Go with the Flow: What’s Happening with Workflow Rules and Process Builder? : Jennifer W. Lee

Go with the Flow: What’s Happening with Workflow Rules and Process Builder?
by: Jennifer W. Lee
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If you’ve been keeping watch, you may have noticed there’s been a lot of investment in each release to enhance features in Flow Builder, the no/low-code solution for automation. If you caught the Winter ’22 Admin Preview Live, the True to the Core session at Dreamforce ’21, or our Automate Apps Fast for #AwesomeAdmins Dreamforce ’21 episode, you may have heard something about the retirement of Workflow Rules and Process Builder.

Many of you honed in on this and shared with the community via social that Workflow Rules and Process Builder were being retired. This can be nerve-wracking news to admins who have yet to learn Flow or admins of orgs who have a lot of workflow rules or processes that will need to be migrated to Flow. How do you get up to speed with Flow? How do you move your workflow rules and processes to Flow? What is the end-of-life (EOL) timeframe?

Here are FAQs on this topic from the Automation Product Management team and the Admin Relations team as well as a few currently available resources to get you going on your Flow journey.

Cloudy in the forest next to words that say "Flow FAQ."

Wait, can you catch me up on what’s been happening? What’s everyone talking about?

The Salesforce Platform currently has at least three tools which contain an overlapping set of automation functionality: Workflow Rules, Process Builder, and Flow. As we look to the future and listen to our customer feedback, it’s clear that process automation being spread across so many disparate toolsets hampers both maintenance and innovation. So, we’re going with the Flow. By investing your triggered automation in Flow, we can offer you a more robust and sustainable future — and a lot of great, new goodies.

As the future accelerates digital transformation, it’s clear that automation is not just a one-time project. It requires care and tending as you help it to grow and support your business — a little like that quarantine house plant we all bought. Flow is the right platform for the future to not only build out your workflows and process but also maintain and grow them as the demands of your business change.

Flow has a lot to recommend itself, and we aren’t slowing down on innovation either!

Flow can offer:

  • Better performance all around, as well as the ability to refine and streamline high-volume automation via features like Run Asynchronously, Fast Field Updates (Before Save), and Entry Conditions.
  • Better error handling, troubleshooting, and debugging. We’ve been adding to this feature set across Flow for several releases, so if you haven’t checked it out in a while, give it a go! You can click straight from an error email into the flow and see the path that was run. You can try different record-updates straight from the debugger in triggered flows. You can also see how your governor limits will be impacted while debugging.
  • Exceptional extensibility with Invocable Actions and Sub-Flows. Package up pieces of automation, either in Flow itself or in Apex, for re-use around your org to create building blocks to empower more admins and standardize common interactions.
  • A gateway into even MOAR! If you’ve been paying attention to pilots and betas across Salesforce, you’ve seen that more and more things look like Flow. Next Best Action is piloting moving Strategy Builder to Flow. Orchestrator is a tool built on top of Flow to orchestrate multi-user workflows and interactions. By learning Flow now and developing your admin muscle, you’ll be well-positioned to take on new products and innovations to offer to your users.

But what about that word “retirement?” Am I going to have to move all my existing automation?

We want to make Flow your one-stop shop for low-code automation. And we want to ensure that we can throw the full force of our developers into building awesome, new features and working on scaling up what we do have, which means we’re stopping active development on Process Builder and Workflow Rules. We don’t have a formal EOL announcement at this time, but we’re working on one as we write this, so expect more details to come soon. We want to give you advanced notice so you have plenty of time to learn Flow, review your org, give us feedback, and get automating!

The best way for you to maintain and future-proof your organization is to move your automation to Flow. That can be a large, daunting task for those of you who have become Process Builder rockstars or are looking at a giant pile of Workflow Rules that nobody has touched in 3 years. We know this will take time. That’s why we’re telling you now! We value transparency and feel that the best way for us to ensure a successful transition is to be open about our intent and let you tell us what you need to make this a reality.

