7 years, 362 comments and 53,300 points. This is what it took to get State and Country Picklists for standard address fields implemented in Salesforce! Winter ’14 brought this wonderful feature to us thanks to the wonderful Product Manager Shawna Wolverton and her team! Thank you!

If you have been an administrator, developer, consultant or associated with Salesforce in any way over the last few years, you know how painful managing data can be. This is especially true for global organizations. I have dealt with this first hand and it hasn’t always been pretty. Some companies like ProvenWorks (who make a great application) have provided some “work around” functionality, but in order to truly standardize state and country fields, you had to entirely replace the standard field set with custom fields. This reduces the overall functionality, produces duplicate fields, and makes leveraging standard functionality difficult.

In my org, we needed and wanted a dependency between the two so we went custom. It sucks. I wanted to see what it would take to move my custom fields to the standard fields using the new picklist concept. I started in my full sandbox. Here is my experience.

Some background…

While we used custom fields for our addresses across all objects, we did create workflow rules to populate the standard fields with the values of the custom fields. This allowed us to leverage the standard fields where necessary (or where we were limited to standard fields such as Marketo integration). If your org uses custom fields but didn’t create workflows to populate standard fields, you will want to use the Data Loader to copy the custom field values to the standard fields before you start this process. It will make your life easier.

Before you begin…

Activating state and country picklists is very straight forward, but it is not quick. Depending on how your org is setup, you will need to add additional steps to your process. This is why I STRONGLY suggest that you review all documentation, and understand all of the impacts before you get started. Download the implementation guide here as a starting point.

If you have a full sandbox use it to go through the first iteration. This will get you familiar with the process, and will help you understand any holes that need to be patched before getting diving into your production org.If you don’t have a full sandbox I would suggest going through the basic process in a developer org or developer sandbox. Take some time to practice the process and apply some critical thinking to how this will impact your org. Take some time to document what needs to happen and the order the steps need to happen in before you get into production.

Prep work…

Review the documentation

Before you begin, as I have already mentioned, review the documentation and become familiar with the process. It would be wise to do an in-depth review of your system and know where and how your current and standard address fields are being used. For those that are using standard fields currently, this won’t be an issue because Salesforce will scan your org and tell you where you may need to make changes. For those of us that are using custom address fields, good luck. (No, really). You are going to have to find this on your own!

Integration, reports, dashboard, workflows, formulas, assignment rules, listviews etc. may need to be adjusted for use with the standard fields. Map out all of the updates that need to take place, and document each one. You will make changes after updating to the standard fields.

Communicate to Users

No one likes to be blindsided. Before making any changes, you need to communicate the impact of these changes to your end users across the organization. This is a full-fledged project where every end-user is your stakeholder. Your notifications should be frequent, short and to the point, and have a clear “call to action” if you need or want your users to take specific actions in preparing for the update. It should be clearly communicated how this change will impact the organization and how you as the administrator is working to make the change as painless as possible.

Please, don’t send out a communication on Friday, and make the changes on Monday. If you don’t have a formal change process, be patient, and take several weeks to effectively communicate, and plan this transition. Make it as painless on users as possible. Do not skip over this step or think that a single communication will suffice. This is a large change to the structure of your database and data and will impact many areas of the system that many users rely on. Give your users plenty of notice and work hard to ensure minimal disruption.

Update Standard Fields (Optional)

During this activation, you will be converting current values to the new standardized values (i.e.: U.S, US to United States). The process is easy, but Salesforce will review the values in your standard address fields. If workflows aren’t already populating standard address fields with your custom field values, you need to copy the field values using the Data Loader (or tool of your choice).

[highlight] SUGGESTION:[/highlight] Take the opportunity to do some initial data clean-up when you export your address data into Excel before uploading to the standard fields. It will make your life a little bit easier. Oh, and in that case, don’t forget to update the custom fields as well.

Depending on how long you think this conversion process will take, I would also suggest that you create workflow rules for any new or updated records to keep the data in sync.

In Part 2, we will be looking at how to implement the new functionality.

Photo Credit: Nicolas Raymond via Flickr

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