Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Gorav Seth, Salesforce Platform Manager at Ashoka, and Eric Smith, Technical Architect at RafterOne.

Join us as we chat about the Flow solutions they came up with to improve their processes in their orgs, and how you can get started building your own flows.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Gorav Seth and Eric Smith.

25+ years of Salesforce experience in one episode

We brought Gorav and Eric on the show to talk about their upcoming appearances on Jennifer Lee’s “Automate This!” YouTube show. If you don’t already tune in, now’s the time to start. They’ll go over the cool Flow solutions they came up with to improve things at their orgs. But first, a little bit more about our guests.

Gorav has a background in plant biology but got involved in the ecosystem when he migrated his nonprofit to Salesforce and fell in love with the technology. Eric’s been in technology for over 45 years, and his path took him through a telecommunications company that was using Salesforce essentially as a Rolodex. He quickly realized that they were barely scratching the surface of what they could do with the platform, and started building things to help his team of product managers do their jobs better.

Collectively, they have over 25 years of experience in Salesforce.

Why automate?

One thing we wanted to ask our guests is how they think about automations and why you should build one. For Gorav, it’s all about the massive improvements you can make to usability on both the front end and the back end. For Eric, it’s also about improving data quality and data security. “A well-designed automation will reduce steps for somebody that has to interact with it and improve the quality of the data that comes out of it,” he says.

On “Automate This!”, they’ll each share a pretty nifty Flow solution they found to replace a clunkier process. Gorav consolidated multiple notifications into one rich text email that gave his users all of the information they needed in one place. They ended up replacing something like 10 workflow rules with one streamlined flow.

Eric’s users needed to constantly refer to the case number they were working with but were spending a lot of time trying to find it. He created a utility to highlight field data on a Lightning record page using a screen flow and saving a ton of time.

Starting with Flow

Flow offers a lot of possibilities for simplifying and improving things but it can still be intimidating when you’re starting out. Eric recommends breaking your process down into the smaller steps that need to happen in order to get from Point A to Point B.

And, Gorav adds, it’s an iterative process. You can and should use the debugger to understand what’s happening and why. Take it one step at a time and focus on improvements to your process. “We’re not trying to rebuild this stuff,” Gorav says, “we’re trying to say, ‘How can we do this better?’”

There are a lot of great tips in this podcast about the importance of learning in your career, when to use subflows, and more, so be sure to listen to the full episode and don’t miss their appearance on “Automate This!”.

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Full show transcript

Mike Gerholdt: Welcome to the Salesforce Admins Podcast where we talk about product, community, and career to help you become an awesome admin, and this week, we’re talking with two guests about flow solutions because flow requires multiple guests. Actually, both are going to be featured on Jennifer Lee’s Automate This YouTube series, so be sure to check that out. Even if you’re not looking for these two guests, that series is amazing.

But today, we’re going to talk with Gorav Seth, who is the director of IT at Ashoka, and Eric Smith, who is the technical architect at RafterOne, which is a Salesforce partner, about the two flow automation solutions they’re going to have on Jennifer’s YouTube series, but also just about flow in general, and then we end the podcast with a little bit of a career discussion because as we’ll find out, Eric and Gorav have been in the ecosystem and been in technology for a long time and there’s a lot we can learn from them. So it’s fun conversation. Let’s get into it and let’s get Gorav and Eric on the podcast. So Gorav and Eric, welcome to the podcast.

Eric Smith: Thanks, Mike.

Gorav Seth: Thank you for having us.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. Well, it’s fun to talk automation and you are both going to be featured on Jennifer’s Automate This series and you’ve got some really cool solutions that I want to talk about, but first, let’s get started with knowing a little bit more about you. So Gorav, can you tell us a little bit about how you got into the ecosystem and what your current role is at your company?

Gorav Seth: Sure, thanks. I am a classic accidental admin, background in plant biology, and started at a nonprofit, migrated us to Salesforce and went through the groups and the other community resources that existed at the time, and got more and more involved. So that was my origin was actually an event in 2007 that Google, Facebook, and Salesforce put on in DC and that’s where I got exposed to it. So it’s been a gradual path, but I’ve been doing Salesforce since about 2008.

Mike Gerholdt: Wow, that’s a long time, and as director of IT, what’s that fun role like?

