Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Jen Lee, Lead Solution Designer at John Hancock, six-time MVP, and Salesforce Platform Champion. We’re continuing Automation April to learn how you can bring automation magic into your Salesforce instance and make your end users’ lives easier.

Join us as we talk about why you should go with the simplest automation solution for each problem, why you shouldn’t only think about the “happy path,” and how to learn more about flow.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Jen Lee.

Automation for admins

“I like being able to talk to the business users, understand what their business processes are, and then be able to automate those processes for them,” Jen says. She does just that in her day-to-day work as a Lead Solution Designer at John Hancock, but also in the content she creates for the community. Jen is the host of Automation Hour, a series that gives people a chance to present how they’ve used automation to make things easier in their org.

One important thing to realize is that automation doesn’t just impact user productivity—it can also be huge for admin productivity. Jen recently implemented a solution that goes back and removes a deactivated user from everything a week after they’ve been deactivated, saving admins from having to wade through public groups and permission sets and the like. “The admin doesn’t have to remember to do these things, the system remembers for them,” Jen says.

New flow features

Jen is excited about several new features that have come to flows in recent releases. The first thing she highlights is improved functionality behind Record Trigger Flows, which will help you move processes to flows. Another huge change is the inclusion of a link to Flow Builder in your dreaded Flow Fault email to help you pinpoint what’s going wrong without having to into debug logs.

If you’re looking to get started with flow, Jen recommends getting started with the projects in Trailhead that focus on flow. There are also some really great blogs out there that can help you along the way, and we’ve included her recommendations below. The community is generous and happy to help, so if you’re ever stuck make sure you reach out.

How to implement a new automation in your org

When Jen is thinking about a new process or building a new automation for her org, she starts by talking with users to find out how they currently go through their process. It’s especially important to get them to break down how they know they need to do each step because that’s what you’re trying to automate.

Once you have the business process mapped out, you need to ask yourself: what is the simplest configuration you could use to implement it? “What fires off the process determines which path I take,” Jen says, “understand what triggers the process and then determine the best flow or Process Builder option to take.” Keep in mind that you need to not only think about what happens when everything goes right, but also plan for and troubleshoot for what happens when everything goes wrong. As Jen put it, “don’t just think about the happy path.”

Jen also shares some ideas for how to train your users to work with new automations and show them how to integrate them into their daily routines, so make sure you listen to the full episode for more tips and tricks.

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Full Show Transcript

Gillian Bruce: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins podcast, where we talk about product, community and careers to help you be an awesome admin. Today we have another Automation April guest for you, because we are going to still focus on how you can bring automation magic into your Salesforce instance. Because as admins it’s one of the most important things we can do, is help make our end users lives easier. And we can do that because we’ve got the tools with Salesforce to make that possible. Today, we are going to be talking with Jen Lee. Who’s a lead solution designer at John Hancock. She’s a six time MVP, a Salesforce Platform champion. She’s also got lots of Salesforce certifications. She has a blog. She helps co-host something called Automation Hour, which we’ll talk about. So without further ado to help talk more about automation in this month of April. Let’s welcome Jen to the podcast.
Jan, welcome to the podcast.

Jen Lee: Thanks for having me.

Gillian Bruce: It’s been long overdue to have you back on the pod. It’s been been a while, so happy to have your voice back on the pod. Jen I’m sure many people, many listeners already know who you are, but I’d love to give you a chance to introduce yourself to maybe some listeners who aren’t familiar with you. So Jen, can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Jen Lee: Sure. I’m Jennifer Lee. I am based in Boston and I am a now six time MVP. So excited about that. I love automation. So we’ll talk about that in a little bit, a little bit more about that. I currently work for John Hancock as a lead solution designer. So I work with all our agile squads to set best practices and governance standards for all our orgs and I review designs and review built solutions before they go to production.

Gillian Bruce: That is awesome. All right. So you said you love automation. I would love to hear a little bit about why you love automation.

Jen Lee: I like being able to talk to the business users, understand what their business processes are and then be able to declaratively or sometimes with a little bit of code help, be able to automate those processes for them. So taking manual steps and just with a click of a button, or if they make changes to record, be able to save that and then it does all the things for them. So that’s just cool being able to help them and boost their productivity.

Gillian Bruce: Yeah. I think that’s one of the core elements of being, what we like to call an awesome admin, right? Is being able to make our end users lives easier and help them do their jobs with less tasks involve. So let’s talk a little bit about your expertise in automation and what you are doing in that space. So I know you’ve done a lot of content for the community on automation. Can you talk to us a little bit about kind of some of the main things that you do within the Trailblazer Community focused on automation?

