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Visual Flow - What is it and how do I know if I need it?

Salesforce have already given us workflows and process builder but, sometimes they just don’t cut it. 

How often have you started a workflow or a process and realised it just won’t do what you need it to?

Well say Hello to Visual Flow…   Visual Flow lets you automate business processes, collect, update, edit, create and delete Salesforce date/records.  You can even call Apex Classes and all without code!  Oh, and it has a drag and drop interface too. 

We all know how hard it can be to get users to fill in the right data, so what would you say to showing the users pre-defined screens walking them through what they needed to enter, how great would that be?

What if you worked on an IT service desk, it would be really cool if you had a set of screens which talked you through the customer’s issues and suggested fixes etc.

Whilst Visual flow is more of a front-end tool, using a set of screen and actions triggered by the user, although flows can be used for a multitude of processes and can be autolaunched.

So how does it work?

So, let get down to the nitty gritty.

Flow contains a number of components:

Palette

Menu.JPG

Step Element (input screens)
Kind of Placeholders, which can be converted into an input screen, these are the building blocks of the Flow.

Screen Element
Screens can be created using the Screen Element or converted from a Step above.  The screens are a series of windows that are presented to the user who can use the previous or next buttons to move through them. The Screen element allows you to add Fields, Buttons, etc.

Decision
Uses logic and data inputs to move the user to the next logical step.

Assignment
Allows variables to be set to store data for the process as data variables may need to be set or rest during the process

Loop
Uses a loop variable to hold the values for the current item, then it loops round to the next item in the variable.

Wait
Allows you to add a ‘waiting time’ to a flow before an event is triggered

Data
Data components are used when you need to look for a value or a record or need to create, update or delete a record.

Apex
New Apex Code can be created specifically for your flow or you can call existing Apex code.

Flow
You can call existing flows within more complex flows and flows can be used more than once.

Connector
Controls how the flow is executed.

 Resources

resources.JPG

Variable
Used to store updateable values

Collection Variable
Can store multiple updated values of the same data type

sObject Variable
Updateable field values for a specific Salesforce Record

sObject Collection Variable
As above but for multiple Salesforce Records.

Stage
Progress through the Flow in the logic or the UI such as some kind of indicator.

Constant
Fixed value to use throughout the flow.

Formula
Store numeric formulas.

Text Template
Store Text for the flow.

Choice
Standalone choice option.

Dynamic Record Choice
Collects data from an object’s records and generates a set of choices when run.

Picklist Choice
Generates a set of choices form the values of s Picklist or Multi-select picklist.

The great thing with Resources is that they can be created on the fly, no more having to cancel out, create the variable and restart the process!

Got it, but it seems complicated so can you show me an example?

It is complex and, when you first start with Flow, it requires patience, lots of coffee or alcohol (or whatever floats your boat) and time.  Don’t get disheartened if it doesn’t work first time, perseverance is the key!

Right an example hmm …. OK have a look at my next Blog ‘Crafty things with Visual Flows, Process Builder and a bit of Magic‘.

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