Gorav Seth: Well, so for the past 10 years, I’ve been managing the Salesforce platform at Ashoka, and Ashoka was one of the early adopters of Salesforce in the nonprofit space and has been using it since 2009. I joined here in 2012 managing Salesforce and growing in my role and just recently, I transitioned into the role of director of IT. Now I basically have two jobs until I fill the Salesforce position. So it’s a great opportunity to take what I’ve learned and expand beyond the Salesforce space even.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah, no, absolutely. Eric, you’re a new voice on the podcast, let’s hear from you. How did you get started in the ecosystem and what do you currently do?

Eric Smith: Well, I may be a new voice, but I’m an old timer. I’ve been involved in technology probably for a little over 45 years now. I had my own PC business for many years and a little over 10 years ago, I went to work for a telecommunications company managing project managers, and the company had Salesforce at the time. They had professional edition and they were using it as an electronic Rolodex, and I saw that we had that application.

I said, there’s some interesting things I bet we could do with this to make my team more productive and improve their communication both internally and externally. So I asked for the keys to Salesforce, they gave it to me, and just started building things from there. We ended up going to enterprise edition, putting in sales cloud, service cloud, experience cloud, and really grew the application and it also increased my interest. It was something that was fun to do. I liked working with it and since have moved on and now working as a technical architect for a Salesforce consulting partner. So it’s been a fun ride and it’s a great application to work with.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah. So I guess we’re all sitting around here, old hats at some of this, and we could easily talk about workflows and process builder processes and flows and stuff like that, but I want to get into, before we talk about your solutions, just how you think about automation on the platform, and I was thinking through this this morning before we were recording. A lot of automation now is we want to save people time, we want to save people clicking on things, we want to ensure data is correct. Is it that so much that we love, or is it just making things a little bit simpler so somebody doesn’t have to do a couple extra clicks, but I’d love to, Gorav, I’ll start with you, get started with where you look at an automation solution first in terms of is that something we need to build or is that something we just need to tell the people they got to click on?

Gorav Seth: Yeah. I guess my goal is to, it is the simplicity and making a really good application, thinking of the level of usability and user experience that people have come to expect. I think the automation tools let you do that, whether it’s on the front end like a screen flow, or on the backend, automating things that they would have to do manually. I think the scope now for what we can deliver is so high and I think it helps us meet the expectations of our users. That’s where it resonates for me.

Mike Gerholdt: Now Eric, as a technical architect, I think you’re coming in and you’re looking at a lot of different solutions. Of course, you have a lot of different partners that you’re working with. What is one area that you can always hone in on as an area of automation within a company?

Eric Smith: I think it’s data integrity, especially with screen flows. You really have the ability to put some guardrails around the data entry and the information that a user is providing to the system, and I think it provides a way to really reduce chances of error, reduce chances of dirty data, and you can basically guide a user through as few steps as possible to put the information in that they need at the right time when they need to make it available. So I think that well-designed automation will reduce steps for somebody that has to interact with it and will improve the quality of the data that comes out of it.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah, no, that’s a good point. I think we all remember the days of just telling the user to click edit and fill in everything you need, and that’s when you get call notes in the phone field.

Eric Smith: Yeah.

Mike Gerholdt: So Gorav, let’s talk a little bit about your solution that you’re going to highlight on Jennifer’s Automate This series. Can you give me an overview of what it is and I’d really love to learn more of what made you build this flow and deploy it?

Gorav Seth: Sure. So it’s a simple concept. In my use case, it was send the opportunity owner a list of the opportunities that are past their closed date that are still open, and we had some workflow rules using the hacky stuff you can do with workflow rules to send these reminders where I think we had 10 or nine or whatever the maximum number of scheduled actions you could have and it would go on for two years or something, but it was popcorn. The user owner would get one notification on this day, one on another day, and it just felt like chaos.

It didn’t give you that sense of an integrated, thought out system because that was a lot more complex at the time. You would require development resources, and all of a sudden, as we were looking to migrating off of workflows and into flows, you’re not trying to rebuild this stuff. You’re trying to say, okay, how can we do this better, and I’ve always been a fan of report notifications, but you can’t put any context in there and you have to schedule them for everybody, and so I thought, let me take flow and see if we can send a nice table of just the information that we want, and it was pretty easy to do. All in all, I was really happy with it.

Mike Gerholdt: Interesting. And Eric, let’s dive into your solution a little bit because yours is kind of the same. It’s using flow, which we’re a fan of, but it does something different.

