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  • Writer's pictureRenee Jones-Sparks

Dependent Picklists + Data Accuracy = A Great Combination!

Dependent picklist fields (or field dependencies) allow you to control one field’s set of values using another field. They’re great if you want your users to be able to quickly and concisely select the data they need from a list of defined options. Using a picklist or checkbox, the controlling picklist field can limit which values users can enter into the dependent picklist field by standardizing the values they can select. Standardized values greatly increase the accuracy of your data and reports. 

When to Use Dependent Picklist Fields

Dependent picklist fields are effective when you want standardized values to track or measure activity. A good use case for implementing dependent picklist fields is related to Opportunity reporting. Sales leaders need to know how their teams are performing across their regions and territories. Reporting needs to be accurate for the Sales leaders to provide pipeline projections for the month, quarter or year.

In the below example, the company decided against using Territory Management in Salesforce, so they needed another way to track Opportunity pipeline by territory. The company sells internationally, and they want to capture the country that the opportunity is tied to, the sales region within the country and the sales territory within the region.

Country – United States

Region - East

Territory – Blue 12

In this example, the Country field controls the values that appear in the Region field and the Region field controls the values that appear in the Territory field. Using dependent picklist fields in this example ensures that region is not associated with the incorrect country or that a territory is not associated with the incorrect region. 

Use Cases for Implementing Dependent Picklists

Use Case 1

You want to track which opportunities involved a Business Development Rep (BDR). If a BDR was involved, you want to know which team they were on and the BDR’s name.

a. Define 1 custom checkbox on the Opportunity object to indicate if a BDR was involved. 

b. Define 2 custom picklists on Opportunities.

Picklist Field Name 1: Business Development Team 

Picklist Values:  Team 1, Team 2

Picklist Field Name 2: Business Development Rep

Picklist Values: Jane Smith, Ella Kelly, Leonard Cofer, Lisa Marlow

Setting the Business Development Rep checkbox = true triggers the need to select the Business Development Team. Associating the correct Business Development Rep to the Opportunity depends on the value of the Business Development Team picklist.

  • If Business Development Rep checkbox = true, the Business Development Team picklist field has two valid values, Team 1 or Team 2.  

  • If Business Development Team 1 is selected, the valid values will be Jane Smith and Ella Kelly. If Business Development Team 2 is selected, the valid values will be Leonard Cofer or Lisa Marlow.

Use Case 2

You’re conducting a chocolate taste test survey with 5-year-olds about whether they think Mars or Nestle chocolate products are better. You’ve created a custom object in Salesforce to track this information.

Define two custom picklist fields on the custom object to identify the Candy Manufacturer and the Candy Product.

Picklist Field Name 1:  Candy Manufacturer

Picklist Values: Mars, Nestle

Picklist Field Name 2: Candy Product

Picklist Values: M&M’s, Crunch, Fun Dip, Pixy Stix, Twix, Snickers

After the kids finish sampling the goodies, you speak with each of them and record the information in Salesforce:

  • If a kid chooses M&M’s, Twix or Snickers, the Candy Manufacturer available to select will be Mars

  • If a kid chooses Crunch, Fun Dip, Pixy Stix, the Candy Manufacturer available to select will be Nestle

In both use cases, we are using dependent picklists to ensure that the correct values are related. When running reports in the first use case we will never see a Business Development Rep from Team 1 selected when the team is not Team 1. In the second use case a Nestle product will never show Mars as the Candy Manufacturer. That is how dependent picklists support data accuracy.

Dependent Picklist Considerations

We believe dependent picklists are great tools in the Salesforce toolbox, but there are some considerations that you should review before implementing them. Salesforce has an excellent article that outlines those considerations and we’ve provided the link below.  

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