With that in mind, here’s what we already have on our roadmap for migration:

  • We’re working on a migration tool that would automatically convert a workflow rule into a flow. That should be coming out early next year, with plans to add Process Builder migration as a follow-on.
  • We’re working through some remaining feature gaps and on some details of the runtime behavior. It’s difficult to fathom how deep our developers are going into the Order of Execution to work out details on parity between the toolsets and address some long-standing bugs. Yes, we’re encountering some of those age-old software problems; for example, if it’s been the behavior for this long, is it a bug or a feature? We’ll use the Flow API Version to ease in any changes here.
  • In general, we’re prioritizing migration for Workflow Rules before Process Builder. So don’t be surprised if that’s the order you see things get released or when more information gets shared.

#AwesomeAdmin Pro-Tip: In some cases, rather than migrate your workflow rules and processes as is, it may be beneficial to take the time to review them, especially automation that was built a while ago. Evaluate whether or not they’re needed (if not, perform a Marie Kondo and get rid of them) or can be improved. That is, consider that things you built later in your admin career are much better built than earlier in your career, rebuild automation into reusable components, or utilize newer automation features.

How much time do I have before Workflow Rules and Process Builder are retired? Will they just stop working one day?

At the moment, we don’t have an official timeline for all phases of retirement, and Workflow Rules and Process Builder still work. Shutting off running automation (your rules “just stop working”) would be the final step in the EOL process. Before that happens, we will begin by turning off the ability to create new workflow rules and new processes, so your existing rules can continue to run for some period of time while being migrated to Flow. That’s why starting with Flow now is the best way to prepare. We’re looking at turning off Create New near the end of 2023. We also plan to incorporate community feedback and put our upcoming migration tool to the test as we work out specific timelines.

To summarize, here are our current target timelines:

  • An initial migration tool with support for Workflow Rules translation to Flow will be released in Spring ’22.
  • Additional support for Process Builder migration is currently estimated for Summer ’22 (and dependent on feedback from the initial migration tool).
  • We plan to begin blocking the ability to create new processes and workflows in Winter ’23, pending successful migrations and community input.

These dates are all forward-looking statements and are subject to change.

How are you addressing parity gaps between Flow and both Workflow Rules and Process Builder?

Well, if you haven’t taken Flow for a spin lately, you may not be aware that we’ve addressed a lot of the major gaps in the last few releases!

Here are a few updates:

  • Scheduled Paths are a replacement for Scheduled Actions in Process Builder and Time-Based Workflow Rules. And they even have some new and improved features like support for minutes!
  • Flows can now call other sub-flows, a much-longed-for replacement for Process Builder’s ability to call flows.
  • Flow supports a variety of ways to track what has changed during a record-update. Often, you want to build logic that keeps track of what kind of edit was made by the user in the particular update.
    • Flow formulas support ISCHANGED(), ISNEW(), and PRIORVALUE().
    • Flow operators now show “is changed” as an option in the dropdown menu.
    • Flow entry conditions and decisions allow you to choose whether you’ll gate your conditions as being newly met (My status was changed to equal ‘Prioritized’ in this specific edit versus my record was updated and its status still equals ‘Prioritized’).
    • Flow contains an automatic variable called $Record__Prior which gives you the state of the record prior to the update. This allows you to reference any particular field value, and you can check whether it equals null if you want to distinguish between create and update.
  • Flow now supports calling Outbound Messages as well as Email Alerts from Workflow Actions.

Of course, there’s always more that we haven’t addressed. In particular, we look at this problem as both feature parity (“I can’t do X task”) and usability parity (“It’s so much harder to do Y”). Going forward, we feel we’ve met the biggest feature parity gaps, so while we continue to work on remaining ones, we’re also looking to address common tasks that are harder to accomplish in Flow than in Workflow Rules or Process Builder. We’ve been working on ease-of-use with field updates (Summer ’21) and initializing your trigger (Winter ’22), and we plan to continue that work with other common use cases as we move forward. We also know that there’s some confusion about how to use Flow, even in places where the functionality exists, so we’re also working on more training and content to help support you.

It always helps us to hear what your biggest Flow blockers are, so let us know!

What can I do now to start preparing my org for this change to Flow?

First and foremost, start building new automation in Flow. If you’re working on a new project, take some extra time to try to implement it in Flow and get comfortable. One of the best ways to do that is with our Fast Field Updates. Next time you need to trigger a field to update when something else on the record has changed, go to Record-Triggered Flows and use our Fast Field Update option (also known as Before Save for you techies out there). This will make sure they’re written optimally for performance and SOQL limits.