Jen Lee: Oh, I forgot to even mention my blog in the intro. How did I forget that? I have a blog, jenwlee.com. I also co-host Automation Hour. So in Automation Hour, for example, we give people a forum to present automation and how they solutioned for the audience. So different skill sets, but we cover all things like Process Builder and flow. But particularly what I focus on is, more so now, on Flow Builder and all the cool features that I could build with flow. I focus on things like the administrative side of things, the user maintenance side. For example, when you’re deactivating a user, a lot of times admins don’t go back and clean up all the other things that the user is part of. So like public groups, permission sets, cues, all those things. And at John Hancock, I built a solution that once we deactivate a user and a week afterwards, just to make sure that the user doesn’t need to be activated again. We go and have an automated scheduled flow that goes through and removes them from all the things.
So that an admin doesn’t have to go to public groups and remove from permission sets and licenses and all that sort of thing. So it’s really focusing on building up the productivity. So someone doesn’t have to remember to do those things.

Gillian Bruce: So I think I love that story because what I hear this is like a automation that works for admin productivity, as opposed to just end user productivity.

Jen Lee: I even do things like, if we know certain users meet a certain criteria, we could add and remove permission sets accordingly or permission set groups, things like that. Again, the admin doesn’t have to remember to add these people to those things. The system remembers for them.

Gillian Bruce: Oh, I love that. I love that. Less manual labor is always a good thing. So Jen, you mentioned, flow is definitely something that we are focused on here in Automation April as I kind of dubbing it. What are some things that are kind of newer in flow that you think admin should pay attention to because they either make you excited or you see some great value props from them?

Jen Lee: Yeah. And I want to give props to the PMs of automation because they continue to add such great features with each release. So some of the things to look out for is now there’s a lot more functionality behind record triggered flows. So now you can take your processes and start moving them to flows because Flow Builder’s going to be the end state automation tool. So you can now remediate that tech debt, where you have all these processes and start moving them to flow. They’ve done a lot in terms of helping out with debugging flows. So one of the most recent changes in the last release was now when you get that ugly looking flow fault email, it includes a link to the Flow Builder. So you click on that. It takes you directly into Flow Builder where your flow faulted. And so now you could visually see where the record went and then it stopped.
So it just adds to the whole troubleshooting, being able to quickly troubleshoot and not have to go into like debug logs and things like that. And then some of the other features when I compare to when I first started learning flow. Now in Flow Builder, you don’t have to set all the variables, because way back when in Cloud Flow Designer, for everything that you needed to hold data for, you’re creating a variable. And now this has really helped speed up the learning curve on flow, because you can have Salesforce Flow, create those variables for you. You could still create them if you want to, but it’s just speeds up the development process of creating flows.

Gillian Bruce: So I vividly remember Jen, the first time that I tried to use flow and it was the old Cloud Designer. Oh my goodness. And I remember, I didn’t even understand what a variable was. And I was so confused because I felt like I was having to create six things in order to just do a two or three step flow. Especially not being from a developer background, I didn’t even understand these concepts. I’m like, “What is an SObject? What is a variable? Why do I need to set these things? What is this language I’m using? I don’t get it.” So when you mentioned that, with the new version of flow, which is amazing. The fact that Salesforce automate some of that, might make it a little easier for anyone who got a little intimidated by flow in previous years to kind of maybe think about diving in to flow land. I keep naming different lands on this podcast. I don’t even know how many there are at this point.
But can you talk to us a little bit about, maybe somebody who’s new to flow or is a little hesitant. Can you talk a little bit about how they might think about or approach flow land? What are your tips and advice for people and why they should do that and how they should approach it?

