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There’s two words all Salesforce admins hate to hear, but deep down, know they will inevitably have to face… Salesforce cleanup.

From removing and merging duplicate records and cleaning up unused fields to eliminating outdated workflows and implementing validation rules… cleanup projects are rarely the highlight of an admins career. But rather, they are a necessary evil of the job we love to do. 

Even though the work might be cumbersome, it’s critical for overall data health for a business. Bad data can ultimately result in poor decisions with inaccurate reports, marketing fumbling  with misdirected personalization, and sales pursuing leads that have long since moved on from their listed companies. Ultimately that wasted time equates to wasted money. In fact, a Gartner survey shows that bad data can cost organizations, on average, $15 million per year.

But it doesn’t have to be this way for you and your team. High-performing operations teams perform proactive, regular Salesforce data cleaning. And they implement cleanup tools that allow them to work smarter, not harder. Read on to learn everything you need to know about executing an effective cleanup and more importantly, removing the dread of it for you and your teams. 

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What is Salesforce data cleaning?

Salesforce data cleaning is the process of removing and repairing outdated, duplicate, or incorrect information from your Salesforce database.

Data is always changing– and in just one year, 30% of CRM data decays. This is because prospects change jobs, companies go through mergers and acquisitions, and contact information changes. Plus, when salespeople or leads manually enter data into your Org, mistakes are bound to happen. Inconsistencies and duplicates accumulate, and leads are entered with critical fields missing. And when Salesforce admins are forced to implement changes on the fly, they create technical debt that can come back to bite as the organization scales. 

The importance of Salesforce data cleaning 

Now, why should you care? To put it in layman’s terms—leaving your database messy is a lot like letting laundry pile up. Not only does it look bad; it makes finding that one shirt you want to wear unnecessarily hard. Likewise, when your data’s inaccurate or messy, things can get pretty chaotic for your GTM teams…

  • Marketing sending that perfect email? Boom, it bounces back or, ouch, hits someone with the wrong name.
  • Your sales team? They might end up chasing ghosts because the leads are outdated.
  • RevOps hoping to develop accurate attribution reports? Forget it. 

Beyond creating bottlenecks for GTM processes— Salesforce data isn’t free… why pay for what you aren’t using? Messy Salesforce data is a drain of your team’s time, money, and resources, making data cleanup an important and regular task for Ops teams. Regular clean ups can help you and your team:

1. Mitigate tech debt

Dealing with tech debt is a big time suck for most organizations, with the average team spending up to 13.5 hours on tech debt each week. If this strikes a chord, consider looking into extra tips for eliminating tech debt.

Keeping your Salesforce data tidy means updates are smoother, your system runs faster, and you’re not stuck trying to untangle a web of outdated or incorrect data when you’d rather your team be focused on more important tasks.

2. Organize CRM data

Regular cleanups ensure your data is sorted, up-to-date, and easy to navigate. This organization makes it quicker for your team to find the info they need, reduces errors in decision-making, and overall, keeps the workflow smooth and efficient. Plus, when data is well-organized, analyzing it for insights becomes a whole lot easier and more accurate.

Keeping data organized isn’t something you can snap your fingers and solve. It requires an in depth analysis of field utilization like identifying unused fields, finding duplicates, and evaluating data quality. While this can be a serious undertaking, free tools like FieldSpy can make this portion of Salesforce cleanup much easier. 

3. Better manage flow between integrations

Your Salesforce doesn’t live in a vacuum. With Salesforce having over 10 million possible integrations, your data is  probably flowing in and out of a multitude of other tools and platforms. Regular data cleaning helps ensure these integrations work smoothly, preventing a scenario where one system accidentally messes up your precious data or, worse, wipes something important. 

For an extra layer of security for integrations, consider implementing a Salesforce Integration User to ensure the stability, auditability and security of your CRM data.

Regularly rolling up your sleeves and diving into Salesforce data cleaning means you’re setting yourself up for smoother sailing. Your operations get more efficient, your strategies sharper, and let’s not forget, you’re making life way easier for everyone using the database. And when decision time comes? You’ve got a goldmine of accurate, up-to-date info to base those big calls on. 

Salesforce data cleaning tips

Tackling bad data can be a big job, and it’ll have consequences across your tech stack if executed poorly. Use these tips to manage your data cleaning processes effectively.

1. Choose the right data cleaning tools

There are quite a few tools today on the market to use for data cleaning processes. Here are some of the types of tools you may use:

  • Auditing software to identify broad errors
  • Third-party contact data to correct errors and missing fields
  • Deduplication tools to remove duplicate records

2. Set a data cleaning schedule

Data cleaning isn’t a one-and-done effort. It needs to be a part of your regular processes. Some tasks, like deduping and data validation, can be performed monthly. Other tasks should be performed quarterly, every six months, or annually. 

3. Create standards for data entry

While you’re normalizing your data, you need to set standards to ensure you’re treating all data the same. Should company names be listed as “ACME, Inc.” or simply “ACME?” Should a company be listed under the “Oil & Gas” industry, or “Oil/Gas/Utilities?” These kinds of discrepancies lead to duplicate records and gum up your reporting. Once you’ve established your standards, deploy them throughout the organization to prevent future errors.

