Data Structures for Salesforce.com Salesforce is an extremely pliable database allowing for a number of different configurations across multiple industries. Like any database, however, it has limitations and these limitations are dictated by the architectural Structure you choose. In the simplest terms, there are three Structures that Salesforce provides: Account to Contact, Individual Account and Person Accounts. The challenge is to select the Structure that is right for your organization. It is important to note that there is no perfect choice of Structure, but some choices are better than others. The selection of Structure is significantly important as it relates to the nonprofit space. Below is a list of all three Structures with a brief breakdown of their respective strengths and weaknesses.
Account to Contact (Household and Organization): This Structure is primary utilized for the private sector and is the original Structure offered by Salesforce. However, as NPOs start to see the benefits of this Structure, more are adopting it.
Data Entry and Usability- A little slower for NPOs due to the need to create a Household and a contact with every record. Salesforce Help and Support is also much easier to utilize since the tables have not been adjusted. Reporting -The simplest of the three Structures. This is due to the fact that it has not deviated from the original Structure. Data Migration- Includes the simplest data migration requirements of the three Structures. Usually reduces data migration time by about 15% over other Structures. This is largely due to the fact that there is no need to migrate data to the Household custom object. Moreover, the data import wizard can be utilized by the client as long as there are not donations or custom objects that require migration. App Integration- All applications on the AppExchange can integrate.
Overview of Account to Contact Structure: This Structure is the friendliest for integration with third party solutions. However, due to its architecture, you cannot link a contact to an Organization AND a Household at the same time. This can cause challenges with snail mail resulting in a longer process to produce reports for mailing houses. NOTE: Account to Contact with Apex Modification (NP Template): This structure is utilized for the Nonprofit Template designed by Salesforce. This is a hybrid structure that blends the Person Accounts and the Account to Contact structure. Essentially it has all the same benefits as the Account to Contact structure but it does recognize individual records within a household. In other words the household bundles all the contacts into a single record (i.e. John and Susie Smith rather than John Smith and Susie Smith of the Smith Household). This is advantageous for data entry but it does not allow the user to recognize individual emails, snail mail and phone numbers for campaign functionality.
Individual Account (NP Template): The individual account structure is utilized for the Nonprofit Template designed by Salesforce. It was built with the intention that an organization could just start from the word go -- reducing the need for consulting support. As you will see below however, that is rarely the case. There are roughly 200 hours of configuration time that the client has to leverage right out of the box. Essentially, it’s just code dumped on top of the Account to Contact template with the very significant difference of adding the Household object and the “Individual bucket account”.
Data Entry and Usability- If data entry is done correctly; this Structure provides the greatest view of your constituents. It reveals contacts associated to Households AND Organizations simultaneously. Data entry is faster than Account to Contact, but the user must be attentive as to how they are entering their data to ensure that the correct relationships have been established. Reporting- Reporting is prebuilt in this Structure. If you wish to add more reports, though, it can be challenging due to the addition of the Household object and the “bucket account” called Individuals. Data Migration- Arguably the most challenging of the three Structures. Due to the addition of the Household object and the “bucket account” called Individuals, the consultant must parse and concatenate data much more extensively in order to provide a proper data migration. App Integration- Any app associated at the contact table should integrate effectively with this Structure. Contact table integration would include apps such as surveys, mail merges (in some cases) and mass email and event tracking. However, if you are looking to integrate with the Account table as well, you will find it challenging. Account table integration would include apps for services such as: bookkeeping, ecommerce, online donation integration, etc.
Overview of Individual Account Structure: The majority of NPOs utilize this Structure largely due to the fact that it is a template that is provided by Salesforce. The reporting can be a struggle at times due to the Individual account and Household objects, but overall it is the most dynamic Structure of the three for managing the relationships that must be tracked in an NPO. Though it is excellent for managing relationships, it falls short on app integration. That can be challenging if an NPO wants to utilize apps that don’t “play well” with this Structure.
Person Account: This Structure was initially built for Merrill Lynch, and it has been very helpful for supporting retail operations. It is extremely easy to adopt, but does run into other issues that can make it challenging to adjust when the organization grows.
Data Entry and Usability- By far the easiest for data entry and user adoption. The simple relationships that are provided in the Person Account Structure are very appealing to NPOs due to high levels of “Technology Resistance”. This Structure should be utilized in very specific instances, for example an NPO that has a very particular mission and is not planning on growth. Reporting - Clunky and challenging for the user and consultant. Usually falls short of client requirements. Data Migration- Challenging, but once learned the client can do their own data import thereby reducing costs. App Integration- Extremely poor at both the Contact and Account tables. Overview: This is a great Structure for user adoption and data entry, but it falls far short on just about everything else. It should also be noted that a client will inevitably want to enhance their database, which is very difficult to do in this Structure due to its static architecture.