Salesforce has an amazing reporting layer on top of its platform. Its powerful data is at people's fingertips, and it has never been easier to build reports. Drag this to there, and wham, we have a report that will save the world. However, just because the report creation and manipulation are in the hands of the masses doesn't mean it is always a good thing.

The availability and impact of dynamic reporting within Salesforce can't be understated. Users can easily create reports and analyze their work. Unfortunately, the simplicity has led to a proliferation of reports. In the end, most end-users settle on a concise list of reports to do their job. If you analyze these reports, you will notice that they don't change much. They will go years with daily usage and without a single tweak. Then in a moment of inspiration, the report is changed slightly then remains consistent for the next 9 to 12 months.

Managers love Salesforce reports because they have access to a powerful dataset. They can even hop into Reports and create their own. Since they are close to the end-users, this usually works out well.  Executives are excited to get data from outside their BI or IT departments. In general, the end-user will have a tactical and actionable report, and the manager will have a report providing an overview of their world. On the other hand, executives are unfamiliar with tactical processes that build these powerful data sets. They are more familiar with concrete financial reports that contain revenue and profit.  

Salesforce shines at providing process-level reporting, but these reports are not as concrete as most executives' financial reporting.  Financial reports contain revenue, receivables, and payables, which are contractual in nature. Process level reporting is more like forecasting. The confusion between the two types of reporting types leads to Process Debt.

Process debt accumulates when a reporting change doesn't consider processes creating the data (inside and outside of Salesforce). Sometimes a report change can come from a curious Executive that is taken as a directive to change a report.

The Path to Salesforce Process Debt

  1. A company implements Salesforce.
  2. Salesforce is customized to make operations more efficient.
  3. Salesforce tactical reporting is created for end-users.
  4. Salesforce management reporting is created.
  5. Reports bubble up to upper management, who don't understand what drives the reports.
  6. Upper management wants to change or create a new report that conflicts with the existing process.
  7. Salesforce Admins are asked to add a field so executives can have better reporting.
  8. Salesforce Admins push back because they don't think it will work within the process.
  9. When upper management overrules the Salesforce Admins they cringe as they add a new field. They are confident that the new field or validation will lead to more headaches than value, and they will take the heat and have to support something they disagree with for a long time.
  10. The end users now are stuck with a process change that wastes their time and doesn't add value for them or their manager.  Process debt is born, and it is only a matter of time until steps three through ten are repeated.  

I can't say it strongly enough if you don't understand the processes of your Salesforce users and you are asking for a reporting change that doesn't consider the underlying processes, you will be adding Process Debt to Salesforce. If you do, you will start to hear people badmouth the change, and if it isn't controlled, people will start to badmouth Salesforce. Salesforce licenses are expensive but do you know what is more expensive, hiring more people because of the inefficiency created by report-driven changes. The Salesforce licenses don't cover Salesforce Process Debt. It is paid by adding additional employees. In the end, bad processes kill good people, and sometimes the search for better reporting can be building those bad processes.