By Benjamin Washam
Salesforce is a massive improvement from managing your organization on Excel spreadsheets, but sometimes it’s nice to view your data in columns and rows to make changes quickly to large numbers of records. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have it both ways? Well, you can!
Salesforce Admins have a suite of powerful third party data management tools available to maintain your database. Need to update a field value on hundreds of Opportunities? There’s an App for that. Need to delete a set of Contacts with very specific criteria? There’s an App for that. Want to dedupe all your existing Accounts? There’s an App for that, too! The problem is, there are so many tools it can be hard to know which one will work best for your organization’s needs.
This post will give you a brief overview of the five most common ETL (Export/Transform/Load) data manipulation tools I recommend and how to decide what’s best for your organization.
HOW DO I CHOOSE?
Some key factors to consider when choosing the right data manipulation tool are cost, desired user interface, tool complexity, and whether or not you plan to need duplicate merging capabilities.
Cost: Most data manipulation tools offer a nonprofit discount, but they can vary widely in how much of a discount they offer per license and how many licenses they require at a minimum. Two of the tools we compare below have a free offering for nonprofits – Apsona offers three licenses to their base data management tool for free to nonprofits who use only the 10 donated Salesforce licenses, and Demand Tools offers 1 free license to nonprofits.
User Interface: Many admins are concerned about the user interface of the data management tool, especially if they are hoping for user adoption from other users who may not be as familiar with Salesforce. Enabler for Excel and X-Author both actually run in Excel on a Windows computer so users can use a familiar interface to interact with and update Salesforce data.
Tool Complexity: The steepness of a tool’s learning curve and the effort it will require of admins to support other users of the tool are important factors to consider. With great power often comes great complexity; it is important to select a tool that meets your needs but doesn’t require an excessive amount of training and support to use.
Duplicate Merging: All but one of the the data manipulation tools listed here offer a form of duplicate identification, but only two offer a means of merging those duplicate records in bulk. Demand Tools is by far the most powerful duplicate identification and management tool with very powerful fuzzy logic and highly customizable features to identify potential duplicate records. Action Grid is also able to perform duplicate merge actions in bulk if you install the free Duplicate Check App along with their product.
Action Grid is a native Salesforce app that was recently acquired by CongaMerge, one of the most popular document merge tools available on the market today. Action Grid presents records in a grid-like format within Salesforce to easily search, filter, update, and delete records. It comes with permission controls to manage who can update what data and is also one of the few tools that will mass create child records for you. They charge $216/user/yr for nonprofits, but require a 10 license minimum. If you also install the free Duplicate Check app from the Appexchange you can use Action Grid to identify and merge duplicate records. One additional bonus is that you can convert related lists into Action Grids on Salesforce page layouts to edit related records directly instead of having to open up the record detail page. Action Grid has a moderately complex interface requires some basic user training and support.
Apsona is a native Salesforce app for database management that offers 3 free licenses to nonprofit organizations using only their 10 donated licenses. If you need more than three Apsona licenses, or are using more than the 10 free donated Salesforce licenses, you can add Apsona users for $105/yr. Apsona offer custom profile creation for granular permission control over who can modify what data, and offers mass update, import, and delete capabilities. Apsona runs on a moderately complex interface that requires some basic user training and support.
Demand Tools is a downloadable software package for Windows computers. It offers 1 free license to nonprofits. If you need more than one license, Demand Tools prices out to $50 x total number of active Salesforce users, and includes a one time $500 setup fee. Demand Tools does not offer permission controls, but with a tool of this potency you would only want your system administrators to have access to it anyway! This tool will do mass update, import, and delete, but where it really shines is in duplicate management. Demand Tools includes incredibly powerful logic and algorithms to find potential duplicates within your database and allows you to the merge those records. You can also create scheduled jobs to run data management tasks on a scheduled interval. Demand Tools is a highly complex software requiring advanced user training and support.
ENABLER FOR EXCEL AND X-AUTHOR
Both of these tools are in a different category because they run in the familiar interface of Excel for Windows. Enabler for Excel offers a 50% discount to nonprofits that comes out to $149/user/year for admin level control and $49/user/year for a standard user. Standard users can access and update templates (collections of Salesforce records), but only Admins can create and manage templates. X-Author offers a 25% nonprofit discount which means $225/user/year for an enterprise license. Both products offer mass update, import, delete, and duplicate identification, however dupe merging is not part of their product offering. X-Author can mass create child records, and both products allow you to work offline in Excel. The training requirements for these products is low for users who already know Excel, however there is still a learning curve for Admin users who will be creating templates for other users to use.
All five of the data manipulation tools listed above offer free trials – take each of them for a spin and try performing some of the mass data manipulation tasks you need. I find that many nonprofits require more than one data manipulation tool to meet all their needs. The free Demand Tools license is a must-have for any admin wanting to stay on top of duplicate management, and combined with the 3 free licenses of Apsona for smaller organizations it may provide a complete suite of data management functionality. If you have users that are more comfortable working with Excel, and allowing them to continue working in that application will boost user adoption, Enabler for Excel or X-Author may be a better fit.
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