Salesforce is not only one of the best CRM cloud tools available to organizations, helping you to centralize and standardize many processes – it’s also an extremely powerful labor-saving tool when setup the right way.
The automation processes available in Salesforce can help businesses expedite repetitive processes; increasing efficiency and maximizing cost savings. Moreover, these automations often need to be created only once, as they can then be reused across departments and business functions.
Yet there’s often confusion as to which processes work best for a particular procedure, leading managers and employees to overlook these tools in favor of doing things the way they’ve always been done—manually, despite the burden on time and resources. Understanding the main automations available in Salesforce is the first step toward ameliorating this common issue, allowing staff to focus on more valuable tasks rather than mire themselves in repetitive labor.
There are three main automation processes that see the widest amount of use: workflow rules, Process Builder, and the newest, Salesforce Flow.
The earliest Salesforce automation is also the simplest to understand. Workflow rules are similar to the if/then statements used in code—that is, if a record is changed, the workflow rules dictate what action should be taken next.
Workflow rules are used for internal company processes and events. These rules can include an email alert and can also be time-based. For example, if a shipment passes its delivery date, an automated workflow rule can update the ‘shipment date’ field to ‘delayed,’ and alerts the relevant manager about the delay.
Most records that need to be manually updated can benefit from workflow rules. However, the simplicity of these rules is also their main drawback—most processes have a number of potential ‘ifs’ that could affect how a record is changed, updated, or created.
Unlike workflow rules, Process Builder allows users to create a more robust series of actions to take after an event. Rather than building several workflow rules, users create a single process that can account for a variety of potential situations.
Essentially, Process Builder does everything workflow rules can, only with more robust features, such as being able to create records on its own and post messages to the chatter.
A single process can also involve multiple stakeholders and actions. For example, if a client upgrades their service package, a Process can create a new contract, post a message to the account manager’s chatter, send an email to the executive in charge of sales, and set a reminder to inform the customer three days after the upgrade is made. The process can also account for situations where the customer downgrades their service package, renews at the same level, or cancels their contract—all within the same process.
Process Builder is one of two tools offered in Salesforce Flow. The other is called Flow Builder, and while the terminology can be confusing, the upshot is that Flow Builder does virtually everything Process Builder can, only with additional functionalities.
Crucially, Flow Builder is able to take data from a customer and use it to create automated processes they can then interact with. We’ve focused entirely on internal processes so far, because those are what workflow rules and Process Builder were designed for.
Flows can be triggered when a user clicks a button on your website, perhaps to begin a guided tutorial. Flow Builder includes out-of-the-box templates and components like text boxes and file uploads to facilitate building these types of guides, as well as other on-page interactions that rely on data the user inputs. Different automations can be activated depending on the customer’s location in the buying journey, the value of the customer, or a variety of other data inputs that influence their interactions with your resources.
Even for internal functions, flows can add more capabilities than processes. Records cannot be deleted in processes, but they can be in flows. If a customer cancels their contract, a process can send an alert to a team member that their record should be deleted, but it won’t handle the deletion itself. A flow can do this, and much more, at the press of a button.
Extra Feature – Approval Rules
One of the most common business functions employees take part in is submitting records for approval, such as an application for vacation time or other request that requires a yes or no. Salesforce offers a program called Approval Rules that can take this request, evaluate it based on approval conditions, then alert the person in charge to get their sign-off.
The approval rule can check to see if the request meets certain approval criteria, but it won’t automatically approve the request. Instead, it sends an email to the correct person in charge so that they can then sign off on it (or not). For business functions operating at this level of simplicity, Approval Rules are useful, yet limited to the steps described above.
Choosing The Right Option
Since Flow Builder is the most robust of the automations, it can seem like the best tool to use in nearly all cases. Yet Flow Builder also boasts the highest complexity among its peers, with Process Builder somewhat easier to grasp due to its narrower scope. When handling a process that’s entirely internal and doesn’t require record deletion, Process Builder may be the best option.
For everything else—particularly in providing automations to external users—Flow Builder is a business’ best bet. Workflow processes are largely deprecated by this point, and Salesforce recommends using Process Builder rather than workflow rules in 2021.
Both Process Builder and Flow Builder are continually updated as part of Salesforce Flow to provide more capabilities to users. By implementing these tools, companies create automations that can be reused and thereby applied to a variety of use cases, creating an environment that focuses on lessening manual updates.
Written by Sharif Shaalan CEO & Founder at Agile Cloud Consulting, Salesforce MVP Hall of Fame Member and author of Salesforce for Beginners.