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How to Design Backstop Client-Defined Entities (CDE)

Clothes are not one size fits all. Neither should your Backstop instance be.

The Backstop team has answered our prayers with the recent release of Client-Defined Entities (CDE). This functionality allows the use of terminology and lingo most familiar to us. Instead of creating generic Organizations, we create bespoke entities like Clients, Venture Groups, Portfolio Companies. Each entity type has its own tailored views, maximizing good use of screen real estate.

Fortune favors the bold. Our team jumped on the bandwagon upon the product release and successfully completed its conversion within a few days. Let’s share our top lessons learned to hopefully expedite your conversion efforts!

For simplicity’s sake, we will limit our scope of this blog to the Organization entities. The exact same principles apply to Person entities, however.

Magic Number of CDE: 7 ± 2

Entity design is the first and most critical step; it frames the entity hierarchy and structure. Prior to the rollout of CDE, the core Backstop CRM platform offered only two types: Organization and Person. Selecting the correct entity had a 50/50 odd.

The new CDE paradigm increases the number of options. However, we can have the cake and still eat it. Research studies from Harvard cognitive scientist George A. Miller showed our short memory could most effectively hold 7 items (plus/minus 2). Any more than that, you will surely impose you users to have unsightly Post-it reminders all around their monitors. What an eyesore!

With the number of CDEs set, let’s talk about distinctiveness. These classifications should be drastically different on a macro scale. For instance, let’s walk through the following sample entity types for ACME Fund of Funds, a fictitious firm:

  • Clients
  • Venture Groups
  • Portfolio Companies

ACME raises monies from Clients, hands the said funds to a carefully selected echelon of Venture Groups which in turn invest into the next Portfolio Companies destined for greatness.

It should not take more than a blink to assign the right CDE to an incoming entity. If two blinks are mandated, we have failed the entity design step. The finer classifications can easily be augmented with Categories (a built-in standard field) or any client-defined field.

Cleanse before Conversion

As of this writing, merging between CDEs is not supported yet. I trust the tireless Backstop product team will be changing that soon, perhaps at the Backstop Beyond 2019!

Before you commence any CDE conversion, do run another round of deduplication. This cleanup campaign will make the downstream chores supremely smoother. As a quick reminder, the Merge Contacts utility mashes two entities and fuses the majority of system fields (see BUC 2018 slidedeck).

Reading this blog too late? Simply convert those CDEs back to the base Organization type first, perform the mergers, and then reverse the conversions. A base level of Backstop Reporting skills will come in handy; this Tom Cruise-themed article will rapidly get you up to speed!

Declutter with Bespoke Views

CDE gives us the capability to configure entity-specific views. For instance, the information displayed for Client can be as different from Portfolio Company as desired. Well-designed views let you display a uncluttered screen. This zen-like user experience maximizes efficient use of real estate and mental energy. Less is more!

Tailored Layouts

Client-Defined Layouts may sound strikingly similar to Client-Defined Views. In the spirit of Keep it Simple Silly (KISS), Client-Defined Views come standard as Summary and Contact Details. Lastly, they cannot be hidden.

Client-Defined Layouts, on the contrary, are optional, can be named anything, must contain client-defined fields, and can be hidden.

Simply stated, we now have the ability to selectively hide and unhide Client-Defined Layouts based on CDE. For example, Stock is a Client-Defined Layout that is exclusively visible for our Portfolio Company.

Report Alteration

What would happen to your growing inventory of Backstop Reports, post-CDE conversion? Luckily, nothing! Those pre-existing reports will keep running, although the results can be unpredictable.



Take the plunge now and spend the time to update any report that uses the Type field which has been renamed to Contact Type. The investment will pay handsome dividends. The recipients of those Scheduled Reports would return the love 10-12x!


Client-Defined Entity is an epic feature that empowers us to make our Backstop instances fit like gloves. The complexity is not huge. Nailing it may require a couple of iterations. Hopefully this blog post provides a solid framework to fasttrack your progress.

Craving more Backstop knowledge? You can pick between a Medium Publication or LinkedIin Group. Or hit me on up at @klopmp if you would like to chat more!