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Visualizing Raw Qualitative & Quantitative Data from Salesforce

Techie

Whether you’re reporting on sales and revenue or more qualitative data like retention and customer lifecycles, combing through data and visualizing it in a meaningful way is important so you can more easily identify changes and trends and make better decisions.

For a more detailed breakdown on How to Build Beautiful Reports, download our white paper.

What does it mean to visualize Salesforce Data?

When you think about raw metrics or data analysis, numbers, figures, equations, and horrific flashbacks to Calculus 101 come to mind. But in reality, visualizing data simply means translating it into a more digestible format. Ordering tables, highlighting colors and calling out trends make your raw data more appealing to a reader and will improve understanding and recall.

Most of the data coming out of Salesforce and other CRMs are qualitative, meaning not just metrics and figures but names, contact information, and lifecycle information. This type of information can also be displayed visually but requires a little bit more creative thinking.

#1: Consider your target audience?

No matter what kind of information you’re compiling or what the data might be showing, the most important consideration when building a visual (or any kind, for that matter) report, is who your target audience is. If you’re reporting on yearly sales growth to your C-level executives, showing high-level growth trends is going to be more important than drilling down on minute data points.

The reverse is true as well. If you’re building an internal report on the changes you made to your marketing strategy in the last quarter, then the devil is definitely in the details.

#2: Use only the most important data

Just like identifying your target audience, it’s key to dial in what information and data points matter the most. It’s helpful to start with a question and figure out what data will answer that question. Some examples include:

These questions can most likely be answered using one or two qualitative or quantitative data points so focus on those numbers.

#3: Highlight trends and changes

Most often, reports happen on a regular basis (quarterly, monthly, weekly) and usually, it’s the same data every time. But the key when visualizing data is to highlight changes. Whether things are moving in a positive or negative direction, highlighting trends is going to be the most effective way for users to understand what’s happening with the information. Comparing Month over Month or the same week in the previous calendar year will help users understand why that metric is important.

Simply using colors (green for positive changes and red for negative) or arrows (up for increases, down for decreases) will help quickly, and definitively, identify those changes.

#4: Use charts & tables that are easy to read

The human eye likes charts. They are organized, orderly, and sorted so we can see trends and draw conclusions.

Spacing and headings are key for making charts readable. In general, left-justified text is the most natural for the reader. Center-justified text should be used sparingly, perhaps for elements you want to stand out from the rest, such as column headers and subheads.

Add borders, highlight, or bold certain areas that you’d like to call out, and sort your data by the trend you want to show.

Windward’s whitepaper on Designing Beautiful Reports goes into greater detail about using color, spacing, and even layout to create an impactful report.

#5: Use colors & infographics

If you’re a left-brained, data analytics nerd then tables and charts might be exciting enough. But for the other half of the world, breaking up numbers with true visual elements will make your reporting more impactful, and well prettier.

Just like sorting tables and charts and drawing conclusions with colors, using visual elements will help the user understand and comprehend raw data points.

As instinctive animals, we understand that red (and other associated warmer tones) signal danger or in the case of reporting, numbers going in the wrong direction. Conversely, green has a positive connotation. If someone is going to spend only 30 seconds reading your report, signals like colors and arrows help them digest the data as quickly as possible.

Infographics are also a very helpful way to help display quantitative information. They keep readers more engaged and boost memory recall. Examples of some common images to use for reporting include:

Using images in place of words is a common practice for adding visual interest to any type of report or data set.

#6: Quantify qualitative data

It might seem impossible to put words to numbers but shifting your thinking and seeing your qualitative data from a visual perspective will help. This is especially useful for Salesforce and other CRM data because so much of the information is human-centered. Most of the data stored in Salesforce CRMs is accounts, opportunities, contacts, activities, and leads.

There is more data than the number of qualitative data points. Consider other aspects of the data like lifecycles, time spent, efficiency ratings, and forecastings like potential future revenue or referral accounts.

#7: Draw the conclusions

The most important component of any data analysis and reporting is to be impartial and unbiased. If it’s your sales team that’s performing poorly it would be downright unethical to skew your data to make metrics look otherwise. The same goes for favorable data, if your graphs are moving in a positive direction, it’s important to attribute that growth where it truly belongs.

But when it comes to visualizing that data, draw conclusions. Make statements about the story your data is telling. Answer the questions (like the ones listed in bullet #2). Create your report so that if someone only has 30 seconds to review it, they can clearly understand the most important trends, changes or conclusions from the report.

#8: Automate your reports

So maybe reporting is getting a little more daunting with things like focusing on conclusions and adding visual interest. Automating your reports will save valuable time so you can analyze, rather than just export spreadsheets and spend countless hours copy and pasting raw data points.

With Windward Team’s Salesforce Integration, you can automatically generate powerful reports. Build your template once (without the help of your designers and developers) in the tools you already know how to use, and sync your native Salesforce data. Run the queries as often as you need for a regular reporting cadence or run ad-hoc reports on the fly.

No matter how much data or how you present it, automating your reports will ensure you save time building and utilize more accurate data.

Tags Start & End

Tags Can Start & End Anywhere

Appendix B

.NET code for multi-page image output

Appendix A

Java code for multi-page image output

Data Bin Search

The Data Bin can now be searched to find a table, column, node or other piece of data without scrolling through it all.

Shrink to Fit

This will shrink the contents of a cell until it fits the defined cell size.

Time Zone Conversion

A new Windward macro has been added to help with converting dates and times from UTC time to the local time zone.

Image Output Format

New image output formats added.

PostScript Output Format

PostScript, commonly used with printers and printing companies, has been added as an additional output format.

New and Improved Datasets (Designer, Java Engine, .NET Engine)

Datasets have been re-written from scratch to be more powerful and easier to use.

