Changing the way Salesforce Admins and Developers think about client solutions.

Workflow for the 95%


My experience over the years has found that people can almost always come up with a reason why automation doesn’t work for their business case.

This is also known as “because I’m special” logic.

What I want to do is propose a few ways to break through that barrier and get automation going for your organization.

Once you start, everyone will love it, you just have to get over that first hump.

What I propose you do is build for 95% of situations.  I could say 99% which is closer to the truth, but then it sounds like the whole 99% of people thing which was cool for awhile.  It also isn’t true for this case – it’s for 100% of people, just 95% of cases.


My last post on Junction objects got really good feedback so I wanted to extend it a little bit on how to get business buy-in on automation through workflow rules and especially now with Process Builder adding additional automation capabilities.  I’ve gone into both before and I link to my own Birthday workflows later in the post.  If you haven’t used Process Builder yet, head to these two places to start using it now.  You won’t turn back

I’ve implemented quite a few different instances and scenarios now and one thing I always find is that at least one person is scared of automating business processes.

Warning: If you are a little bit of a math nerd and think that you will win over end users by saying that 95% will cover two standard deviations – you may want to keep reading for some better ideas.

Where the problems come from

The problem is that:

  • The one person tends to drag everyone else down with them
  • They focus instead on making sure they have twice as many input fields as will ever be used (and never reported on)
  • Other people give in because automation isn’t something they’ve seen before and they fall back to what they know, which is their comfort zone

These issues will happen a lot with:

  • Sales reps that are reluctant to change
  • Business analysts who like to massage any and all data in Excel to protect their jobs
  • Accountants
  • Lawyers

Next thing you know you are at what I like to call the lowest common denominator of a Salesforce implementation

  • Too many fields
  • No automation
  • Too much validation on fields to try and fix stupid
  • No reports

Sound familiar?  Thought so

There are lots of reasons why automation doesn’t work. There are lots of cases why it does work. Focus on the latter anytime you are discussing it.

A few examples of real life automation that isn’t perfect

When in doubt, always toss out real world examples in meetings.  They are a great way to get people away from their own BS (aka business bubble) and force them to think logically.  Even mythological examples are ok.  My favourite is when people ask for something completely crazy and I say that I’d like a pet unicorn, but neither of them is going to happen.  On to actual examples, steal away:

  1. ATM – great for 95% of your banking needs.  Not so useful when you need to close an account
  2. PVR – won’t adjust for earthquakes (shockingly) Get it?  Shocking and earthquakes together.  Punny stuff
  3. Dishwasher – stuck on grease doesn’t always come off (except in commercials)
  4. Online bill payments – I still have to call for discrepancies
  5. Washing Machine – may not get red wine out
  6. 1st Generation Cell Phones – didn’t have internet
  7. Cars – they don’t turn into boats
  8. Pretty much every single computer ever made

Now, how many of those things are beneficial in your life and make it better, to the point where you are willing to forego the 100% mark in order to enjoy them in your life?  Exactly

Examples of how people try to shoot it down

These sound funny but I’ve seen them all

  1. “What if the owner of the record gets hit by a bus”
  2. “I just don’t see the value in it”
  3. “We just don’t work that way”
  4. “It sounds complicated, let’s leave this for the next phase”
  5. “This doesn’t work for my team”  (never mind all the other teams it would work for

How to Make It Happen

It isn’t so much of an issue in smaller organizations where the Admin has a lot of control and can put in rules as he/she sees fit.

However when you get into larger enterprise projects with formal methodologies, or in consulting, you’ll find that you only get one shot to convince the business users that a workflow rule is good, and dollars to donuts there will be a person in the room, with one business example, that has the risk of killing the whole thing.

This can be just about anything, and is the equivalent of them saying “yes, this would be amazing, but can you not have it run during full moons? That would be unacceptable.”

So how can you get the company automating now?

  1. Start small –  The goal is not to automate everything, the goal is to start automating simple tasks that people hate, they forget, or they find irritating
  2. Call people out on their ridiculous exceptions – If it’s the accountant causing a fuss, ask how perfect their ERP system is  (hint: they probably hate it).  If it’s the hit by a bus example, ask when the last time was that it happened.
  3. Ask what the impact would be if the workflow happened anyway – Point out that if it’s beneficial 95% of the time, even if that time isn’t evenly distributed between people, isn’t that a benefit?  If you are confident like me, feel free to inform them that it is a rhetorical question before they respond.  Guaranteed you’ll get a laugh out of somebody in the room
  4. Offer up something as simple as a checkbox called “Don’t Create Invoice” that would then cause the workflow not to run.  I have no idea why this isn’t done more often, it could not be easier.  You literally just have to add that checkbox to the workflow criteria.
    • You already see this in Salesforce with the checkbox for assignment of Leads and Cases, creating follow up tasks, etc.  Layer it in here as well and you’ll find people are more accepting
      • Inside Tip – these are great for validation rules as well.  This way you haven’t totally locked something down, but the person must consciously click another field in order to do what they want (like move backwards in the Opportunity Stage)
    • Want to get fancy?  Send an email to somebody when a person does check that box to let them know that the invoice must be created manually
    • Say I have a birthday reminder, which is actually one of the first things I ever blogged about (see here, it’s not as easy as you’d think).  Having a checkbox is the same as adding some criteria to say I only want to be reminded about family birthdays because I have to buy gifts, and I’m terrible at remembering them

Stand up for Salesforce

It’s a little bit of rant time here, you’ve been warned

  1. Companies buy Salesforce for a reason, because they have problems they are trying to solve
  2. The people who are in the meeting probably aren’t the ones who made the decision to buy it, so you may not have guaranteed enthusiasm
  3. Salesforce is really good at automation, make sure people understand that
  4. Don’t take no for an answer unless the majority thinks it’s a bad idea
  5. Don’t go to code to solve the last 1-5% of cases.  It’s rarely worth it.  If it is worth it, try 95% first and then move to code in Phase 2 if automating  only 95% of the time proves to be a hardship to business stakeholders.  Once you start with code it’s very hard to get back to a more basic model
  6. Do some automation anyway.  I call this executive decision making and don’t apologize for it.  This is the difference between building to requirements and building a solution.  If they hate it they can turn it off, but I’m going to at least let them see what it does.
    • I do this last one all the time.  Have yet to have someone actually get annoyed that I put it in without asking.  I am careful to call out to the Admin how to turn it off, just in case.
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1 Comment

  1. This is great stuff Geoff! Standing up for Salesforce can be hard – especially if your personality prefers to be in the background and wants everyone to be happy! Automation is so simple and provides a lot of quick wins. Great job!

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