Salesforce’s Process Builder: the Next-Gen Workflow Tool

April 26, 2015 Jiordan Castle


We had it good with workflow. In many ways, we still do. For years, Salesforce’s tried and true business logic has worked wonders for the point-and-click development crowd. Mainly because, let’s face it — many everyday tasks, from sending emails to updating records, while important, are repetitive. Instead of spending time performing these tasks manually, users often configure workflow rules to do the work automatically. Workflow rules remain a reliable way to develop automated changes. They’re a necessity for any consultant, analyst, system admin, or developer today. But Salesforce has since come out with the Lightning Process Builder, which Chris Edwards referred to in Salesforce Weekly as “Workflow 2.0 — a next-generation business process automation tool.”

The idea is simple: Process Builder can handle more complex processes than the traditional workflow, in addition to simpler tasks. As Shelley Erceg, Salesforce’s Director of Product Management, explained in a demo, Process Builder is basically the next-generation workflow tool plus — plus more flexibility, more power to combine what would have been multiple workflow rules into a single process. It seems a logical step for point-and-click automation: a tool that accomplishes more without requiring you to know or write code.

You can see this flexibility in Process Builder’s next-generation look: an intuitive, flowchart-like UI. Interestingly enough though, it doesn’t replace the trusted workflow or visual flow. With Process Builder, you can build workflow rules that enable flows to run in the background through a single UI.

At its core, Process Builder is a sleeker, simpler UI combined with more extensive functionality. So the question remains: Do you really need it? Well, consider this — most of the things you do with workflow require Apex code, and most essential Process Builder tasks don’t require even a single line of Apex code to be written. (Though it’s worth noting that Process Builder doesn’t support outbound messages. Fortunately, it’s easy to create one on your own with Apex.) Users can also:

  • Launch a flow as an immediate or scheduled action
  • Use quick actions to create/update records or log a call
  • Create a record just by clicking (something you can’t do with workflow rules)
  • Update fields on related records — not just a single record or its parent
  • Submit a record for approval — without requiring users to submit it manually
  • Automatically post to Chatter
  • Create an email alert

Another reason to pay attention to Process Builder: workflow rules and approvals will be around for several more Salesforce releases, but this next-generation workflow tool will ultimately take their place.

Aside from its innovative tech specs, the visual openness of Process Builder is equally compelling. Its choose-your-own-adventure-style layout can play a valuable role in organizational collaboration. Because it’s now possible to build a process in one place, multiple team members can work together on a process.

As of Spring 2015, Process Builder is generally available, giving Salesforce users more power and flexibility than those provided by the traditional workflow. Now you can trigger multiple processes within a single transaction, create records, call Apex, and more — all with a few clicks, rather than numerous workflow rules.

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