Salesforce automation tools are among the most powerful CRM software workflow solutions.
When you think like an architect and build workflows yourself, you can avoid issues that come with inconsistent data entry or missed steps in a routine process.The automations available in Salesforce are not only easy to build, but they also come in distinct varieties that unlock different capabilities. Going in order of most simple to most complex, the three main automations are: Workflow Rules, Process Builder, and Salesforce Flow.
Whether the goal is to do something as easy as trigger email alerts or as complicated as managing data-heavy records, these automations can provide a solution.
Salesforce automation solutions
Sales automation techniques are only going to get more important for businesses. A third of all sales tasks can be automated, which empowers teams to build their own rules, processes, and workflows, creating greater time and budget-saving efficiencies for companies of all sizes.
Here’s an overview of each Salesforce automation as well as example use cases you can turn to in order to become your own workflow architect.
1. Workflow Rules
People are familiar with if/then statements – a simple form of logic that is used by developers to decide what subsequent action to take depending on a preceding action or command.
Salesforce follows this same line of logic with its automation, as a change to one record often means that another record needs to be updated in some way. Workflow Rules (WFRs) can handle this automatically – all you need to do is set actions for specific triggers. Then, such actions can either happen immediately or can be set to happen at a specific time. This is an ideal and straightforward solution to automatically assigning tasks or sending an automated email.
When compared to its more comprehensive counterparts, WFRs are somewhat limited in their functionality. However, the simplicity makes them one of the most widely used automations, as they rarely break or run into issues, which can help companies implement a scalable strategy right out of the box.
Use case: updating employment status
When a candidate accepts a job offer, a WFR can automatically update that candidate’s internal file to “Candidate Accepted”. All that needs to be done on the back end is entering True/False criteria for if the candidate accepts an offer or not, and if True, it would trigger an action that would update their status and send an internal alert.
That’s why these same WFRs are often used to trigger email alerts that notify the head of HR or the new employee’s manager when a candidate’s status is changed. Subsequently, the company can set up further processes that ensure a transparent and smooth onboarding.
WFRs depend on the binary outcome of a condition, which is both a strength and a limitation. While they’re easy to set up and use, each WFR needs to be built on its own, requiring a good deal of manual work to get the automations running in the first place. But they’re well worth it. In the case of HR managers, automation like this can help HR personnel cut repetitive, administrative tasks by up to 49 percent.
2. Process Builder
Salesforce created Process Builder to build out even more wide-reaching automations. You can think of Process Builder as a more feature-rich version of WFRs – one with more capability to build multi-stage functions. Instead of just sending out alerts or updates, Process Builder gives you the opportunity to build out a chain of actions in response to each command, like creating and updating records.
With a simple graphical representation of a business’ processes, Process Builder offers a lot of functionality through a setup that’s easy and can create applications in a fraction of the time it would take to do so manually. It’s also versatile in the fact that it can take a number of workflows and combine them into one process.
But it has its limitations, too. Especially on a larger scale, companies might be constrained by the number of SQL queries that can be run at the same time. Also, with more functionality and inherent complexity, there’s a greater need for coherent setups. That puts a larger onus on the administrator when creating the triggers and criteria of an automation run through Process Builder.
Before launching a new automation, any relevant triggers already in place should be either deleted or deactivated to avoid unexpected exceptions and thus potential issues.
Use case: automating follow-up emails
When a new customer signs up for your service, Process Builder will change their internal record to closed-won. Following this, an email template with “getting started” information can be immediately sent out.
Unlike WFRs, Process Builder can add more sophisticated steps to the process. You can also set a scheduled email to go out after a certain amount of time has elapsed, e.g. a more in-depth email with advanced tips for using your software sent out 48 hours after the first email. By factoring in logic to these flows, companies can send out more personalized emails whose templates vary based on different categories like campaign type, service package, or event.
This type of persistence through automation can really pay off. One sales company saw its total revenue go up by more than 200 percent after initiating automated follow-up emails.
3. Flow Builder
Flow Builder, Salesforce’s newest automation, enables businesses to take customer or user data and create interactive automations from that information. This way you can give users a more fulfilling and straightforward front-facing experience so they can interact with your site or platform more seamlessly.
Flow Builder is a complex but powerful point-and-click tool for building flows, applications that automate a specific process by collecting data and working in your Salesforce or external systems. Just like Process Builder, it leverages a graphic interface – in this case, being a series of interfaces to create or update records with help texts for greater clarity throughout. Flow Builder uses an intuitive, drag-and-drop interface that can make it even easier to use than Process Builder.
In the Salesforce Lightning interface, you can easily display or hide the flow component based on chosen criteria for your record pages. For instance, you can remove the flow from the page once the user completes it.
Use case: automatically tracking inventory
Let’s say you want to build a flow for your internal staff to check out tools and check them back in when they’re done. Using Flow Builder, you can build two subflows for both the “remove tools” and “return tools” stages of the borrowing process.
In Flow Builder, you use a screen flow to create the right form with the tracking information, such as the tool’s identification number and a field for the name of the employee checking it out. Salesforce offers easy-to-use tools to create these fields as screens.
Additionally, you can use interactive elements to create records of each transaction along the way. If a tool is over a certain dollar value, you can use logic decisions to require approval from a manager before the tool is removed.
Flow Builder allows you to create, update, and even delete records at chosen stages in your flow. By getting information from the user and updating records, you can replicate a user-driven automation across areas of your business.
The decision between using Flow Builder and Process Builder often comes down to a matter of user preference. Some people are more familiar with Process Builder or enjoy the more limited scope of the program. Looking ahead, Flow Builder’s added capabilities make it the must-learn Salesforce automation tool.
The fourth automation: approval rules
There’s one extra automation that can save managers a bit of time on routine tasks. Approval rules, the simplest of Salesforce’s automations, have one main function: validate that a request contains all of the conditions that fit its approval criteria.
This way, you can easily design approval rules to control who receives an approval request and when they receive it. With request and recall functionalities, approval emails can also significantly streamline sales reps’ work.
Use case: approving vacation requests
An employee submits a record with the dates of their requested vacation. Approval rules first check whether the information submitted meets the rules criteria you’ve set up on the Approvals object page, then sends an email alert for the final yes/no decision to the relevant party.
From there, the manager signs off on the request. Approval rules act as the first gatekeeper to make yes/no decisions arrive more smoothly within your company.
The best automation for each team
What’s the right automation tool for the job you have at hand?
Workflow Rules still see use in some organizations, but they’re becoming increasingly outdated as a solution. Building in Process Builder is virtually always a wiser alternative to WFRs, since you can easily add to or change the process as you see fit. It’s for this reason that Salesforce itself suggests Process Builder rather than WFRs. In addition, Process Builder allows for fewer processes, resulting in more flexibility and less clutter.
The choice is then between Process Builder and Flow Builder. As previously stated, some users prefer the more limited scope of Process Builder. Yet the fact that Flow Builder can be used for both internal and external processes gives it an edge over the other Salesforce automations available.
At the end of the day, your unique requirements should affect your choice first and foremost. It’s recommended to use the simplest tool for your use case, but also consider likely future requirements. This way Process Builder can come first with flows being incorporated over time. But Salesforce warns against using a simpler tool for complex requirements, as constant readjustment could result in wasted resources.
Whichever tools your teams end up using, it’s vital to build automation processes that work actively to eliminate repetitive work and allow employees to work with purpose. With the flexibility to customize the CRM system, Salesforce automations are one of the best ways to achieve a workplace that’s more focused around creative tasks including building the workflows themselves.