Sometimes, try as you might, you just can’t explain a concept better than someone else already has. Which is why I’m going to let Trailhead tell you about what a role hierarchy is: “A role hierarchy works together with sharing settings to determine the levels of access users have to your Salesforce data. Users can access the data of all the users directly below them in the hierarchy.” Pretty clear, right?
What’s usually less clear is why an organization would actually want to set one up. “We’re a flat organization,” we hear from a lot of leaders. “We don’t really have a hierarchy.”
That’s great — but you should still build one in Salesforce. Here are two reasons why.
Reason #1: Record Visibility
As mentioned in the definition above, role hierarchies in Salesforce aren’t designed to inflate the egos of those at the top. Primarily, they’re meant to selectively shield sensitive data. Take a sales team with independent reps, for instance. If each salesperson is pursuing their own accounts, they probably want to keep their data to themselves. With a role hierarchy configured, it’s easy to make sure all users with the same role don’t have permission to see one another’s records. Problem solved. And by the same token, you can just as easily configure the role hierarchy so that sales leaders can see their reps’ activity. In other words, role hierarchies allow you to standardize your company’s privacy model. This is a much better practice than granting individual users select access.
And if your company truly doesn’t have any information it wants to keep private, role hierarchies are still useful for easily determining who can edit a particular record. Normally, only a record’s owner can edit it, but with the right hierarchy settings, you can grant the same ability to the owner’s supervisor (and their supervisor’s supervisor). Other members of the team will still be able to view it, but only the owner and their direct superiors can make changes.
Reason #2: Reporting
A configured role hierarchy also makes certain kinds of reporting much easier. Let’s say a manager wants to analyze certain metrics just for her team. With a role hierarchy set up, she can run that report by filtering just for the teams under her, rather than the names of every team member. For larger groups especially, this can save a ton of time (and also make sure no one gets accidentally forgotten).
And it’s not only team leaders who might want to run such reports. A sales rep, for instance, might want to filter the members of their company’s services team by industry experience in order to find a good fit for an upcoming project. Without a role hierarchy set up, he’d have to select all those people individually.
As you set out to determine what kind of role hierarchy your company should set up, ask yourself the following questions: “What kind of visibility do we need to grant across the organization? How will we want to report on our data and filter it?” Answering both of these will help you figure out how robust your hierarchy should be.