Managing Duplicate Data in Salesforce: Strategies Worth the Investment

By Salesforce.org | February 1, 2017 | Higher Education, Nonprofit, Partners, User Tips and Tricks

By: ACF Solutions

Let’s face it, there are very real costs to not de-duplicating your constituent data. While nonprofits and higher education organizations do not usually speak in the terms of “how this will impact the bottom line” we all know that your resources are valuable and the effort to raise money, recruit students and engage constituents, lock in grants and run advancement programs has a bottom line cost to the organization. The benefits of a robust duplicate management strategy can save money in the long run, especially when you consider that high levels of duplicate data can:

  • Increase your mailing costs
  • Increase staff resistance to your Salesforce adoption
  • Frustrate constituents and undermine their confidence in your organization
  • Result in multiple teams interacting with the same contact unknowingly
  • Cause hundreds of hours in manual reconciliation of data

Sound familiar? You are not alone; duplicate data is a common problem. The best defense is having a great offensive strategy. We’re going to break down the details of where the native Salesforce Duplicate Management functionality can take you and how to combine it with other 3rd party apps to be on your way to cleaner de-duped data.

1. How do duplicates come in?

The Salesforce system is flexible and open, which really requires you to think about the all the various data entry points. So, first, identify all the potential ways duplicates get created for your organization. Your list may include:

  • During migration
  • Via integrations
  • Via 3rd party connectors
  • Via batch gift entry
  • Via data loader imports
  • By manual data entry

2. Which objects result in the worst duplication?

Most duplicate data occurs in the core constituent objects in Salesforce and NPSP/HEDA, specifically:

  • Accounts
  • Contacts
  • Leads
  • Affiliations

3. What are the specific scenarios that cause your duplication, and what is the impact?

You’ll also want to prioritize the most important issues so you can pair issues with appropriate solutions.

For example, you have major duplicates from a recent migration (from your legacy system to new instance of Salesforce). The data was not cleaned up prior to migration resulting in a few thousand Accounts and Contact duplicates. Now you have a direct mailing coming up and you want to correct this so you can reduce mailing costs.

4. Which tool is best for which issue?

There are a variety of tools to help you detect and eliminate duplicates, which is why it’s important to define your requirements. We often recommend a hybrid approach because all of these tools have different features and you might be best served by a combination of tools. Below are some commonly referenced tools with a high-level feature comparison:

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5. The bottom line?

“Ultimately it takes multiple tools to get good data,” shares Carla Estey, ACF Solutions Principal Consultant. She continues, “The key is understanding that addressing data entry is very different than dealing with clean-up after the fact. The same is true with integrations. While connectors or integration tools may have some built-in deduping configuration, we often see that additional handling may be needed, especially for a 3rd party connector like Eventbrite.”

Estey continues, “the most common approach we take at ACF Solutions is using the Salesforce’s native Duplicate Management functionality along with DupeBlocker to handle the merging. I like the native blocking options for internal users better than DupeBlocker, but I do like DupeBlocker to automatically merge or flag for data coming in through integrations. DemandTools is the go-to app for administrators looking to mass clean up their Salesforce.org, while the first two suggestions mainly support the day-to-day management best.”

The trick is finding the right balance between the native Duplicate Management functionality and a tool like DupeBlocker for your day-to-day operations.

In our comparative review, we also included Cloudingo, which is a great tool with an easy user interface. However, we find DemandTools to be a more full featured solution (and free for nonprofits). DupeCatcher and Duplicate Check for Salesforce (also free tools) are also good but we see them used less often for NPSP clients because of the limitations on objects. Another noteworthy tool is PeopleImport which your users will love. It is designed to allow the end-user to customize import scenarios so duplicates are not created and instead updates are made to existing Leads, Accounts or Contacts.

Estey summarizes it this way, “Organizations that view the maintenance of data to be as important as the implementation itself are the most successful and have higher levels of adoption. It takes time and strategy but it is a critical aspect for their overall success.”

Finally, when doing any deduplication or clean-up process don’t forget to backup your data first! You can always use Salesforce’s native weekly export, and remember to include key objects and all related objects for the data you plan to fix up.