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  • Writer's pictureMichael Kolodner

Test Data in Production

Updated: Apr 14, 2023

Raise your hand if you have fake or test records in production.


You, in the back—Really? You don’t have a single record that you use when you want to try out a new field, test an automation, or troubleshoot?

Uh huh. Let’s get that hand in the air, then.


I’m not too proud to admit that I put test data in production. I even do it in my client’s orgs. I think that’s OK.

No–I actually think it’s necessary.

It’s Efficient

I don’t see how you can efficiently get by without test data in production.

Even when you are scrupulously meticulous about never building in production (And you are…right?)

  • You’re going to have new things you’ve deployed that you want to see.

  • You’re going to get users that have trouble and you need to quickly reproduce the issue

  • And you’re going to have quick training and enablement moments that you want to take advantage of without having to go through the rigamarole of setting up sandbox data.

So, yes, I do put test data into production.

What Data

It comes down to what data and how much data? I have two rules of thumb:

  1. Is it obvious?

  2. Is it fun?

Clearly, the second one is optional. (But is it...?)

If you want to have contacts Test Test and accounts Account1, Account2, and Account3, go for it. But remember that contact Test Test in the Nonprofit Success Pack is going to end up with a household account Test Household. I think there are people with the last name “Test.” It’s not actually obvious whether it’s real or fake, is it?

Why not put Harry Potter in your middle school? (He should be enrolled at Hogwarts, of course.) Or set up King T’Challa as one of your young professionals. (He probably works for the Kingdom of Wakanda.) I suppose there’s some chance one of your users won’t get the joke. But it’s also possible there is a real person out there named First Last. (There are people whose last name is Null…)

Easily Identifiable

My point is that if you have these records you might as well be able to identify them. Plus you’re set up for success later on when you need to spin up a quick report or show someone how to make a related record. Working with test records that fit a theme makes it easy for you and everyone else to remember which are the fake records and filter them off reports or ignore them in list views.

And you do want to filter them off 99% of the time. Get into the habit of adding a filter to every report that will remove your fake records, whether it’s donations from the T’Challa Household or students whose Primary Affiliation includes “Hogwarts.” Let your users know why you’re doing it as well so that they don’t fake themselves out when making their own reports.

Have Some Fun

I already mentioned that I use Harry Potter and Hogwarts. In fact most of my education instances have Harry, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley at the very least. (It’s a joke that can appeal to most ages.) The beauty of using those characters is that we also know their relationships with a bunch of other contacts and accounts we might want to work with, such as their parents, their teachers, and even some businesses and institutions. I don’t put that whole panoply of records into production but I most certainly like to use it as data in my training sandboxes!

When I need some more students outside the Potterverse, but easily recognizable, I’ve turned to superheroes. The Marvel Universe is nice because you can find characters in a variety of age categories and still stay pretty obvious and mainstream. People might not have seen the latest movie in the franchise, but they’ll know the names Black Panther and Captain Marvel. More often than not people will even recognize their secret identities, if you want to use them. DC characters will work as well, if you’re into them, but you might choose to create Super Man instead of Superman because: Required Fields.

Star Wars characters are fun, too. When I worked at Spark my Go-To kids were Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca Wookie. (He had to have a last name: Required field.) Again, I figured I could be pretty confident nobody would think they were real students. And I had so much fun setting up their mentorships with Darth Vader and his colleagues at Death Star Demolitions Company.

Contacts don’t have to get all the love, either! When my education clients need school and college records I have, among others:

Idyllic New England Liberal Arts School (my alma mater)

Big Southern Football University

Ivy League University

Metropolis University (also good for superheroes to attend)

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

The Bronx High School of Science and Superheroes (Peter Parker’s alma mater)

When we were creating the original package for Ombudsman Cloud Care we needed test and training data. Props to my wife, Jen, for taking the Navy theme to its logical conclusion. I’d originally created Popeye and Olive Oyl. Jen added several characters from Star Trek and The Next Generation as well as delightful Cases to go with them! That gave us some fun Easter Eggs for people to notice as they went through training.

It’s not that I actually think it’s ideal to have test data in production. I just think there’s almost no way around it. So given that reality, let’s make it enjoyable!


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