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What automation is there for a User record in regards to a linked Contact (and Account)? In fact, what use is the Contact lookup on User and where is it relevant?

I cannot find any relevant documentation on this relationship - User records having a lookup to Contact (and therefore, the Reports for Users having access to Contact and Account fields).

I see in an Org I'm currently helping configure that nothing is automatically being created (Contacts/Accounts) when Users are created, so... I'm curious what it's purpose is (or more specifically, when is User associated with a Contact? Only manually?)

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Quick Answer

User records can only be linked to a Contact (which must be linked to an Account) in the case of Portal User.

Details

Take a look at the User object documentation for the ContactId field in the SOAP API Developer Guide:

Field
ContactId

Type
reference

Properties
Create, Filter, Group, Nillable, Sort

Description
ID of the Contact associated with this account. The contact must have a value in the AccountId field or an error occurs.

Note, however, that if you try to create an otherwise valid User record with the ContactId field populated, you will get this error:

System.DmlException: Insert failed. First exception on row 0; first error: FIELD_INTEGRITY_EXCEPTION, only portal users can be associated to a contact: []

So, you can only specify a ContactId for a portal user, and the associated Contact must also be related to an Account.

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    Neat. Nothing on the field itself to tell you this. Help link on the field leads to a generic help page. Soooo insightful ;-) Thanks for the heads up. Portal users only. Wish I could hide or otherwise disassociate this in cases where we WILL NOT be using Portal users. (shrug) Oh well. – AMM Dec 29 '16 at 19:36

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