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Get to Know Lightning Reports and Dashboards

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you'll be able to:
  • Phrase business needs as answerable reporting questions.
  • Explain the difference between a report, dashboard, and report type.


This unit requires some additional instructions for screen reader users. To access a detailed screen reader version of this unit, click the link below:

Open Trailhead screen reader instructions.

Why Reports and Dashboards?

Your business has questions. Your Salesforce data has the answers. When you get asked to build a report, the request typically comes in the form of a question. The question might be something like:
  • Which products are my top sellers?
  • Who are my highest value prospects?
  • Which marketing campaigns have been the most successful?
  • How satisfied are my customers?

Before building a report, the trick is to take that question, ask follow-up questions, write requirements, and then map those requirements to report criteria.

Take the story of Maria Jimenez, the admin at Ursa Major Solar. One day her CEO, Sita Nagappan-Alvarez, came to her with questions about how the business was doing; specifically, she wanted to know which products were top sellers.

Illustration of Maria and Sita talking in the office.

Maria took Sita’s original question, and followed up with some clarifying questions.

Type of Information Examples
Sita’s Original Question Which products are my top sellers?
Maria’s Follow-up Questions
  • What makes a product a top seller, revenue or quantity?
  • Do you want to see the results grouped by product family?
  • What is your date range?
  • If we stop selling a product, should it show on the report?
  • “Top sellers” here means quantity rather than revenue.
  • Group products by product family.
  • Show all Closed Won opportunities.
  • Do not show inactive products.
  • Report Type = Opportunities with Products
  • Report Format = Summary
  • Grouping = Product Family
  • Show = All Opportunities
  • Date Field = Close Date
  • Range = Current FY
  • Filter = Product ‘equals’ Active
  • Filter = Opportunity Stage ‘equals’ Closed Won
  • Filter Logic = 1 AND 2

Now at this moment, you might be looking at that Criteria column and thinking, what does all of that mean? Rest assured, we’ll cover those topics in detail as you work toward earning your badge for this module.

The point is, most people at your company will come to you with questions just like the one Sita asked Maria. Here are some typical questions people at Ursa Major Solar ask Maria.
  • Lincoln Ulrich, an account executive planning the day’s calls, asks which prospects his team should contact first.
  • Roberto Alvarez, the COO, analyzing deflection rate month-over-month since rolling out that self-service community last summer, asks for cases over the past year.
  • Sita, the CEO, busily crafting the company’s annual plan and making decisions about where to take the company next, asks which cities have the most leads.

For each of these scenarios, a report or dashboard can provide the insight each team member needs to take action and go big, whether it’s that day, month, or year. You can be the person who translates their question into the report or dashboard they need.

Read on to learn how to get started with reports and dashboards for your company. And, if you like videos, check out this reports and dashboards overview video.

What Is a Report?

In its simplest form, a report is a list of records (like opportunities or accounts) that meet the criteria you define. But reports are much more than simple lists. To get the data you need, you can filter, group, and do math on records. You can even display them graphically in a chart!

When Sita asked Maria which products are top sellers, Maria created a report that returned a list of all opportunities with products. Then, she:

  • Filtered to show only Closed Won opportunities for “active” products from this financial year.
  • Grouped by product family.
  • Summed the total number sold.
  • Displayed the results in a vertical bar chart, so Sita could easily see the results.

This sort of advanced analysis is one reason why reports are Maria’s go-to tool when she has questions about her business. Everyone at Ursa Major Solar loves Maria’s reports!

Every report is stored in a folder. Report folders determine how reports are accessed, and who can access them to view, edit, or manage. Folders can be public, hidden, or shared. You control who has access to the contents of the folder based on roles, permissions, public groups, territories, and license types. You can make a folder available to your entire organization, or make it private so that only the owner has access.

What Is a Report Type?

A report type is like a template. Choosing the right report type is important in building a report, because when you choose a report type, you’re selecting the records and fields that are available for your report. 

Each report type has a primary object and can optionally include related objects. Salesforce offers a variety of standard report types based on single objects, like Accounts, Leads, and Products, and with related objects, like Opportunities with Projects and Campaigns with Contacts. 

But sometimes a standard report type doesn’t provide all the objects and fields that you need. That’s where custom report types come in. For example, say that Erin Donaghue, sales rep at Ursa Major Solar, wants to report on all her leads that have associated activities. She could choose the Leads report type, but then her report would return all leads, not just those with activities. 

With custom report types, Maria can create a report type named Leads with Activities that uses Leads as the primary object and Activities as the related object. Then, all Erin has to do is select the Leads with Activities custom report type to see only her leads with activities. 

For information on creating, editing, and viewing custom report types, see Create a Custom Report Type.

What Is a Dashboard?

A dashboard is a visual display of key metrics and trends for records in your org. Each dashboard widget is based on a single source report. You can use the same or different source reports for the various widgets in a dashboard (for example, use the same report in a bar chart and pie chart). By adding multiple dashboard widgets to a single dashboard page, you can create a powerful visual display of data on a common theme, such as sales performance or customer support.

Like reports, dashboards are stored in folders. If you have access to a folder, you can view its dashboards. To view the individual dashboard widgets, you also need access to the underlying reports.

Each dashboard has a running user, whose security settings determine which data to display in a dashboard. If the running user is a specific user, all dashboard viewers see data based on the security settings of that user—regardless of their own personal security settings. For this reason, you’ll want to choose the running user wisely, so as not to open up too much visibility. For example, set the sales manager as the running user for a leaderboard for her team. This allows her team members to view the leaderboard for their individual team, but not other teams.

Dynamic dashboards are dashboards for which the running user is always the logged-in user. This way, each user sees the dashboard according to his or her own access level. If you’re concerned about too much access, dynamic dashboards might be the way to go.

Organize Your Reports and Dashboards

Each report or dashboard is stored in a report or dashboard folder. Folders determine how the reports and dashboards are organized and who can access them. Folders can be public, hidden, or shared. You control who has access to the contents of the folder based on roles, permissions, public groups, territories, and license types. You can make a folder available to your entire organization, or make it private so that only the owner has access.


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