How to Gather Requirements for a Salesforce Workflow Rule


There are plenty of posts that tell you how to create a workflow. But very few, if any, tell you how to work with an over-caffeinated boss who wants emails sent to five different people based on every status update of a lead. Or how you deal with a room full of users who want nothing short of a thousand tasks created when an opportunity closes. So in this post I won’t tell you how to create a workflow, I will break down it’s components, but what I will do is help you break through the crazy. How to ask the right questions and bring up the right concerns so that you can manage expectations and deliver the results your over-caffeinated boss really wants.

Making Sense of the Menu

Salesforce Workflow Rule MenuI know in the setup menu it can be confusing. So let me break it down for you with this graphic. Workflow rules are like recipes. And if you have ever cooked anything you know that recipes have components. Advanced Admins can created components of a workflow first, then create the workflow to tie all the components together. If you are new to creating workflows you can create the components as you go- for the most part. Does that clear up the menu confusion? Good, I’m sure it will get better in the future but for now it’s what we got. Oh and yes, there are more components here like Approval Processes and Flows. But those are a whole new level of crazy that your boss could hand. So let’s tackle those at a later date ok?

Making Sense of the Crazy

Let me start this section by saying that it’s best to gather workflow requirements from the stakeholder of the process instead of individual users. I’ve made this mistake early on in my career by listening to users and trying to combine all of their requests. The result- as you can imagine- was pretty bad. To avoid that make sure you communicate regularly with the stakeholder of the process so they know all of the alerts, field updates, and tasks that are generated as a result of a record update.

Emails for everyone!

If Oprah were to create a workflow it would be “And you get an email, and you get an email, and you get an email! Everyone gets an email!” The fact of the matter is that we still live in an email heavy time so the first requests you will get is for an email to be sent for EVERYTHING that is done to a record.

Ok. We can do that. But…

First, talk worst case scenario. Let’s say a Sales Manager wants an email update every time an opportunity hits 90% probability. No problem. My first question would be “How many emails do you get a day?”. Next, lets bring up a worse case scenario- it’s the end of the month and your sales people update dozens of opportunities. Are you prepared for potentially hundreds of emails? It’s at this point that maybe a scheduled report sent to the manager would be a better aggregator for them, rather than an email for everything.

Write it like a story

Gathering requirements from users or managers for an admin can be a challenge. If you ask them for a document or an email chances are you will get something returned with more bullets than an NRA convention. And generally confusing.

We can fix that.

The best tip I got for gathering requirements came from fellow Salesforce MVP- Garry Polmateer who told me to “write it like a story”. This sounds incredibly simple, but everyone knows how to tell a story and it actually makes for better requirements.

When a user edits an Account and changes the Type from Prospect to Customer a task should be assigned to Jill in Finance to set up a billing account and update the account number.

See how much easier that is to understand than a series of bullets? And the stakeholder can continue to write additional requirements telling the story of what happens are the record moves through the update process.

Can we do this a better way?

This question should always be going through your mind. Good workflow rules keep fields up to date and in accordance with a well defined process. Good workflow updates keep users on track and informed. Bad workflow rules fill user’s inboxes with annoying emails, create tons of tasks, and make users frustrated.

Field updates are perfect for workflows. But when lots of emails are requested- maybe a report is better. If users who don’t have a license need to be notified now is your opportunity to grow adoption in your company. Aside from getting access to Salesforce now they can collaborate with others.

One final piece of advice

If you are setting up workflow rules in a new organization be aware of just how many tasks and emails a user can potentially receive. To a new user the amount can be overwhelming and turn them off to the system right away.

Also, and this is very big. Before importing any data check to see if you will fire workflows. Do this EVERY TIME, no exceptions. I’m guilty of importing hundreds of rows of data and filling user’s inboxes. So take a moment, check your workflows first.

Photo Credit: Kevin Utting via Flickr

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