What is Salesforce?

Salesforce is a company whose flagship products are all Software as a Service (SaaS) apps for sales, marketing, customer support and other related Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications.  

What Technology does Salesforce Use?

Salesforce’s technology is a proprietary object-oriented database engine, branded Force.com, which can be used to create applications either via configuration through an administrative interface, or via code using Salesforce’s proprietary Apex language.

What are the key Salesforce Applications?

The most popular Salesforce application is Sales Cloud, which is focused on the needs of the Sales team.  Other applications include Service Cloud is used to automate customer service interactions such as tracking trouble tickets, and Marketing Cloud (formerly Pardot) which is used to manage B2B or B2C marketing communication.  Salesforce is a very large platform, and they sell a number of other products, including Tableau Analytics, which was recently acquired by Salesforce.

What are Salesforce concepts relevant to BI?

Object and Custom Object

An object is an overall data definition of the data being stored, similar to a table in relational databases.  Salesforce has a set of standard objects delivered with each of its applications, like Sales Cloud.

A custom object is an object that isn’t part of the standard Salesforce set of objects.  Custom objects can be defined via a point-and-click administrative interface, and object fields can be placed on Salesforce pages for use by end users, without writing any code.

Custom Field

A custom field is a field on a standard or custom object.  These fields can be defined via a point-and-click administrative interface.

Object Relationships

Salesforce’s object relationships are predefined, not specified dynamically at query time.  The most used object relationships are:.

  • Look Up Relationship: This is a one-to-one or one-to-many relationship, where a field gets a value from a relationship between objects.  An example is a lookup field on a customer order that relates a line item to a product catalog.
  • Master-Detail Relationship: This is a one to many relationship similar to a lookup except that Salesforce enforces controls on the relationship. For example, deletion of the master also deletes all detail records. The master-detail relationship also allows the creation of rollup fields on the master record, which sum up the values of a field on the detail.  The detail in a master-detail must be a 
  • Junction Object: A junction object allows a many-to-many relationship, with two master-detail relationships, with the junction object being the master and the related objects being the detail.  


Salesforce has built-in revenue and quantity forecasting tools, which allows sales cycle planning.

  • Collaborative Forecasting is the forecasting available in all Salesforce editions.  It allows salespersons and managers to collaborate when making a revenue and/or quantity forecast, and allows forecast adjustments to be applied by the salesperson and managers.
  • Quantity without Adjustments - This is the forecast of the person and his or her subordinates without any adjustments applied.
  • Quantity with Adjustments - This is the forecast with the adjustment applied.  Salesforce allows easy switching between views with or without adjustment.


Apex is Salesforce’s proprietary object-oriented language.  Apex has a Java-like syntax and can be used to write event handlers that access the Salesforce API.  These event handlers can be attached to events like button clicks, or record updates. They can also be called by web services and in Visualforce pages.


Visualforce is Salesforce’s proprietary markup language for creating user interfaces.  Visualforce pages consist of Visualforce markup, HTML and JavaScript. Each Visualforce page can use a set of standard controllers or custom Apex controllers to control what occurs whenever a user performs an action on the page.

  • Lightning Experience - This is the modern Salesforce User Interface, which has a much broader set of features than the legacy interface, Classic.  Lightning allows administrators more options for customizing the user experience, and it has a more modern look and feel than Classic.
  • Salesforce Classic - This is the legacy Salesforce User Interface, which is still in use at some organizations because Classic has features not yet (or not ever) available in the Lightning Experience.
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Glossary of Terms

A guide to the nomenclature of data integration technology.