Eric Smith: What I’m doing is you can go back to what you said before, which is tell the user to click the edit button and have at it with all the information that’s on the screen, and I think with automation and flows, you can really do a much better job with the user interface as far as presenting the information to the user and try not to overload the user with information, but sometimes trying to find something on the screen could still be a little difficult. So I had a situation where my users that were interacting in customer service, they had case records on the screen, so we’re looking at a case record page, but one of the things they kept looking for and going for was the case number, which was used in a lot of different ways.

And I wanted to give them away to very easily and quickly see that case number on the page. So I created a little utility to make that value pop on the page is the way I put it, and it was really just taking a simple flow that would take a case number and put it into a formatted field that you choose the format. In this case, I wanted a big, bold text and display that number on the page instead of the regular field that looked like every other field. So somebody with a quick glance at the page sees this nice, big, bold case number right there in front of them and they have that available at all times, and the flow is just very simple flow that says anytime the case number is set, update this field that has it formatted and displayed on the screen.

Mike Gerholdt: And I’m guilty of this too. Looking at flow solutions, you’re always like, that totally makes sense, and then you go to flow and you start one and you look at that blank canvas and you’re immediately intimidated. I am like, oh man, how am I going to get from what I want to what works? What for you, and Eric, I’ll start with you, what for you was one hurdle that when it clicked, making a flow was really easy for you?

Eric Smith: Two things, one was being able to see examples of what other people had done and how they did it, but I think the most important thing in building a flow is being able to look at something and break it down into individual steps one step at a time so you’re not overwhelmed with the big picture as to everything that needs to be done, but if I want to get from point A to point B, I’m going to take a number of steps and look at it at each step individually, what do I need to do, and then in the end, you can put it all together and hopefully have a complete flow from beginning to end that does what you want it to do.

Mike Gerholdt: Gorav, the same question. What was it that clicked for you, or did the flow just come naturally?

Gorav Seth: It was definitely a process. There are things that I look at now and I’m like how did I come up with that? There’s this creative process that happens, but I think at its core, it’s similar to what Eric said, breaking it into steps and being very methodical in terms of how you get from point A to point B and starting with your record. Whatever record or records you’re working with, start with that and then figure out what it is you need to happen.

But it’s an iterative process and there’s always a lot of detours along the way. I haven’t found a way around that. It always sounds easier than it’s going to be, but by going about it in a methodical way and understanding how to see what’s happening in the debugger, it makes it so much easier to see, okay, this is why it’s going this way instead of that way. So I think understanding the tools that you have at your disposal to conceptualize how this thing’s working can really help.

Mike Gerholdt: I think one of those, and to follow up on that, Gorav, one of those is the ability to create subflows. So reusable components essentially is how that works in my head like lunch meals. How much do you find do you go to… Do you sit down and think of what parts of other things I can reuse, or are you constantly heading into each automation solution as its own package, for lack of a better term, solution?

Gorav Seth: I would say there’s definitely both. I used to use subflows as utilities to do things that you can now generally do out of the box. They’ve added so much more functionality flow to flows. So sometimes to split things or do some kind of stuff that was difficult before, I would use subflows there. Another thing I often do is there are some flows that I have that might fire from different places, but in the end, there’s a core element that’s the same. So that core element is the subflow and if it’s coming from this place, the flows that feed into it can handle the UI side, and then the subflow just does the logic. So I definitely use them, but they’re not something I use every day. Mostly, my flows are standalone.

Mike Gerholdt: Right. Eric, I think you have the benefit of seeing many different orgs as a partner. How often do you find you’re able to recreate subflows or give that ability to customers so that in the future, if Eric isn’t around to help them out, they’re able to package together different flows?

Eric Smith: I love the idea of building blocks and having second building blocks. I think deep down, I’m a lazy person so I don’t want to have to do something twice. So I’ll actually spend more time trying to build a subcomponent or a subflow to make it more usable in more use cases in the future. So rather than just building a particular process into a flow and saying, this is my use case, this solves the problem, and then moving on, I much prefer to look at it as saying, hey, this is something that I have to do now, but I may have to use something very similar in the future so I want to build this in such a way that I can assign attributes and other things to it later and reuse it in a different flow or a different environment and not just for myself, but for other flow builders and other people as well.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah.

Eric Smith: I just love that idea of these building blocks and reusable components.

Mike Gerholdt: I do too, but I do find myself often in Gorav’s shoes of building that solution and forgetting that I’ve created some of those things elsewhere. As we wrap things up, both of you in your intro that really stuck with me is you’ve really been around the ecosystem and technology for a long time. As people migrating into, there’s people changing careers. I know we’ve seen it at a lot of events, at world tours, at different Salesforce events, new people into the ecosystem or people from different parts of organizations becoming architects, becoming developers, becoming admins. I’d love to know, and Eric, I’ll start with you, is there something consistent that you feel has been a guiding path for you these last 45 years that’s helped you grow your career over this time?

