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Lost: Beware of the “Others”

If you ever watched the television series Lost, you know about the “Others.”  These were mysterious inhabitants of the island who were often at odds with the show’s main characters.

In Microsoft Dynamics CRM, there are also “Others.”  These “Others” frequently show up in picklists, such as account industry, customer type, address type.  When you are configuring one of these picklists, sometimes the thought goes through your mind “maybe I should add a placeholder called “other” just in case I didn’t think of every possible choice.”

Before you let an “other” into your list, think twice.  Consider this cautionary tale.

One of our clients is an accounting firm that serves multiple industries.  One of their goals was to track business by industry, so they required the Industry plicklist on the account form; however, they also included an option for “other” in the picklist.

After they had used CRM for a couple of years, we helped them develop some dashboards and reports for their account data.  What we found when we graphed their accounts by industry was that the “other” bar was significantly longer than any other industry.  This was not because these companies were in unusual industries, they were all in one of the existing industry codes, such as manufacturing.

The lesson learned was that users tend to take the easy way out—it was easier to select “other” than to determine and record the actual industry in the field.

Here are my recommendation on how to fight the “others” in CRM:

  1. If possible, don’t include “other” in your picklist.
  2. Instead, have an easy process for your users to follow to request new picklist values, in case a legitimate option is missing.
  3. If you must include an “other” option, monitor this data closely to insure that records don’t get mis-categorized as “other” if they actually have a more legitimate categorization.

Cheers,

Joel Lindstrom

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