Jen Lee: So I had a very similar experience to what you had when you first started with Cloud Flow Designer. I opened up that blank canvas and saw variable. What’s a variable? What’s the SObject stuff. And I immediately closed the browser. I’m like, “I don’t know what this is. I have no idea.” And I eventually kept at it and I am where I am today because I was persistent. But I totally understand if you started off with that and you looked at that, you’re like, “Okay, this is so complex.” You really did need a developer mindset to understand what it was that you needed to do. So I would say, “Okay, now is the time, where it’s okay to go into Flow Builder.”
So now instead of understanding SObjects, you have just one Get Records and one Update Records, and one Delete Record. You didn’t have to know whether this was a fast update or a regular update. And again, I mentioned not needing to create variables, all that stuff is done for you. And it just makes it so much easier to use the tool. So I would recommend, if you haven’t played around with the projects in Trailhead that focus on flow, I would recommend going and doing that. Because it goes through step-by-step on how to create something in flow. I would also recommend reading the blogs of people who teach flow. So my blog, Rakesh Gupta’s Automation Champion blog. There’s so many out there right now. But really taking one of those that have a use case that you could connect with and actually go through the steps of building it and then just keep at it.
And the community is just so great that when you have a question, whether it’s on Twitter or it’s on some Slack channel or on the Trailblazer Community, you post that question, people are so helpful that even if they can’t do it within the Trailblazer Community, because it might be a little bit complex going back and forth. I’ve seen people post messages, like “I will jump on the phone with you and I will help walk you through it.” So I’d say, try it. And if it doesn’t work, keep trying, but reach out for help. Because there’s so many people willing to help out and eventually it will connect. It will connect for you.

Gillian Bruce: I love it. Yeah, the generosity of the Trailblazer Community always blows me away about how people are so willing to spend their time to help someone else learn. Just a simple little thing or troubleshoot a simple issue. And then it just grows from there. It’s incredible. It’s incredible. So Jen, can you also talk to us a little bit about your overarching strategy. You talked earlier about, the use case that you had, automatically removing a user, a deactivated user from processes. When you’re developing a new process, or thinking about bringing a new type of automation into your org. What are kind of the first steps that you take? Maybe even before you start building it. How do you figure out what you need to build? What kind of teams and meetings and stuff do you set up? Talk to us a little bit about that.

Jen Lee: So if it’s benefiting the user, I would typically talk to the user and have them show me the steps that they currently take to do X, whatever it is, that they’re doing. And literally step through the process and I’ll say, “How do you know you had to put this value in there.” Because sometimes when they’re clicking, they’re not talking through the things that they determine in their head. Because ultimately when you’re building out automation, you need to be able to know those things and tell Salesforce what they need to do or how. Or I need to get this account information. How did I know which account to get?
So those are the things that you need to… Like on paper, write down, here’s what the business processes, or here are all the manual steps that need to happen in decisions. Write it down, map it out in some process diagram, and then get consensus. Like, this is what I heard you. And then this is the pieces that I’m going to automate and how I understood the process to be. Get consensus, and then that’s when you then go into Salesforce and actually build it out.

Gillian Bruce: I love that. I liked the verification step that you just mentioned too. First you kind of do your investigation with asking the user the very detailed questions of why did you put that there? Where did that come from?

Jen Lee: With the five whys, why did you do that? Why? Why?

Gillian Bruce: Right. Channel your inner toddler and just drive them a little crazy, but it’ll work. It’ll make them happier in the end. And then the verification of showing them the process that then you’ve mapped out based on what they’ve showed you. And then getting the like, “Yes, that’s what we do.” Or maybe, “No, you skipped a step.” Or “That’s not how that’s related.” I think that’s really important to think about.
So the next step then Jen is, how do you then start thinking about how to put that into Salesforce? How do you figure out what features to use? Maybe even from when you start building it to. Whatever tests and stuff you do, and then even through rollout and getting users to start adopting it. Can you talk us through a little bit about how you do that?

Jen Lee: So once I understand the requirements or business process, then I’ll think through, what’s the simplest configuration that I could use. Maybe it might not be flow. Maybe it’s just a quick action that takes you to the page with fields, and then that’s how you submit it and save it. So if it is automation, then I’ll figure out, do I go the Process Builder route? Is it something that’s a record change? And then it does other things, or can I start in flow directly. Figuring out what fires off the process, determines which path I take. So if it requires collecting information then I know that, that’s a screen flow. If it’s something that happens on a schedule basis and that’s scheduled flow. So it’s like understanding what triggers the process and then determining the best flow option or Process Builder option to take.
Then when I build out my flow, for testing purposes, you need to consider not only the happy path when everything goes right, but also the other things that could potentially go wrong. And then in testing you have to build in controls that might prevent those errors from happening. So for example, if your process looks for a value in the field, and then it does these other things, well, then you need to put in a check. Does this field have a value before you go in or else your flow’s going to fault. So then you need to put in those extra measures to check for that. And then also in your testing, you need to do negative testing and make sure that those things don’t happen as well.

Gillian Bruce: I love that. Don’t just think about the happy path. It’s very important to remember. Because I think sometimes we work so hard to build something and you just are so focused on how cool that is and it works and it’s so great. But you got to remember, users are going to do all kinds of stuff and you never know.

