Sep 6, 2021

Ruin Your Day With This One Simple Trick (Multi-Select Picklists)

Post by 
Michael Muse

et me ask you a question. What’s better than one of something? 

Multiple of something, that’s what.

So the answer should be easy when you’re presented with this choice: 

Choose more!  OK, great work. Sacrifices are for savages. We live in a civilized society. We want for nothing. As Bo coined, a little bit of everything, all of the time.

So we've set up our multi-select picklist field. Next up, our team starts dutifully sorting our list of options. For the winning options, they move in a blaze of glory to ‘Chosen’. The loser options are left to sit on the sideline, 'Tragically Single'. Ok obviously Salesforce picked a more optimistic term, ‘Available’.

Clarity emerges, right before our eyes:

Crystal. OK, lets just go ahead and click the save button and admire our sorting work on the actual page ... and …

Perfect! Can’t think of a single better way for that to look. We’ll pick a spot in the Louvre for it later. 

Alright, so VP of Businessing is already excited about this data! He ran a report filtered on “What’s for dinner tonight” equals “Pizza”, and it came up blank. We’ll just tell him to remember to change that “equals” to “includesif and only when the field he’s filtering on is a multi-select picklist. He absolutely loves remembering details like that. He also loves when his reports tell him things he knows isn’t true. Why else would he be sharing all that fake news on Facebook?

He’ll probably just keep building reports himself instead of dumping everything on us. Hey speak of the devil, he wants us to build him a report to see how often we picked Pizza night. In our data, we have 2 pizza nights and one non-pizza night. Let’s whip up a quick report showing pizza as 66% of our responses:

Hm. Not seeing a 66 anywhere.

We just built a pie chart with a regular picklist yesterday and had no issue! Let's search Google. Ooo, here's some deliciously tragic tales from other admins that did all sorts of complicated things in search of a way to summarize multi-select picklists by percentage. None of them seemed to make it back to base camp.

OK so we’ll just tell our VP it isn’t possible. Even though he also remembers the pie chart from yesterday. That’ll earn us some trust.

Alright, last up, let’s build a quick formula field to calculate a Health Score for the meal:

Foiled again. Another feature blaming its own failure on our beloved Multi-Select Picklist. But wait, check out that call to action in the error message in the bottom right! Tell me more!

“Tell me more” perfectly captures how we feel in this moment:

Alright, forehead nice and mushy now from contact with our monitor. It’ll help us drift off to sleep peacefully tonight. That, and the knowledge that what we wanted to accomplish turned out to not just be confusing, but actually impossible.  Time to call it a day. We’ll update the team on it tomorrow, but of course they’ll understand. As any Salesforce Admin knows, one rule matters above all to your users.

It’s the thought that counts.

<3 you Multi-Select Picklist! Sleep tight!

P.S. Here are some more thorough, less sarcastic posts explaining this topic in more depth. We just tried to cover the most common issues people run into. Rest assured, there are many more pitfalls!

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