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Dashboards deliver huge benefits to salesforce.com users. But the benefit is greatest when the dashboard is properly set up. Follow these 10 best practice tips to create awesome salesforce dashboards.

1. Pull the dashboard chart from the source report

Cut your work in half. The source report that drives the dashboard should, itself, always have a chart. So don’t create the same chart twice. Pull the dashboard graph from the source report.

pull the dashboard chart from the source report in salesforce

It’s simple to do. Click on “Use chart as defined in source report” on the Component Editor.

2. Set the dashboard width to be Wide

Laptop screens are shrinking. People are using tablets for work. It’s a fact that many of your Users are going to be viewing your dashboards on pretty small screens. So it’s essential to make full use of screen real estate.

However by default, salesforce sets the dashboard column width to Medium. This results in the right-hand third of any screen not being used. So set the column width to Wide. The dashboard will scale to fit the full screen width that’s available on the Users’ device.

Set the dashboard width to wide in order to make full use of screen real estate

3. Group similar dashboard charts using the chart ‘Header Bar’

A dashboard will often contain several charts that display different views of the same data. For example, pipeline deals by Stage and Opportunity Owner.

Use the Header Bar to create the summary headline. Then use the Chart Title to identify the specific characteristics of each graph.

Use the header bar on each dashboard chart to group graphs together

For example, the charts above show two views of the sales pipeline. The first is summarised by Opportunity Stage. The second categorises the same data by Opportunity Owner. The Header Bar groups the two charts. The Title distinguishes between the two.

4. Use the Footer to note dashboard filters

Sometimes the source report contains filters that might not immediately be obvious to the dashboard viewer. Use the Footer to record these filters or any other important notes.

Use Footers on the dashboard chart to note filters

In this example the Footer reminds Users that the Prospecting Stage is excluded from the chart.

5. Align the Chart Title, Header and Footer with the source report

Here’s one of the most common errors on salesforce dashboards. Misalignment between what the chart says it displays – and what it actually displays.

Check that everything is consistent. If the Chart Title is ‘Deals won this Financial Year’ then make sure the source report is indeed running on Financial Year and not Calendar Year. And use terms like ‘This Financial Year’ or This Calendar Year’ rather than simply ‘This Year’.

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6. Put the Legend below the chart

Dashboard charts are relatively small. And the User may be viewing it on a small screen. So maximise the size of the graphs within the dashboard by setting the Legend to be below the chart.

Salesforce doesn’t do this by default. It places the Legend to the right of the chart. Which as you can see in the example below, squashes the dashboard chart.

Place the Legend below the dashboard chart

7. Enable Hover on dashboard charts

Enabling the hover feature on each chart means that Users can get additional information directly from the dashboard. This saves drilling down to the source report.

Enable hover on each dashboard chart

Make sure you enable Hover on the source report chart and then this feature will be automatically enabled on the dashboard chart.

8. Put the chart below the report

Strictly speaking this isn’t about the salesforce dashboard appearance. But it is about how Users interact with your dashboard.

By default, salesforce places the chart in the source report above the report. So when a User clicks on the dashboard chart to drill to the report, the first thing they see is the graph they’ve just clicked on. Which probably isn’t what they want.

Edit the chart on the report so that it sits below the report. That way Users will quickly get access to the important information they’re looking for.

The screen shot above shows a properly formatted chart on the source report. Legend below the graph. Hover enabled. Chart below the source report.

Put the chart on the source report below the report to make it easier for users.

9. Auto-refresh the dashboard

If you’ve created a high quality set of graphs and charts on your dashboard then Users will look at it first thing in the morning. Before they get down to the business of the day.

Set the dashboard to automatically refresh overnight. And select any Users that should be automatically emailed a copy of the dashboard.

Auto refresh the dashboard each night.

10. Choose the right chart for the job!

Think carefully about the chart style you’re choosing. Many reports that are displayed on dashboards contain a time dimension. The sales pipeline by Close Date for example.

This type of information is often best represented using bar charts. Probably of the stacked variety. And definitely not a pie charts.

And be careful when you do choose a stacked bar chart. By default salesforce selects the parallel stacked chart. What you may well want is the one in the middle. The stacked bar chart.

Chose the right chart on the dashboard for the right job.

Sales leaders quickly get frustrated if they can’t find information quickly. Follow these 10 best practice tips and you’ll create awesome dashboards that will keep Users coming back for more.

More tips for awesome dashboards

Now you’re ready to take things to the next stage. Which dashboard charts should you create to provide full visibility of the sales pipeline and sales performance? Try these blog posts:

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