Jen Lee: Exactly. And you’re like, “Why did you do that? I didn’t even think of that situation.” So then you have to go back and build that situation in. Yep.

Gillian Bruce: Yeah. Again, kind of going back to a toddler analogy since I have one. It’s like thinking about all the possible things that they might do to destroy something, right?

Jen Lee: Exactly.

Gillian Bruce: You got to move the sharp objects, another shelf up, or you’ve got to put the door knob protector on there, all of the different things. So let’s then talk about kind of rolling a new automation out to your users. So you’ve got it built, you’ve tested it, it works. What are some strategies? Because you don’t work at a small organization. Tell us a little bit about how you roll out a new feature set or a new process to your user base.

Jen Lee: So depending on how many users we’re touching, we might in our release, provide release notes to let folks know, hey, there’s a change coming. Sometimes when it’s automation, it might be just transparent to them, and they shouldn’t need to know that something’s changed behind the scenes. But if it’s something that’s taking manual steps and automating it, we would typically maybe do a video clip and send it out to the users, or on Lightning, you could use that in-app guidance. And for a period of time, if they’re going on a page where you have that automation, give them a heads up. Here’s what’s different now, to let them know.

Gillian Bruce: Yeah. It’s a very good point about the in-app guidance. It’s a great tool for any admin looking to roll out anything. So Jen, I would love to kind of, before we wrap, have a little fun. So Jen, you have been in the Salesforce ecosystem for a while and in the Trailblazer Community. I would love to know what is one of the most interesting or funny, maybe use cases or demos, that you have seen from either in your own that you’ve built as an example or somebody else in the community who shared something that kind of made you giggle?

Jen Lee: I know I saw someone build automation where they use it to play a Blackjack game. And I thought that was an interesting thing. And I forget if it was Dreamforce or it was a webinar or something. But yeah, I thought that was an interesting use case to build with automation. I wouldn’t have ever thought about that.

Gillian Bruce: I wouldn’t either. There you go. I like it. That’s great. All right. So any kind of last parting thoughts or pieces of advice you love to leave our amazing, awesome admin listeners about automation in general? Before we wrap up today.

Jen Lee: Create that automation because that’s really using your awesome admin powers to help out your users and increase their productivity.

Gillian Bruce: I love it. Simple, great, powerful. Jen, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today. I really appreciate it. And I so appreciate all the work you do with Automation Hour and your blog. I know it helps thousands and thousands of awesome admins in the community. So thank you.

Jen Lee: Thanks Gillian for having me back.

Gillian Bruce: Well, huge thanks to Jen for taking the time to chat with me. It’s always great to catch up with her and of course talk about all things automation. So for my top takeaways from our chat with Jen today is first of all, when you’re thinking about implementing or designing an automated solution for your users, go with the simplest path possible. As Jen says, that is going to set you up for success in the longterm. It’s also going to make your job easier. So really think about what type of automation is needed. Is it something where you need to capture information, in which Jen suggests using Screen Flow? Is it something where when a record changes, other actions need to happen? This is where you really determine which type of automation you are going to build.
Next, think more than just about the happy path, as Jen says, thought this was great. You know, we really love to get proud of ourselves. We build complex awesome, beautiful automated solutions, but guess what? People are going to do all kinds of things to that process. So make sure you try all of the different ways in which that process may or may not break. As I said, think of it as childproofing your process for any parents out there, you understand what I’m talking about.
And then finally, when you’re trying to learn about automation and flow, I really like Jen suggestion of trying to find a use case, an example, that you can identify with, that you can relate to. There’s plenty of content, we’ve got projects on Trailhead, there are examples in both Jen Lee’s blog and she mentioned some other resources which I’ll put in the show notes. Find a use case that speaks to you that maybe is more relatable to your job function, or maybe even something fun, not related to your job, but that you understand. That will really help you as you follow along and build that on your own to help understand how the tool works and how the features can really do some amazing stuff.
So those are my three takeaways from speaking with Jen. I hope you enjoyed listening to the pod. As always, if you’ve got a review for us, we’d love to hear it. So make sure you go on over and leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. And if you want to learn more about all things, awesome admin, make sure you go to admin.salesforce.com for all kinds of great content, blogs, Trailhead, the live events, podcasts, even some fun videos and make sure you check that out. You can follow us on social at @SalesforceAdmn no I. Our guest today Jen Lee is on Twitter, she is @jenwlee. And you can find myself @gilliankbruce and my cohost Mike Gerholdt @MikeGerholdt . With that, I hope you have a wonderful day and we’ll catch you next time in the cloud.

 

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