Stored Procedure Wizard (Designer)

This works for all tag types that are connected to a SQL-based data source (Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, or DB2).

Boolean Conditional Wizard (Designer)

Before, conditional statements could only be written manually. Now they can also be built using our intuitive Wizard interface.

Reorganized Ribbon

The ribbon menus have been re-organized and consolidated to improve the report design workflow.

XPath 2.0 as Data Source

Adds various capabilities such as inequalities,descending sort, joins, and other functions.

SQL Select Debugger

SQL Select  Debugger

  • The look and feel was improved
  • Stored Procedure Wizard
  • Improved Exceptions pane

Tag Editor/Tag Selector

Added a Query tab as a field for typing or pasting in a select statement

  • Color Coding of Keywords
  • TypeAhead
  • Evaluate is now "Preview"

Rename a Datasource

All tags using that Data source will be automatically updated with that name.

Connecting to a Data Source

New single interface to replace 2 separate dialog boxes

Tag Tree

Displays of all the tags in the template, structured as they are placed in the template. This provides a simple & intuitive way to see the structure of your template. Also provides the capability to go to any tag and/or see the properties of any tag.

Added Javelin into the RESTful Engine

Support for Google Application Engine Integration

The ability to integrate the Windward Engine into Google’s cloud computing platform for developing and hosting web applications dubbed Google Applications Engine (GAE).

Additional Refinement for HTML Output

  • Improved indentation for ordered and unordered lists
  • Better handling of template header and footer images
  • Better handling for background images and colors

Redesigned PDF Output Support

This new  integration will allow for processing of complex scripts and bi-directional  text such as Arabic.  Your PDF output  will be much tighter and more closely match your template, and we’ll be able  to respond rapidly to PDF requests and fixes.

PowerPoint Support

Includes support for new ForEach and slide break handling, table header row repeat across slide breaks, and native Microsoft support for charts and images.

Tags are Color Coded

Tags are color coded in the template by type, making it easy to visually identify them.

Increased Performance

Version 13’s core code has been reworked and optimized to offer a reduced memory footprint, faster PDF generation and full documentation of supported features and limitations in the specifications for DOCX, XLSX and PPTX.

Advanced Image Properties

Documents can include advanced Word image properties such as shadows, borders, and styles.

Improved HTML Output

Windward has updated HTML output to reflect changing HTML standards.

Version 13 New Data Sources

Windward now works with a slew of new datasources: MongoDB, JSON, Cassandra, OData, Salesforce.com

Generate Code

The Generate Code tool in the designer allows you to open an existing template and, with a click of a button, automatically create a window with the code needed to run your current template with all data sources and variables. Simply copy this code and paste into your application's code in the appropriate place. You now have Windward integrated into your application.

You only need to do this once. You do not do this for each template. Instead, where it has explicit files for the template and output, change that to parameters you pass to this code. Same for the parameters passed to Windward. This example uses explicit values to show you what to substitute in where.

Pivot Tables Adjusted in Output

Any pivot tables in an XLSX template are carried over to the XLSX output. The ranges in the pivot ranges are adjusted to match the generated output. So your final XLSX will have pivot tables set as expected in the generated file.

This makes creating an XLSX workbook with pivot tables trivial.

Imported Template Can be Set to Match the Parent Styles

In an imported sub-template, if its properties for a style (ex. Normal) differ from the parent template's properties for the style, the use in the sub-template can be set to either use the properties in the sub-template, or the properties in the parent.

You set to retain when you don't want the child template's styling to change when imported. You set to use the parent when you want the styling of the imported template to match the styling in the parent.

Any explicit styling is always retained. This only impacts styling set by styles.

Tags can be Placed in Text Boxes

Tags can be placed in text boxes. Including linked text boxes. This gives you the ability to set the text in a textbox from your data.

Tags can be Placed in Shapes & Smart Art

Tags can be placed in shapes & smart art. This gives you the ability to set the text in a shape from your data.

HTML Output Supports Embedded Images

When generating HTML output, the engine can either write bitmaps as distinct files the generate HTML references, or it can embed the images in the HTML providing a single file for the output.

Footnotes & Endnotes can Have Tags

You can place tags in pretty much any part of a template, including in footnotes & endnotes.

Document Locking Supported in DOCX & XLSX

Any parts of a DOCX or XLSX (PowerPoint does not support this) file that are locked in the template, will be locked the same in the output.

Specify Font Substitution

If a font used in the template does not exist on the server generating a report, the font to substitute can be specified.
In addition, if a glyph to be rendered does not exist in the font specified, you can specify the replacement font. This can be set distinctly for European, Bi-Directional, and Far East fonts.

Process Multiple Datasources Simultaneously

If you need this - it's essential. And if you don't need it, it's irrelevant.

Windward enables you to build a document by applying multiple datasources to the template simultaneously. When Windward is merging the data into a template, it processes the template by handling each tag in order, and each tag pulls from different datasources. (As opposed to processing all of one datasource, then processing the next.)

This allows the select tag to use data from another datasource in its select. For example, if you are pulling customer information from one data source, you can then pull data from the sales datasource using the customer ID of the customer presently processing to pull the sales information for that customer. If you're interested in patching together your data from multiple datasources, read this post on our blog.

Maddie Olhoeft

This blog was written by:_
Maddie Olhoeft

For over 10 years, Windward has lead the industry with our world-class document generation platform that creates visually stunning, data-powered documents designed exactly the way users want and are created in a fraction of the time and cost compared to existing solutions. Proudly located in Boulder, Colorado, Windward Studios is the premier solution for developers and business users adding reporting and document generation capabilities to their applications in over 70 countries around the world.

© 2019 Windward Studios Inc.

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