Many people that are new to Salesforce ask me if they should Activate the Recurring Task feature and, for a Variety of Reasons my definitive Answer is “NO, mostly.”
In this article, I will explain what they are, what they are supposed to do, and how they get in the way of what you really want... Productivity.
I'll explain what they are, what they do, and why they are a bad idea; In addition, I will show you a much better way to bypass the feature and reach a higher level of productivity. I will also share a few ideas of what you can do if the feature is already on or gets turned on against your better judgement.
First, Why do most people want to make a task recurring?
Most people think that if something has to happen, the only way that you will get it done, is to capture a task and get a get reminded of that task until it is done.
If that "something" happens repeatedly, then it only makes sense to make that task repeat.
Reasonable problem with a Reasonable Solution, Right? Wrong.
It is not a reasonable solution if the solution does NOT solve your problem, and the problem is NOT reminders on a regular basis from a Task in Salesforce.
Let's break down this reasonable solution to see what else would work, and work better.
How else can you “sales-FORCE” yourself or your staff to carry out those repetitive tasks?
How else could you answer the call when the owner, manager, or sales rep say things like:
- I want to call my key customers every month.
- I want to follow up on an email campaign
- I want to call every contact for their birthday or anniversary
How else can we keep our promises: ...to our customers ...to our bosses ...to ourselves?
How else could we keep track of all those things that we want to do over and over again?
But where did we get the notion that this is a good idea?
My best guess is that we all learned about making a task repeat from our days of using Microsoft Outlook.
You wanted to remember to do a task each week, month, or year and the only solution was to Create a Recurring Task. You couldn't tie the task to any other data source or criteria. Sure, you could run some kind of report of "birthdays" or "anniversaries", but there was "no good way" to capture any other data that would trigger a reminder.
But using the recurring task feature is a “BAD IDEA” within Salesforce, and I'll tell you why, what to do instead, and what you should do if the feature is already on in your Org.
What do I mean by a bad idea?
When you enable a feature like "recurring tasks" you run the risk of losing the "INTENDED" outcome(to remember to do something in the future) and instead, get a whole bunch of incomplete tasks that are ignored along with the desired behavior.
"A Word of Caution"
Recurring tasks, if left unmanaged, just become another data overload for the users; ie- something else that the end user will ignore or let it become a distraction.
Your good intention will actually render your intended outcome useless; or worse, you have to promote someone to become the Task Police, enforcing that users complete all those tasks.
That becomes a bummer for everyone.
A Recurring Task also implies that the task is part of some "process" or a cadence of behavior to produce a specific business result.
And if that is the case... then using data to "trigger" the next right behavior tends to be more effective for both the users and the organization.
How can I use data instead?
There are several tools available in Salesforce that you can use to manage "next best actions" based on the condition of the record during its "lifecycle."
The three standard records in Salesforce that are designed to be processed are the LEAD, OPPORTUNITY, and CASE records; they all have a beginning, middle, and end to their lifecycle.
That means that all the data you collect on the record indicates the progress you are making on that record with an end result that indicates "completion" of the process:
- Leads: Unknown to Qualified (or not)
- Opportunity: Potential to Closed (won or lost)
- Case: Problem to Solved (or unsolved)
The process of collecting data is a lot like filling in a "paint by numbers" painting. When you've filled in all the blanks you end up with a picture; Each data point collected works like the colored images on the canvas.
The "stages or status" of each of those records should "trigger" the behaviors required to fill in the next set of data points to be collected.
I've referred to this in the past as the "Assembly Line" mindset of data management.
If you collect all the necessary data in the first stage of the process to move to the next stage, then all the records with the same blank fields would require the same set of behaviors in order to fill in those blanks. The speed at which the data is collected is a separate measure because each record will progress at different speeds through the process based on the responses received.
What are the Alternatives?
- List Views
- List View Display Options
- Reports and Dashboards
- Automation Rules
These are Tab Specific and they are used to "gather" records that are alike, and therefore require the same set of behaviors.
- Birthdays This Month
- Anniversaries (of any date) This Month
- Days until Contract Ends
- Days since last activity
All of these "groups" require the same attention, and because they are grouped by the same "data filter."
List View Display Options
There are up to three ways that a user can view the List created by the "data filters" so that they can more easily manage the list and their behavior.
- Table: shows the most relevant fields as columns to display and used for mass edits (like Excel sheets)
- Kanban: shows records from the list based on the stage or status (like Trello or Asana)
- Split View: shows records from the list in a side panel, and each record is displayed completely (like Outlook)
Each view has different ways to support the user in using that list to determine their most productive behavior and input their results to move the record to another list or remain on the same list to attempt the same behavior until it meets a different criteria.
Reports and Dashboards
These two tools work together to show the overall progress on specific records and their related records.
Reports display and organize data from multiple sources and formatted in ways that provide .
Dashboards display the summary data from reports and can be organized to show overall progress, status, and comparisons.
Both provide data insights and intelligence that you can use to understand and influence impact, strategy, and behavior.
They are also great communication and collaboration tools because reported behavior (tasks, events, and record updates) indicate what is working and what is not working at an individual, group, or organizational level.
Salesforce has many tools built in to replace the need for humans to "keep up" with their data entry and simply "behave" automatically. The previous tools all enhance productivity because they allow our users to group, sort, and categorize different sets of records based on the quality of the data which benefits them by allowing them to "focus their behavior" on records that require the same type of effort.
Every productivity expert will say that if you can do the same "thing" over and over you will produce more from that behavior; i.e.- prospect calls, process emails, develop proposals, follow up on Voice Mails left, etc., etc., etc.
Automation simply repeats tasks that you would normally ask a human to complete, but it does it at the "speed of light"; repeats with consistency, accuracy, and without fail.
But, you must remember that Computers are obedient: they do exactly what you tell them to do. Also remember, that they are dumb; they ONLY DO exactly what you tell them to do.
You want to make sure that you know what works before you automate.
When you know your KPIs, Transition points, rules of engagement, cadence, etc., then you can program your system to take over the menial, repetitive, and time consuming tasks that you would normally rely on your people to accomplish.
It's the EASY BUTTON with a catch: You better know the impact of automated efforts and truly understand their functionality in full.
When you activate recurring tasks, you are clear that:
- No data signals that can be used to create list views, reports, or automated actions
- The process is not yet mapped to data
- The users that use recurring tasks are managing the creation, execution, and completion in a way that supports their productivity and does not just create hundreds of "undone" tasks that will cause the end user to ignore ALL tasks.
My recommendation is to Use Tasks when the "behavior" identified by the task is OUTSIDE of the normal processes and procedures you, the user, or the company have developed over time and you want the user to have a place to store that commitment and keep it in existence until complete.
I do NOT recommend "Recurring Tasks" to be used unless it is for a set Evaluation period of time while Automation Steps are being tested; when the period of testing is over, convert the recurring task into an Automation Setting.
Hope that serves as a "solid overview" of whether or not you should use Recurring Tasks.