Process Automation Trailhead

Process Automation Trailhead Review

The Process Automation module is one of the newest additions to Trailhead, the innovative interactive guided learning site for the Salesforce1 platform.  The Process Automation Trailhead module includes units on the clicks-not-code features of the platform that allow for rapid and flexible development of automated business logic.  This includes the brand new Lightning Process Builder.  This post details my experience working through the module.

Process Automation Trailhead Units

The module contains units on Choosing the Right Automation ToolAutomating Processes with the Lightning Process BuilderCreating Wizards with Visual WorkflowAutomating Time-based Actions with Workflow, and Routing Records with Approvals.  Each of the units, excluding the introductory one, ends with a challenge that you do in your developer edition. After you complete the work you click a button and Trailhead connects to your org, checks your work, and awards you points if you’ve completed it successfully.

Choosing the Right Automation Tool

The Choosing the Right Automation Tool unit breaks down the different types of processes you might want to automate, gives examples, and states which tool would be the best fit. The examples are really good, but the best part of the unit, by far, is the feature and action matrix that shows which features and actions are available for each tool. This isn’t just good for learning, on Trailhead, though. Use it as a quick reference for everyday work.

Automating Processes with the Lightning Process Builder

The Automating Processes with the Lightning Process Builder unit goes into detail on this feature that was just made GA in Spring ’15 and is part of the suite of Salesforce1 Lightning technologies. It introduces the different features of the Process Builder through a guided example.

Process Builder is nice because you can do a lot in one place with an easy to use UI, but it is really a lot more than that.  Process Builder allows you to do more with clicks where code would have been required, previously, and to do so without the need for UI input (e.g., headless).  A common requirement/request for Salesforce implementations or projects is to create a related record or chatter post under certain save conditions. Where this would’ve required code, it can now be accomplished with an action on a process. Very nice savings!

Creating Wizards with Visual Workflow

Visual WorkflowThe Creating Wizards with Visual Workflow unit starts off by stating clear definitions of Visual Workflow, Cloud Flow Designer, and Flow.  I thought that was a particularly good idea, as I’ve heard them used interchangeably.  Before getting into the deep dive of Visual Workflow, the unit gives guidance on how you should determine whether you should create a Flow. Of course, if user input is needed you would need to create a Flow, but the documentation gives a thorough explanation, with an example, of other scenarios.

There are demo videos and a guided tutorial that are very useful as well.  Additionally, the unit describes how you can distribute your flow with Visualforce. The description contains the goldilocks amount of screenshots (not too many to be ridiculous, and not too few to risk confusion).  The cool part about that is that it shows just how easy it is to create a Visualforce page with a flow in it.

Automating Time-based Actions with Workflow

The Automating Time-based Actions with Workflow unit begins with a thorough detailing of Workflow, including when to use it and the different components (e.g., criteria, actions, etc.). It is followed by a guided tutorial for creating a Workflow that has a time-dependent workflow action.  It was great that in the unit there was a recommendation that Lightning Process Builder should be considered first, before workflow (see the feature and action matrix in Choosing the Right Automation Tool unit, too).

Routing Records with Approvals

Approval HistoryThe Routing Records with Approvals unit starts off with an overview of what a user can specify for an approval process (steps, approvers, and actions). It then goes into an example that begins with a visual chart, accompanied by an explanation.  It was useful to have a chart, because it is something that might actually come out of a requirements or design session on an actual Salesforce project.  The unit continues with a guided tutorial.

The unit’s instructional portion ends with a “Tell Me More…” section that has a very useful simplified checklist of things to consider when planning and creating an approval process. It also has a link to the long version in help (Approval Process Checklist).  Lastly, there is a tip about adding the Items to Approve related list to a custom home page layout.

Conclusions

Once again, I was very impressed by Trailhead. Trailhead is extremely useful for new and experienced devs. The guided tutorials and interactive challenges are great, but even more useful are the practical recommendations and best practices to be followed that are included with them (e.g., draw out your business processes first — this really works!). Now that the Lightning Process Builder is GA it is the perfect time for Salesforce1 platform developers, from just-starting-out to ninja, to take a comprehensive look at the declarative tools available to them for process automation. There is no better single place to do that than the Process Automation Trailhead module.

Next Steps

There is a Lightning Process Builder webinar coming up that you can register for right now.  I highly recommend Andy Fawcett’s excellent article on Extending Lightning Process Builder and Visual Workflow with Apex for anyone considering the use of Apex with these tools.  Check out the Process Automation Trailhead module to learn the ins and outs for process automation on the Salesforce1 platform!