The Snapptraffic Spring '10 Newsletter

Its been quite a while since I sent out a newsletter, but I love to send out a note occasionally to let you know some of the neat things we're doing for our other clients. One of the great things about working with so many different clients who are using the same system, is that I get to see how they do what they do, and hear their ideas for improving their systems - which we often get to turn around and develop. I guess it is my own version of "crowd-sourcing"

The Benefits of "Crowd-sourcing" - Since my last newsletter, we seen and developed all kinds of cool things that you might benefit from. Plus I'll throw in a few things that I see as problem areas for large numbers of my clients - maybe you can benefit from what I've seen as I go from salesforce instance to salesforce instance.  

Appointment Reminders! One of the features that is sadly lacking in is the ability to automatically send out appointment reminders to clients. We developed this internally for our own use because I couldn't find an app exchange product that did this inexpensively and I needed it badly. If you ever have issues with a clients forgetting appointments, it can often be resolved by simply sending an reminder the day before. This VisualForce app gives you a list of appointments for the following day and sends them all an email reminder. Couldn't be simpler! Let us know if you would like us to set this up for you in your system. Send a template of your choice to all the leads OR contacts that you have appointments with the following day.(Salesforce Enterprise Edition Only)

Totals for Dashboards

Did you know that a dashboard can have a total displayed under graph or table element? Tables & graphs make so much more sense when there is a total. 

Its actually a separate element than the graph or the table. Its a metric element. Instead of putting the footer (e.g. "All Open Opportunities") under the main element, put it under the totals metric. That almost makes it look like the totals line is part of the main graphical element. 

It really works great. The only limitation is that you have to remember to move both elements when you are repositioning elements on the page. (Professional and Enterprise Editions)

New Dashboard Charting Engine - By the way - if you haven't enabled the new dashboard charting engine released by Salesforce a few releases ago, you're really missing out. The new funnel dashboard element is great way to display a pipeline.  There is also a new "Donut" graph element - an interesting variation on the pie chart. I only mention it because I'm frequently working on client systems in which it hasn't been enabled. Take advantage of it, its got some great features. (All Salesforce Editions)

Internal Communications - One of my clients, Shredit, in Las Vegas, asked me for a way to make comments internally to each other regarding records in Salesforce, specifically accounts. We came up with a simple system that made it possible for someone to save a note regarding an account and have that note sent automatically via email to the account owner, or an alternative recipient if desired. It is a great way to communicate internally about an account, get those notes to the right people, and save them right with the account for future reference. (The Comments can be added in any edition of Salesforce, the email alerts will require Enterprise)

Contact Photos! - I've been asked for this system quite a few times over the years. (yes, that's me in the example screenshot) Its pretty easy to implement. It is just a formula field with an image reference. I'm surprised that Salesforce hasn't added something built in to handle this, but so far they haven't. It works by loading the image of a contact to the documents repository within Salesforce. I recommend putting it in a folder called "Contact Photos." Then simply note the ID and reference that on the contact record. You can use an image formula to reference that ID. I also have a blank headshot image (like you see on Google, Facebook, or LinkedIn when you haven't loaded your image) that displays when the user hasn't yet loaded a picture. (Any Salesforce Edition)


Email Opt Out - the lack of this one feature is why so many people need a third party email program. When you are sending mass emails, Salesforce automatically disregards those who have opted out, so using this field is a powerful way to avoid spamming. Allowing recipients to opt out themselves can be a huge time saver (as opposed to doing it manually). There is a way to do this in Salesforce! It is handled via an email sent back to a Salesforce email service address with "Unsubscribe" entered into the subject line. When Salesforce receives that email, it knows who it came from and if "Unsubscribe" is in the subject line, it places a checkbox in the "Email Opt Out" field. Some standard opt out text and links can be placed in the footer of your emails to give instructions to your recipients. See how it really works below (but don't send it unless you truly want to unsubscribe!) 

Workflow Rules - If you have Enterprise edition of Salesforce, there is almost no excuse for not taking advantage of Workflow Rules. You can use these to automate so many daily tasks. They can automatically send emails, create  tasks, or  update fields. In a nutshell, a workflow rule executes when a record is saved. It evaluates the record and if the record satisfies the triggering condition it takes the action you've requested.  Time based workflow can also react to dates. They're great for informing people that a stage has advanced in an opportunity, letting people know that a case has been open for too long, or advising people to take some action in response to a due date. So many cool things you can use them for. 

Visualforce APEX Development - If you have need of custom functionality that extends beyond what you have standard in Salesforce, Visualforce is the way to get it done. When working with clients before Visualforce I frequently had to say to them, "You can't do that in Salesforce." Now I typically say, "We'll have to do that in Visualforce."  The power of Visualforce lies in the fact that it is custom code (a programmed language) that resides in Salesforce rather than on your local computer. So that code is available anywhere on any computer as long as they have a browser. 

Is Visualforce Expensive? In general, I find that most simple Visualforce projects take about 10 hours. By simple, I mean a page where information is gathered from your Salesforce database and displayed in some useful way to you and your users. More complex functions such as data entry, record creation and manipulation typically require about 20 hours. Most of the projects we've completed seem to take about somewhere between 10 and 20 hours. A few go over that, but generally they are much more complex and require several pages and functions. 

We'd Love To Hear About Your Visualforce Project Ideas! - Are you thinking about a program or function that you would like to have developed. Ask us about it, we'd be happy to do some brainstorming with you!

Thanks for reading! Until next time, 

Michael Snapp
Snapptraffic Consulting