WMP’s Performance Services team creates and updates Salesforce reports for our clients almost every day. From the simple mailing list to the complex snapshot matrix, we help users of all levels access the data they need in meaningful and accurate ways. What strikes me most about this is that, more often than not, these users could create and update the reports all by themselves. However, while the Report Builder interface is in itself intuitive, our clients still seem to struggle with it. In fact, I have found that Reporting is one of the most difficult features for users to master. Why? Because of a seemingly elusive concept called a “Report Type.”
The first point of confusion may be that there are actually two kinds of Report Types: Standard and Custom. Standard Report Types are automatically included/created by Salesforce to reflect the Object relationships that exist within your org. Out-of-the-box, Salesforce includes Standard Report Types that allow for reporting on standard Objects. Moreover, whenever you create a new custom Object where Reporting is enabled, Salesforce will automatically generate new Standard Report Types for that Object and any relationships involving that Object. You cannot modify any of these. They are what they are. Custom Report Types, on the other hand, are Report Types that you (and anyone with the Manage Custom Report Types permission) create. They can be modified to meet end user needs and, because of this, they are incredibly powerful.
Because Report Types are so important, we need to demystify them. And, we especially need to empower System Administrators and end-users to harness the functionality of the Custom Report Type. To that end, here are some tips and tricks.
Learn the Lingo – Salesforce names Standard Report Types, for the most part, according to set naming conventions and you should follow them when naming your own Custom Report Types. The first Object mentioned is the Primary Object, which means that you will have one report row for every returned record in that Object. What about the other Objects mentioned? In the Report Type world, the words and, with, and without are your key indicators, helping describe what additional data the Report Type will return. And generally indicates that the data is included via lookup from Child to Parent, similar to how with a formula field you can bring Parent Object information down to the Child. With and without indicate that data is included in the opposite direction, from Parent to Child. I find that it best to consider this visually.
If, for example, we have a custom Object relationship that looks like this:
Then, our Report Types would look like this, with the highlighted records returned as report rows:
Copyright it – Designate all Custom Report Types as such by appending a __c or (c) or © to the name. This will save you and your users an inordinate amount of time when troubleshooting reporting issues because you will know right away, from within the Report Builder, if you are dealing with a Standard or a Custom Report Type. If the report isn’t working for you or your user and it is based on a Standard Report Type, you need to choose a different one. If the Report Type is Custom, you may be able to edit it to meet your needs.
Know the Quirks – Custom Report Types are not without idiosyncrasies. Unlike with Standard Report Types, Salesforce does not automatically add new custom fields to Custom Report Types. If you or your user don’t see the field you are looking for and you are working with a Custom Report Type, chances are the field was created after the Report Type and you need to manually add it to the Available Fields list. Also, unlike Standard Report Types, Custom Report Types don’t have default fields (fields that are automatically included in the reading pane when you open a new report). You can designate default fields in the Report Types section of the Setup menu.
Love the Lookup – While folks may be familiar with the basics of building a Custom Report Type, many don’t know that you are not limited to the with and without relationships that you designate in Step 2.
To create an and Report Type, you can edit the report layout and add fields related via lookup.
Call it what it is – No matter how diligently you govern your Salesforce org, eventually, things get messy and out of date. What was once called Frosting is now called Topping around the office and no one even knows what Frosting Flavor Collection is. With Custom Report Types, you can actually change the display as for field names and the field sections headings to better reflect operational jargon. This especially useful when creating C-level reports.
I hope these tips help you navigate Reporting in Salesforce with more ease! If you have any questions about reports, please leave a comment below.