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How to choose the right Salesforce workflow

3 min read
Sayer Martin
Director, Product Management Conga
Man working on laptop from coffee shop

 Automation in Salesforce. Salesforce workflow. Workflow automation. Process automation.

These are the buzz phrases we hear when it comes to taking work that humans used to do and making it happen without them. Entire professions are built around it, and for good reason. The short-term return on investment can be impressive and the math to figure it, easy: How long does it take for a person to do it and how many times do they do that work each day/month/year? This is the dollar amount to be saved by automating. Divide this by the cost to automate and you have your return on investment. Automation allows those humans to avoid rote, repetitive, boring work, and instead spend time on higher value tasks. It gives time back to human employees to do the strategic work that counts.

Automation in Salesforce can be as simple as adding a single Process Builder or building a basic Flow. The use case is what matters; as the automation use cases increase, so can the levels of complexity. Let’s dive into the different use cases and appropriate Salesforce workflows for each.

Process Builder

If your rule is as simple as, “If this, then that,” choose Process Builder. With Process Builder, you’ll define the object type and conditions under which it should run (“if this”) and what should happen as a result (“then that”). It’s powerful within record creation and updates, invoking other processes, sending communications (Chatter, email, custom notifications), and submitting records for approval. The skill set of a Salesforce Administrator is required.


Looking for a wizard-like walk-through experience for a single user at a time? Flow is what you want. Its user interface has recently undergone a revamp. You’ll see the actions and the connectors between each of them. Flows can have screens (or not), can be run once or on a schedule, and used in field service and contact request use cases. The skill set required here is a bit more advanced, as you’ll need to think like a programmer and have more of a Salesforce Advanced Administrator knowledge base.

Robotic Process Automation

Beyond this, automation can get much more complex. 

Want to automate what a person might use a “swivel chair” for: pulling from and entering data across multiple systems and applications? Take a look at Robotic Process Automation. Robotic Process automation lets software do the work of humans interacting with different systems, actually performing clicks and data entry on desktop-app and web forms. 

For example, it can take each line from an Excel spreadsheet and then copy and paste that data into another system. Or, think reading and processing information from a driver’s license as part of employee onboarding. Like Flow, you’ll (mostly) need to think like a programmer here, though the recorder utilities are very powerful.

Custom code and process automation

Integrating Salesforce with other web-based systems that have APIs? Think Mulesoft or custom code. Systems with APIs are fantastic and let you integrate the point where the integration is invisible to most users. It’s the most seamless way for two systems to speak to each other. This use case often requires an engineer/programmer to build and maintain. 

Are your processes long-running, with multiple human steps combined with automation? Process orchestration becomes important here. Depending on the system, advanced functionality may be declarative and require only a Business Analyst-type skill set. Conga Orchestrate is an example of such an application—a no-code digital process automation tool that’s built on Salesforce. 

Are your processes locked up in the collective heads of your team? Not sure how the process looks? Quickly drafting, discussing, and revising process diagrams in Lucidchart to gain buy-in before automating is another great way to quickly determine the entire process and pick the pieces that can be automated. This is the most important step in getting started regardless of which automation type(s) fit your requirements. The process you’re automating should guide your tool choices. 

To sum it up, it’s all about the use case. No single tool fits every use case. Use the right tool to solve the right problem. 

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