Image of Andy Engin Utkan next to text that says "Skills for Success: Process Automation."

Refine Your Process Automation Skills as a Salesforce Admin

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When I started my professional career, one of my first assignments was to map out all the existing processes in a financial operations environment. It was a task well-suited to my skill set, as I have a keen eye for process and a passion for driving efficiency. Many years later, I decided to rebuild my career in Salesforce and was pleased to learn of all the amazing automation tools Salesforce offered. When I set out to learn how to build flows, I immediately fell in love with Flow Builder and its awesome capabilities. For this reason, I now spend most of my time helping others refine their processes by building flows.

Process automation is an important tool for Salesforce Admins to acquire and develop. Here are the steps you need to take and the tools you need to learn more about to hone this essential skill.

What is process automation?

Process automation is the technology-enabled automation of complex business processes. Through process automation, we’re able to provide seamless and personalized customer experiences. This is great for customers and the business, especially in this day and age where customers expect their interactions with a business to be smooth and pain-free.

As the name clearly states, there are two parts to the process automation skill: process and automation. I will expand on these terms below.

Why is process automation important for Salesforce Admins?

Admins mostly configure Salesforce in Setup, customizing the platform to meet the needs of the business. However, some requirements and tasks are more complex and may not be solvable using standard setup parameters. Such tasks can be done using low-code automation, also know as “declarative tools,” such as Flow Builder.

Admins who are proficient in using Flow as an automation tool have an advantage, as this powerful tool can unlock new ways to solve additional user requirements. Admins who wish to progress their careers and skill up on the platform can learn skills that lay the foundation for a successful technology career, whether they seek a leadership role, development role, or perhaps a Salesforce Architect role.

How can I learn and develop my process automation skills?

Process

Process is a catch-all term to describe what organizations do on a day-to-day basis to get things done. It’s a chain of events that happens in order to produce the desired outcome in a business. Building a process, however, starts with learning the fundamentals of process, which is not about the technology tools. It’s about understanding, documenting, and extracting the correct process steps, and learning how these can be measured and repeated to help the organization reach its goals. Having this fundamental knowledge of process is vital before building any automation solution. Remember, even the famous U.S. basketball player LeBron James can’t get to the basket and score if he can’t dribble the ball.

An excellent example in the Salesforce world is the lead process, which involves creating the lead, processing the lead, and converting the lead to an Account, Contact, or Opportunity when necessary. Another good example is the opportunity process; that is, the steps you need to take to close an opportunity, whether this be won or lost. It’s worth mentioning that these processes change from one organization to another.

There are several tools to help Salesforce Admins document processes. I’d like to highlight three of them:

  1. Process guide documents: These are usually formatted using a standard template and describe what needs to be done in plain English.
  2. Flowcharts and process maps: A flowchart is a type of diagram that represents a process. Process mapping refers to activities involved in defining what organizational roles and departments do and how the success of a business process can be determined.
  3. RACI charts: These describe the participation by various roles in completing tasks or deliverables for a business process. RACI is an acronym derived from the four key responsibilities most typically used: responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed. It’s used for clarifying and defining roles and responsibilities in cross-functional or departmental projects and processes.

An admin needs to ask many questions to extract this information from the experts in the organization to define what needs to be done, when, and by whom. But, by far, the most crucial question is “Why?” In many cases, one ‘why’ question is not sufficient. Therefore, it’s best to ask three ‘why’ questions consecutively. Here’s an example:

Business stakeholder: “I need an online form to start capturing what product categories our leads are interested in.”

Salesforce Admin: “Why?”

Business stakeholder: “So that we can put it on the lead report.”

Salesforce Admin: “Why?”

Business stakeholder: “So that we can send it to the marketing specialist.”

Salesforce Admin: “Why?”

Business stakeholder: “So that the marketing specialist can do X Y Z with this information.”

Asking “Why?” three times helps you and your business stakeholders reach a shared understanding of what is actually required, and may uncover important requirements that weren’t in the initial request.

If you already have any of the above process documents in your organization, congratulations! Be sure to regularly review them, check their validity, and revise when necessary.

Salesforce, with all of its automation capabilities, is a powerful technology tool that has the potential to make everyone’s lives easier. As an admin, your goal when it comes to process is to know Salesforce inside and out, because only then can you use it to easily capture, follow, measure, and execute processes.

Automation

Remember, if you automate a junk process, you’ll get faster junk! As silly as this may seem, it couldn’t be more true. A common mistake new admins make is jumping in and building automation without fully understanding the process and the ‘whys’ behind the process.

There are three steps I always recommend when it comes to automation: document, design, and build. Let’s take a quick look at each.

1. Document your process
To ensure the process is correct and agreed upon by all parties, here are a few questions to ask yourself and your stakeholders:

  1. Does your data model support your process?
  2. Do you have the objects you need in your org to document things accurately?
  3. Do you have the fields you need?
  4. Does your relationship model and the sharing/visibility model support what you need to do?
  5. Can you get the reports you need to show the state of the key performance indicators (KPIs) to top management?
  6. After checking your RACI document, do all the necessary parties have Salesforce?
    1. What is their adoption level?
    2. Are there ways to help them use Salesforce better?

These are just a few questions to work through, but I encourage you to expand upon this and design a process checklist specific to the processes at your company. Doing so will ensure the process is built right and that your stakeholders get value from it.

2. Design your solution
After documenting your processes, the next step is translating them into the world of Salesforce. This is where you marry the business requirements to the Salesforce requirements, determining what exactly needs to be in Salesforce. I often find it helpful to design a process with the end in mind. If there are currently multiple systems, which parts need to be brought over to Salesforce? If some parts of the process are currently on paper, is there a way to bring this into Salesforce?

A best practice is to always document the design solution. There are many ways to do this, and it’s really up to each admin’s individual preference. I do, however, recommend making it brief so that you don’t have to create pages and pages of documents. Use your preferred tool for organizing your thoughts. Some people write a one- or two-page summary, some create a PowerPoint presentation, and others use a Lucidchart flowchart before building their automation.

3. Build your automation
The last step is to build your automation! By this stage, you’re likely itching to get to work building the automated process in Salesforce—so go ahead and open that flow canvas and get started! Flow is your automation playground, and as long as you’re in a sandbox or developer org, you can build, debug, test, and iterate to your heart’s content. Before you deploy your solution to your production org, be sure to do a final review of the design, clean it up, and add comments that explain the process. Your future self—and other admins—will thank you!

Take these three steps to build your success:

  1. Explore the new Salesforce Admin Skills Kit to learn how to represent your skills when applying for admin jobs or preparing for performance reviews.
  2. Share these skills on social media using #AwesomeAdmin, and tell other admins three skills you’re going to commit to developing this year.
  3. Revisit admin.salesforce.com next Tuesday for the next blog post in this series!

Resources

Enjoy your Flow learning journey! Here are a few resources to help you on your way:

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