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Salesforce Hacks: Using picklists to clean your data

One struggle every Salesforce admin faces, is how to get users inputting the right data. Free form text fields with no format or structure to them. And then trying to report on these fields becomes a nightmare! So how do you then make sure your users are entering in the correct values? That is where the wondrous (yet often overlooked) field type called a ‘picklist’ comes in…

say picklist again...

And picklists within Salesforce can help you structure data while guiding your users to complete fields as needed. While recent releases have also added to their versatility. In turn, this can help you as an Awesome Admin setup your Salesforce data more effectively.

So let’s go back to basics and dive in to Salesforce Picklists!

You keep saying picklist!!!!!

Let’s take a quick step back to make sure everyone has the same understanding of what a picklist is.
A picklist is ultimately a way to present several values to the user, and restrict what then select as a value in the field.
As an example, a status field when selected could show ‘To do’, ‘In Progress’ or ‘Done’ in the picklist.

Two types to rule them all.

Now we start getting into the fun stuff. And yes, I know I am a bit of a geek! In Salesforce there are two basic types of picklists available for an Admin to create, the regular ‘Picklist’ and ‘Multi Select Picklist’.

The primary difference is illustrated below, where a ‘Picklist’ only allows one value to be entered at a time, while Multi-Select picklists allow a user to select more than one value.

standard salesforce picklist
A Standard Picklist allows a user to select one value.
A Multi-select Picklist allows a user to select more than one value.

Flexibility with global control

Reuse the same picklist values across various picklist fields.

Picklists and world domination… Not coming to a cinema near you!

Seriously though, as you can hopefully see picklists give you a fair amount of flexibility. But what if you want the same picklist options available across different objects in Salesforce?

As of Winter ’17 release, you can now define a common or global set of values for any picklist in your org to use. To do this for a new picklist you can go to:

In Classic: Setup -> Create -> Picklist Value Sets
Or in Lightning: Setup (via the little gear icon) -> Object and Fields -> Picklist Value Sets

And as added extra, the Summer ’17 release allows you to promote any existing picklist values and turn it into a global value set. Simply go to the picklist you want to promote, and you will see a button on the top of the page.

Promote an existing picklist to a Global Value Set.
Promote an existing picklist to a Global Value Set.

Picklist ‘gotchas’

Picklists are very handy in ensuring your users add the right value into the field. But because of the way they are structured there are a few things to remember when setting up and using picklists.

1) Record types:

Have you ever wondered why one user will see an option in the drop down, but someone else can’t see that option? The combination of record type and the profile of the user defines what she/he will see on-screen! (Don’t worry though, this one gets even the most seasoned of admins.)

2) Dependant picklists:

Alternatively, it could be a dependant picklist. This is where the value of one field, controls what options are available in the second field. An example of this could be on an Opportunity – where you have two picklists – the ‘Stage’ field and ‘Lost Reasons’.

You might want to display a list of ‘Lost Reasons’ if the user selects the ‘Stage’ of ‘Closed Lost’. Thereby allowing you to once again guide the user in what the valid options are.

Enforce picklist values when loading data into Salesforce3) Using Dataloader and picklists

Picklists are ultimately just text when Salesforce looks at it at the database level, so be mindful that when loading in values via Dataloader.

Any new values in the file being loaded into Salesforce may appear unless you tick the ‘restrict picklist values’ option on the field (or setup a validation rule).

4) Picklists in formulas

Picklist values are technically stored as a text value in Saleforce, however when using them in any advanced formula within Salesforce, like a validation rule, remember to use the function ‘ISPICKVAL()’.

For example, say we have a picklist field with the name ‘Industry’ and you wanted to see if a picklist value was set to ‘Financial Services’, you would use the formula like so: ISPICKVAL(Industry, “Financial Services’)

 

So there we have it. In a few short minutes, we have covered the basics of picklists! Exciting right 🙂 Now go forth and structure your data! Any business that values data quality will thank you for it!

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Adam Gill

I have been working with the Salesforce platform for over seven years now. My background includes a variety of CRM projects and experiences (both greenfield and legacy), covering a variety of industries. I currently have 4x certified, though always looking to increase that count! :-)

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