Let it Flow

Q: What’s the Flow Builder? How is it different from Process Builder?

As I mentioned in our previous conversation about the process builder, Salesforce gives you several options for managing workflow.

To recap again for those who may not have read other posts, workflow is the term we use to refer to the automation tools Salesforce makes available, including process builder, flow builder, and approval processes.

In order to keep this conversation conversational, I don’t want to discuss the flow builder in technical detail, but rather to provide an idea of what it can be used to do.

Let’s say you’re a support agent at my fictional company which makes and sells sunglasses. The phone rings, a customer calling in to report that the hinge of their sunglasses has broken and that they’d like to send them in for a repair. Let’s say we have a custom object to track repairs, which we can relate to the case object. First, we need to create a case, then create a repair, and associate the two. How can we get this done?

Well, we could start by creating a new case manually, asking the customer for the relevant information. Then we could create a repair record, again asking the customer for the same information, relating the two records, hoping we hadn’t forgotten to fill in any information that is necessary.

So that’s one option, but it’s not the best options. Instead, we could…

Build a Flow

We can standardize these steps as well as the information we gather by asking our administrator to create a flow. Our administrator can set up a screen flow that prompts for information and does work behind the scenes as that information is entered.

So now, imagine the same support representative can launch a screen flow by clicking a button called “Initiate Repair,” and a series of successive screens prompt him or her for all the necessary information, creating and relating the correct objects without any risk of a required field going empty and creating a delay or issue with the repair itself.

You know what would be even cooler? If we could also expose that functionality directly to our customers via a customer community, so they could fill out the information themselves without the interaction with a support agent required. Self-service isn’t for everyone, but it’s pretty cool to offer the option, and building a flow can accomplish just that.

It’s not Process Builder

What’s the main difference? Let’s keep this simple.

Flows require user interaction – an input and output of information that ultimately provides a standardized way to accomplish a task such as creating a case, as we described earlier.

Process Builder, on the other hand, operates entirely behind the scenes without user interaction.

Now last but not least, I’ll tease you by mentioning that something really powerful happens when process builder and flow builder are combined. A flow can create a record, and then an instance of process builder can automatically fire to send off an email to the user to give them a link to track the status of their repair, for example. Or, a process builder instance can conditionally launch a flow – if a user updates and saves a record, now we can prompt that same user to complete a flow to provide more information.

That’s all, cheers! Check out the other Conversations here.

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