4. Identify root causes

As you’re identifying errors, perform a root cause analysis to determine the factors causing your data quality issues. They may be caused by a lack of training, integration errors, or the standardization issues discussed above. Once you’ve identified the causes, you can remedy them in your next release.

Getting started with data cleaning: Org audit

The first step to cleaning your Salesforce database is to perform an audit. Before you can remove and repair bad data, you need a process for identifying and documenting it. There’s no shortage of Salesforce audit tools on the market, and you also can choose the do-it-yourself route. Here’s what every audit should encompass, whether you use an auditing tool or perform your own.

1. Review your requirements

Before diving into the audit, take a step back and look at the core motivations of the users operating out of your CRM. Use this as your measuring stick for the following steps in your audit. As you assess your database, ask yourself what you need from your data in order to meet your CRM requirements.

2. Document your data entry points

Knowing where data comes from will help you identify the causes of errors. Document the entry points for data in your Salesforce, such as manual entry from sales, integrations from other systems, event attendee list uploads, etc. As you perform your audit, you may start to notice patterns in where certain errors are coming from.

Don’t want to do this manually? Sonar helps you track data lineage across your GTM systems, showing you where data is being accessed and managed across all active integrations. 

3. Evaluate and user access levels

The data cleansing process is also a good time to evaluate your users and their access levels. Are there users in the system who’ve left the company or changed roles? Does everyone with admin access need it? Have users created reports or test campaigns that need to be removed? This clutter can hinder your processes, complicate your reporting, and open the door for security risks. Your business can’t afford to have blindspots where PII and other sensitive and confidential data is being accessed by unauthorized personnel.

But keeping track of user access and permissions is easier said than done. That’s why Sonar’s data loss prevention software automatically notifies you when changes to application access and permissions are made– taking the guesswork out of this cleanup task.

4. Search for duplicates, missing fields, invalid data, and inconsistencies

At this stage, you can use Salesforce data cleaning tools to identify errors, or you can run your own reports. This is the meat and potatoes of the cleanup process, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you’re auditing your data regularly, you can run these processes pretty quickly, and making changes shouldn’t be overwhelming. 

Using a change intelligence platform like Sonar lets you see how your changes will impact your entire tech stack, so you can make sure you don’t create another mess in the process of cleaning up.

Executing your Salesforce data cleanup

Now that you’ve performed your audit, know where changes need to be made, and have a change management tool to quickly course correct any breaks along the way, you can jump into execution. This involves several steps to ensure your database is efficient, accurate and supports business operations. Here’s what to do to get your execution underway: 

1. Review audit findings 

Start by thoroughly reviewing the results of your audit. Understand the scope of duplicates, missing fields, invalid data, and inconsistencies. Prioritize issues based on their impact on your business processes.

2. Plan your cleanup strategy: 

Develop a strategy for addressing the identified issues. This plan should include timelines, responsibilities (who will do what), and the tools or methods you’ll use for each type of cleanup task.

3. Backup your data 

Before making any changes, ensure you have a complete backup of your Salesforce data. This step is crucial for safeguarding your information in case you need to revert any changes made during the cleanup process.

4. Merge or remove duplicates

Use Salesforce’s built-in tools or third-party deduplication tools to merge duplicate records. Carefully review each set of duplicates to decide which records to keep and which to merge, ensuring the most accurate and complete data is retained.

5. Correct invalid data

Address any invalid data entries by validating them against reliable sources or through direct communication with customers or team members. Correct or update records as necessary.

6. Fill missing fields

Identify critical fields that are missing in your records and fill them in. This may involve researching or reaching out to contacts directly to obtain the necessary information.

7. Standardize data entries

To help reduce manual errors, ensure that data across your database follows a consistent format. This might involve adding pick lists or standardizing address formats, phone numbers, or custom fields according to your business’s data standards.

8. Implement validation rules 

To prevent future errors, consider setting up validation rules in Salesforce that enforce data entry standards and prevent the creation of records with missing or incorrect information.

9. Update user access levels and educate your team 

Ensure that only those who require access to data and integrations have the necessary permissions to reduce data leakage risk, and ensure governance and compliance with regulations.

Share the findings and changes made during the cleanup process with your team. Educate them on the importance of data quality and the role they play in maintaining it, including best practices for data entry and how to avoid common mistakes.

10. Monitor and maintain

Regularly monitor your database for new duplicates, inaccuracies, or inconsistencies. Schedule periodic cleanups to ensure your Salesforce environment remains clean and efficient over time.

Conclusion: Take the Guesswork Out of Your Future Salesforce Cleanup Projects with Sonar

If you’re facing a big Salesforce data cleaning project, you may be overwhelmed by the scale of the project. But the sooner you get started, the sooner you can get rid of bad data. With higher quality data, go-to-market teams can spend more of their time on tasks that drive revenue.

Take the guesswork out of your next Salesforce cleanup project with Sonar. By mapping your Salesforce business process with Sonar, you’ll be able to easily see and communicate a project’s complexity. Your revenue operations and Salesforce administration teams will be able to easily scope work, document necessary context and collaborate with team members in real-time. Try Sonar free today.


Updated March 2024