How To: Getting Started with Visual Flow (Part 1)


Welcome to the first part of a post about Getting Started with Visual Workflow. I thought it’s about time we started looking into Visual Workflow, or simply Flow, in more depth, especially as it’s often touted as a saviour to many automation challenges on the success community. Until now, it has been the last option which I myself have thrown into list of things to try when answering questions.

Flow is popping up all over the place, is mentioned regularly in the various Salesforce podcasts and is also the subject of many discussions by the Salesforce twitterati. With each release Salesforce is expanding its features and capabilities. The feature set is now very close to having the ability to replace the need to code basic commonly-required Apex triggers and the more complex multi-step business processes.

Let’s start with the basics you’ll need to know. Diving in is great, but at some point you will need to RTM. Best place to start is downloading and reading the Visual Workflow Guide. It’s pretty long, but worth reading at least online.


Salesforce Editions which support Visual Workflow:

  • Developer Edition
  • Enterprise Edition
  • Performance Edition
  • Unlimited Edition

Chance to Upgrade: Professional Edition or lower will not be able to get Flow as standard. You would have to purchase as an add-on separately, but if you need this, then you probably need API too which then means you are ready for Enterprise Edition! Admins, you have a strong business case to take to your boss for upgrading!

What is Visual Workflow? 

Visual Flow allows business processes to be implemented as a series of steps (or screens) designed to guide the User Experience from start to finish. Previously implementing multi-step processes in Salesforce like this would have fallen on the heads of the development team, who would implement a series of Pages and Controllers using Apex. By nature these processes tend to be complex to understand from a business perspective, as often there are multiple paths and outcomes which need discovering and figuring out – even before a line of code gets written.

Workflow versus Visual Flow

Workflows have been around for as long as I can remember. Workflows have not really changed; but then it hasn’t needed to due to developers willingly plugging the gaps. Workflows tend to be single-point automations that get triggered by the creation or changes to record data. I have come across many users who have felt short-changed by the limits because simple things like creating records or setting lookup field values seemed starkly absent and that therefore they still require a developer to write code to fully implement a business process.

Visual Flow in contrast eliminates the need to write actual code and addresses some of the workflow engine’s gaps. Flow’s approach is very different as creation is declarative and provides a real sense of programming without actually coding. The most recent pilot iteration of Visual Flow included Flow triggers which can be triggered from Workflows, which is a pretty strong marriage that works well. Although you can’t help feeling the engines need merging and updating…. Umm could something be announced at this year’s Dreamforce?

Let’s take a closer look at some of the Use Cases where Flow can and gets applied:

Use Case – Order Entry

Order entry process involving multiple steps and dependencies to drive the user path can be implement as a series of screens easily using the Flow designer.  The finished Flow would guide the user through the order entry process and end with a fully completed order. Previously as a single order entry screen, the process may have been difficult and problematic to the users entering; the knock on effect would have been the sales ops team potentially spending time correcting orders. Business value is huge here!

Use Case – Call Scripting

Another common use case is in Customer Service where often call scripting is used by the Agents as a way to guide the customer through the support process based on the different responses given.

For example a call about hardware would branch the agent down a path which prompts them to ask the customer for a part number and entirely different path if the customer had been asking about software installed on a machine.

Use Case – Productivity Enhancements

Flow also fits in nicely as a way to supplement core business processes with small productivity improvements. For example a Primary Contact identified during the Opportunity phase of the sales cycle. The Sales Rep who is on the phone with a Prospect can trigger Flow from a custom button on the Opportunity page which opens up a new window for the Sales Rep to enter the contact details without having to navigate away from the page. Then the entered details are then used to create the contact record and the associated Opportunity Contact role in one fluid hit.

There you have it! Visual Flow may be an ever changing and fast evolving feature set but it’s core purpose and value remains the same.  As businesses demand more agility from systems, and as faster iterations are expected to continually deliver value, you simply cannot afford not to be leveraging flow in some way within your org; if you aren’t, you are missing a a serious trick.

Next time, in Part 2 of Getting Started with Visual Flow we will look at how we build an actual flow taking one of the use cases from this post – stay tuned, we will be posting shortly.



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