A record-triggered flow.

The Automation Product Management team loves Jen’s #AwesomeAdmin Pro-Tip above! We hear all the time from our customers that it’s not just about an auto-migration or which tool you use — it’s about the whole landscape of automation already running in your organization. If you have an org that’s been running for a while and been through a lot of ownership changes, it’s likely there’s automation that’s repeating itself or conflicting, or just not useful anymore. Doing some initial housekeeping and reviewing what’s already there is a great exercise, and a move to Flow is a perfect time to clean house.

Lastly, we have a replacement feature in Flow for Time-Based Workflows and Process Builder’s Scheduled Actions. It’s called Scheduled Paths and it’s available as an optional addition to record-triggered flows. This is a great place to do some initial migration because they’re generally more relaxed in terms of timing and when they run. This is what you’d use to automate reminders about due dates, renewals, or other dates in the system. If you use them in Flow, you’ll need to set up some Entry Conditions to make sure they only run when needed.

Example of a scheduled path.

Are there plans to retire email alerts?

There are no plans to retire email alerts or any other workflow actions. There’s also a Send Email action in Flow if you want to directly draft and send the email from within a single builder. The Automation Product Management team would like to know what else admins want to see for sending emails from automation. Post your idea on the IdeaExchange and share it with us on the Salesforce Automation Trailblazer Community.

Approval processes haven’t gotten love in a long time. Does Salesforce plan to retire approval processes? Where do approval processes fit in the “move to Flow” timeline?

Salesforce does not plan to retire approval processes anytime soon, as it’s a feature that’s actively used by thousands of our customers. You might have heard that Flow Orchestrator will replace approval processes long term, and that’s because we use an approval scenario to demonstrate Flow Orchestrator capabilities. In its current state, Flow Orchestrator can’t replace all capabilities of approval processes, but it will give you more flexibility in how you want to handle the approval because it’s based on Flow. Flow Orchestrator lets you design and automate a sophisticated business process that would require collecting information from multiple individuals or systems. It starts with simple approvals, but it can do a lot more!

Note: Flow Orchestrator is currently in beta in Winter ’22. This means the feature is rolled out publicly for testing. Beta features are normally given limited support, as they aren’t yet fully functional or finished features, so we recommend getting hands-on with these features in a sandbox. For information on pricing for Flow Orchestrator, please contact your Account Executive.

How do I start learning Flow? And how quickly can I get up to speed?

We recommend you start learning Flow with Trailhead. Check out the trails listed in the Resources section below to get started.

There’s a learning curve to Flow, but know that underneath the covers, the automation you built in Process Builder is actually a flow. You’ve been building flows all along without knowing it! There’s no better way to learn Flow than to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty by building one. Start off with a simple use case and get that working. As you learn more concepts and get more comfortable, add to the complexity. Knowledge grows more as you actually build and practice.

Please refer to the Automation page on the Salesforce Admins site and in the Resources section below for more Salesforce content to help you learn Flow.

The community also provides many resources for learning Flow as well. If you run into problems as you build flows, ask for help on the Salesforce Automation Trailblazer Community or the #processes-flows-wfrs channel in the #OhanaSlack workspace (contact Meighan Brodkey for access).

How will Salesforce assist me in this transition?

The Admin Relations team is working with the Automation Product Management team on creating content to help you with the transition from workflow rules and processes to Flow and on skilling up in Flow Builder in a variety of mediums. Look for MOAR to come.

Again, let us know what would be most helpful to you!

What admins can do next

If you’re new to Flow, start hitting the trails on Trailhead to learn more. Then, start building a very basic flow. For example, start off with one that updates a field on the contact record after a new contact is created. Next, try updating a field on the account associated with the contact after the contact is updated to have a certain field value. Continue to work on small use cases to reach that comfort level.

If you have some Flow skills but prefer building your automation with workflow rules and processes, we encourage you to start building your new record-triggered automation with Flow. Also, consider moving your scheduled actions from a process into a scheduled path in Flow.

Don’t forget to celebrate the wins! Share your success stories with us @SalesforceAdmns on Twitter.

As always, please let us know how we can help you.


The post Go with the Flow: What’s Happening with Workflow Rules and Process Builder? appeared first on Salesforce Admins.

October 04, 2021 at 09:00PM
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