When you should and shouldn’t use Salesforce Custom Objects.
If Salesforce were a house on CRM Street, it would be the one with the manicured lawn, clean windows, and just enough décor to make it elegant without crossing the line into “extra.” If you were to buy this house, the seller would recommend that you think twice before making alterations. After all, as minimalistic as it looks, the sophisticated design is what makes it special. Too many impetuous customizations and you’ll risk degrading its value. So while a major perk of Salesforce is that it offers the option to customize to your heart’s content, here are five points to consider before creating Salesforce custom objects:
1. Standard objects work! Get to know the Salesforce CRM’s out of the box (OOB) features and their capabilities, and you’ll find that standard objects like Opportunities, Accounts, and Contacts are more likely than not sufficient to meet your business needs. At its core, Salesforce is a solution software, with “solution” being its central focus. In other words, the developers designed the standard version to suit the rainbow of business needs without requiring additional customization, and they’ve been perfecting the functionality for years. The fact that standard objects come with key standard fields OOB illustrates this perfectly. Open any standard object and you’ll see that most of the important fields you need are already there, while you’d need to manually create those same fields if you’d built a Salesforce custom object in its place. Be sure to check and double-check that a standard object wouldn’t work before creating a custom one.
2. Stay productive. Don’t waste your time building a solution from the ground up when you can simply tweak the standard one instead. Salesforce provides you with declarative OOB customization options within your standard objects! We’re talking about custom fields and record types here.
Custom fields are awesome because they allow you to use a standard object like Contact and store key pieces of information about someone you’re working with without needing to create a Salesforce custom object. For example, let’s say you’re a real estate company and your client is a couple in their early thirties with two kids about to start elementary school. They’re looking for a 3-4 bedroom home with a large backyard in a good school district. You can store valuable information about this couple and their preferences in custom fields on the Contact object. You might initially be tempted to build an entire Salesforce custom object called Preferences to house information about your clients’ ideal home, but that would be unnecessary when you could simply add a custom field like a ‘Preferences’ picklist to the Contact detail page.
‘Record types’ is another OOB feature that gives you customization flexibility without creating excess Salesforce custom objects. Say your realty company specialized in residential and commercial real estate, and you needed to manage both types of accounts. You may initially think you’ll need two Salesforce custom objects for each type of customer, but leveraging record types to organize these two legs of your business would be the simpler and cleaner option. So if instead of creating two separate Saleforce custom objects you created two Account and Opportunity record types- one for residential and one for commercial- you’d have a cleaner schema, which in turn makes for easier reporting.
3. Don’t lose functionality. You’ll run into several issues if you create a Salesforce custom object when there was a standard one available, one of them being integrations. The standard Salesforce schema is designed to integrate smoothly with things outside your Salesforce environment. A product like CPQ, for example, leverages the standard Opportunities object and will not work if you’ve built a custom Opportunities object in its place, at least not without some heavy coding. Also, standard objects come with built-in functionality that ties them to other objects via relationships, while Salesforce custom objects are like clouds floating in the stratosphere by themselves unless you manually create relationships among them. The Account object, for example, is tied to the Contact object by default. Creating a custom ‘People’ object in place of Contacts would not only be redundant but would deprive your org of this vital relationship as well. A good question to ask when weighing the pros and cons of creating a Salesforce custom object is how you might use it in the future. You may decide to keep standard functionality intact just in case you’ll need it at some point.
4. Save your money! Get the most out of your investment by avoiding replication of standard processes. The Lead object, for example, has a built-in Lead Conversion process. Creating a custom Lead object means you’ll then have to burn some serious cash to hire a developer to create the lead conversion process for you. You have a much more productive way to allocate your resources!
5. Finally, don’t miss out on new features. As you probably know, Salesforce introduces updates and new features three times a year (Winter, Spring, Summer). Sometimes those updates optimize standard objects. You’ll miss out on optimizations that could vastly improve your users’ productivity if you’re using Salesforce custom objects in place of standard ones.
So when SHOULD you create a Salesforce custom object? Ideally only when there isn’t an OOB option that meets your unique business requirement. Back to the real estate example, you may decide to create a custom Properties object that stores information about properties you show, and doing so wouldn’t complicate your org. But the moral of the story is you’ll get the most out of your investment if you utilize Salesforce’s OOB features and extend standard functionality by using custom fields, record types, and other tools as much as you can.
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As a former entrepreneur and small business owner, my passion is designing solutions that help businesses make efficient, data-driven decisions. I love leveraging the Salesforce platform to customize functionality and improve productivity.
We’re an Austin-based Salesforce Consulting Partner, with a passion and belief that the Salesforce platform’s capabilities can help businesses run more efficiently and effectively. Whether you are just getting started with Salesforce or looking to realize its full potential, Roycon specializes in Salesforce Implementations, Salesforce Ongoing Support, and Salesforce Integrations, and Development. We’re the certified partner to guide the way to increase Salesforce Adoption, make strategic decisions, and build your Salesforce Roadmap for success.