A CRM system – and any system for that matter – is only as good as the data you put in. It doesn’t matter that you have state-of-the-art platforms at your fingertips, if they are not fed good data in a timely manner, you will get very little out of them : Garbage in, garbage out
But as importantly, once you have good processes in place for data to flow in timely and accurately, you need a way to visualise and use it. Only then can you achieve the true potential of any system. This is even more true with CRM since it holds data that is vital to your business and must be both accurate and quickly available (see my note on the CIA concept at the end of this blog)
The first step in visualising your data will usually be an overview report, from where you can start digging deeper, and though most systems have built-in reports to help you at first, they will rarely give you 100% of what you need for the specifics of your business and Sage CRM is no exception.
I will only briefly cover how to run reports here, as the focus will be on empowering you to modify or create your own to suit your needs.
In Sage CRM, the report drop-down is located at the top of the screen and allows you to go to a report category or to see them all :
Report categories are a great way to organise your reports and are very easy to create: simply click on the Reports link from the All report categories screen and you will see a New Report Category button :
Once you are in a report category, you will see a list of reports as well as the New button which allows you to create a new one.
Let’s start by modifying an existing report, which is the easiest and most likely case you will face initially. In the list, just pick the report that you’d like to tweak and click on the edit icon. In this example, I will modify “Follow up call response”.
On the next screen, you will be offered the option to clone the report which is the preferred way as you don’t want to touch the original report. Just click the Clone button and change the name of your copy to something you can easily find and remember.
You will then get the Details screen which can be a bit daunting but is key to create useful & flexible reports. Diving into each and every field would make this blog post extremely bloated but feel free to use the Help button that will give you some topical guidance.
The most overlooked concept in Sage CRM reporting is the Source View. Let me explain how to get this right: If you click on the corresponding drop down, you will see a list of views that are available to report on.
A view is the output of a stored query on your Sage CRM data. Though their name often includes one or more table (Like “Company” or “Lead”) nothing prevents a view from grouping data from many tables. The art of report building is 80% view creation and 20% patience. We will look at views in more details in part 2.
The actual content of your report is defined by the columns you select, adding them to the Report Contents and sorting them to your liking.
The column’s name is prefixed with the table so you can easily identify where the information is coming from (Example: Company-Phone vs Person-Phone)
Highlight the column you want to add to the report, click on “Add to Report Contents” and it will move to the bottom of the contents list. For this example, I will add the company’s territory.
You can change the order data will appear by using the up and down arrows
The Search Criteria are useful at report creation since they allow you to filter vast amount of data and narrow it down. For example, if you add the “State” column to your criteria you will be able to run your report on a specific state.
The columns will appear each time you run the report but you can define their default values (See below).
Sorting is a good way to organise your information with logic relevant to your own business. You might need to sort all information based on a customer category code for example, or by salesperson. You can sort on multiple levels, too.
Group By gives you a logical way to group information and supersedes sorting, creating its own column on the leftmost side. It allows you to organise information in a way that makes sense.
A lot of the effort that goes into a report takes place in this screen as it determines what information is shown and how.
Once you’re done with this screen, click on “Continue” and you will be able to define the default value for the Search Criteria you defined earlier.
Search Criteria default values
This allows you to set them to the most common values but still have the flexibility to change them as you will.
Search criteria can be narrowed down based on their type. In this example, Industry is a list, so you can choose one or more value (using Shift and/or Ctrl click). Post code is a free field, so you can type values directly.
Once done you can click on Continue.
Report Options Step 2
This screen mostly deals with formatting and gives you a chance to add titles, header, summary, etc
One useful feature is the ability to change the sort orders: maybe you want to see data by descending due date ? Sort on a field’s translation rather than its actual value (in Sorting Option) ?
Formatting is also useful as you can not only visually change the layout from left and right justified to centered, but you can also count a field rather than display it or use various functions on numbered fields (sum, average, maximum, minimum)
But perhaps the most impactful field is the Chart Style in the Chart Options section. This allows you to display your data in pie charts, lines, bars, etc.
You can now Save your report and it will become available in the category you’re in.
At this stage, feel free to experiment by running the report and making sure it has what you need. It’s unlikely you will get it perfectly right the first time, so you can go back to Edit and tweak some columns and settings. You don’t need to clone the report anymore as you are now working on your new copy.
Creating a report essentially follows the same process but you will have to pick all parameters from scratch, most importantly the View
I hope this has given you some pointers to start getting more from Sage CRM reports. We will dive a bit deeper in part 2 when we discuss Views.
Side Note : The CIA concept
As a side note, I find it very useful to remember the acronym “CIA” every time we talk about data, so let me share this here : Imagine a triangle with the letters C, I and A at each of its vertices.
C is for Confidentiality or how the secrecy of your data is protected
I is for Integrity or how confident you can be in the accuracy of your data and having a single source of truth.
A is for availability or how easy it is to get access to your data
Though you can see a lot of various takes on the CIA concept, it tells us that your data is always somewhere inside this triangle and you are making a trade-off between the three. It is nothing to be afraid of and should be embraced, you simply need to be aware that very secure data will be harder to reach, or that very available data can easily start spreading into multiple (and often incompatible) versions
Applying this concept to this blog entry, you could think of ways to protect your most valuable Sage CRM reports to make sure they provide the same picture to all stakeholders. For example, forcing the reports to be in PDF would prevent further manipulation and ensure high integrity at the cost of a little less availability.
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