Eric Smith: I think it’s a constant desire and need to learn, to learn more, to understand how things work, take things apart, put things back together again. I think that’s where flow really resonates with me is the creativity and the ability to build a working component out of all these little individual pieces and steps. I’ve always been a curious person and I think this plays in very well and makes it a very interesting area to work.

Mike Gerholdt: And Gorav, I know we’ve talked a long time ago when the podcast first started and you mentioned you’ve been in the ecosystem since ’09, now director of IT. What was a consistent theme along your career path?

Gorav Seth: I think especially in the Salesforce world, I don’t know how it is in other ecosystems, but the community, it comes up a lot, but I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for both the nonprofit community, the MVP community, and just the larger Salesforce community, that a lot of the stuff I’ve learned on flow came from the community. I don’t think I’ve been able to get over that initial learning curve without the blogs from Mark, Ross, and Brian Quang and others that was like, this is how you debug a flow. Now there’s a lot of additional tools, but the learning never stops.

The platform keeps evolving and it’s good. We can do so many things now that were just impossible or just so complex before. We get to do fun stuff. We get to make really nice, engaging interfaces for people to be more productive and so that they don’t have to guess what goes where. We can really make it easy for them and we can do things that before, we just were either cost prohibitive or time prohibitive. So it’s an exciting time to be here. I’m glad that I got started when I did and was able to learn my way up, but I think there’s so many things you don’t have to learn now that are legacy and done with, and you can just get the stuff that works well and has this great capability.

Mike Gerholdt: So Gorav, follow up to that, and Eric, I’m going to ask you this too. As somebody listening to this podcast that’s hearing some of the stuff that you’ve done with flow, what is your advice to them after they finish listening to this podcast? What should they do?

Gorav Seth: I find screen flows to be a really compelling place to start, and specifically, think about the actions, the quick actions you have and which ones could potentially benefit from more context or more control, and think about replacing one of those with a screen flow. It’s one of those things that’s so powerful and enlightening, and with a quick actions are great when you know exactly what you need to do, but when you want to provide more context, you can so easily replace that quick action with the flow action and then you have all the real estate in the world to explain exactly what needs to happen. So that, to me, is a good starting point.

Mike Gerholdt: Eric, same question. What should you do after you get done listening to this podcast?

Eric Smith:I agree. I think screen flows are probably a much better place to start than some of the triggered flows because you’re in charge of all of the steps. It’s real time as somebody is working with it, and I think to try and look for resources. Listen to these podcasts. I know I used to. When I was first started working with Salesforce, I’d go off and my lunch break, I’d put on your podcast, and I’d take a nice long walk and listen to what people were doing, and I think trying to do the same, see what other people are doing, listen to podcasts, look at some of these blogs that are out there. There’s some great information, great use cases, and use that to strike your own creativity. You may not want to do exactly what somebody else has done, but seeing what was done might give you some ideas of some things that you may want to try or incorporate in your own work.

Mike Gerholdt: Yeah, I would agree. I had the pleasure of co-presenting a code builder session at Trailblazer DX earlier this spring and I didn’t know anything about Code Builder, but I did know that I love to copy and paste code as a way to cheat, and I think to both your points, the idea of looking at flows and not always starting from scratch is a great way. So Gorav and Eric, you were great guests to have on and I can’t wait to catch up on the Automate This episode that you’re doing with Jennifer and see those solutions on the screen. So thank you for being on the pod.

Gorav Seth: Thanks, Mike, great to be here.

Eric Smith: It was great and I think Jen’s presentation is going to be very helpful.

Mike Gerholdt: So that was a fun discussion with Gorav and Eric. I appreciate them sharing some of their wisdom with me, and I don’t know about you, but it does make me want to jump into doing some more flow screens. I feel like actually, those are probably what I really wanted a long, long time ago. I just need to admit it, but of course, if you want to learn about more things and all things Salesforce admin, go to to find more resources, including any of the links that we mentioned in this episode as well as a full transcript. You, of course, can stay up to date with us on social. We are @salesforceadmns on Twitter, no I. Gillian is on Twitter. She is @gilliankbruce, and I am on Twitter as well @mikegerholdt. So with that, stay safe, stay awesome, and stay tuned for the next episode. We’ll see you in the cloud.

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