Workflow Rules: Wolf or Sheep?

Q: What’s a workflow rule?

I almost don’t want to write this post.

I mean, I know, workflow rules are super powerful, a cornerstone of Salesforce, easy automation, yada yada yada. And yeah, one of my most popular posts/videos ever is about Time-Based Workflow Rules.

But workflow rules are my nightmare. I react with visceral fear to the very mention of adding another workflow rule, or when I go to update a set of records and it fails because some workflow rule goes haywire. I’m shuddering right now thinking about it. Let’s get this over with.

Wait, before we start (yes, I’m just delaying the inevitable), we need to mention that workflow and workflow rules are not interchangeable terms. Workflow is constantly often redefined by Salesforce, but it refers to the entire collection of functionalities that provide automation (approval processes, workflow rules, flows, process builder). Obviously, workflow rules are a component of workflow.

Workflow rules allow you to automate business processes. They consist of criteria (when do I execute?) and actions (what do I do?). You can:

  • Create a Task
  • Send an Email
  • Update a Field
  • Create an Outbound Message

Sounds pretty great, right? No!

I’m only being partially facetious when I say that workflow rules are wolves in sheep’s clothes. Just as you’d expect, they have all the power and majesty of wolves, and the approachable facade of a sheep. However, you also might invite them to spend the night in your barn, and wake up to find they’ve eaten all your chickens.

I know very little about barns and farm animals, so I hope that metaphor made sense.

Are you suggesting not to use Workflow Rules?

Yes! Unequivocally. Mark your calendars, I’m insane.

If you’re a new administrator, do yourself a favor learn the process builder. If you’re an old administrator, attached to your workflow rules, suck it up and learn the process builder. Oh, and start migrating.

Why? Well that’s actually fodder for another post.

While I will concede there are still organization-specific use cases where workflow rules will cause less headache, that’s usually because there already exists a crazy, complex mesh of workflow rules. IE. you’re doubling down on a sunk cost by investing more; you’re buying a typewriter in 2019 because your office is already full of them, and you “don’t want to ruin the aesthetic.”

Salesforce has made it very clear that workflow now consists of process builder and flow builder, and workflow rules will “no longer be enhanced” (sounds like a slow goodbye to me). So yeah, all that and the fact that the process builder is a lot more powerful and extensible than workflow rules.

Need more links, more reasons? Here’s A quick look at the Process Builder. Need infinite power? Extend PB with Invocable Apex. Last, here’s Salesforce not-so-subtly telling you why you need to migrate.

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

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