’s not an overnight fix. This is an ongoing process that will take some time to get cleaned up and for your users to get adjusted to. Remind yourself of this if and/or when the duplicate records reappear. Regularly set aside time to clean up your data and update your processes and documentation.

Does the deduplication work seem like too much? Are you considering installing one or more apps to improve your Salesforce instance? If you’re thinking it’s time to include a Salesforce consultant in your work, check out our whitepaper “Be Prepared, Not Scared” to learn what strategies your team can use for technology change.


Download the whitepaper


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