ABSI - far beyond system integration

On 03 July 2014     By Samuel De Rycke      Salesforce

Taking business automation one step further without coding

When it comes to implementing business logic through configuration in Salesforce, the platform already offers a combination of workflows, validation rules and approvals that will get  you very far, but they still have their limits. To take business automation one step further, there is Visual Flow. This functionality allows you to build and configure sequential, interaction based business logic or custom wizard-style screens without any code! It is a powerful tool for Salesforce admins and to create applications (known as ‘Flows’) that can guide users through screens for collecting and updating data. This could be both your internal users or customers!

Think about customer support call scripts that need to be updated regularly, generating real-time quotes for your sales organization or dynamic contact forms that help your customers provide you their information and requests directly into Salesforce where you can process it.

Visual Flow screen from Salesforce

My colleagues Reindert and Robin even used Visual Workflow to build a connect four game in the last ABSI developer contest. As senior Salesforce consultants they managed to go very far in implementing the game’s logic relying only on the configuration based business automation capabilities of salesforce!

Using the Salesforce Visual Flow designer

The flow designer is the tool that lets you build these flows. It supports everything needed to construct input forms, add business rules and perform database operations that can all be clicked together and configured without a line of code. The entire flow can be launched from buttons or even be embedded into a Visualforce page anywhere in your Salesforce application. Salesforce is currently piloting a closer integration between workflows and flow. Closing this circle will put even more power in the hands of any point-and-click admin.

There’s even more: Extensions with Apex Plugins

Complex processes such as lead conversion, specialized algorithms or handling collection of items can be nearly (or even entirely) impossible with flow at this time. Yet in Apex these are straightforward and easy to implement. This is why Visual Flow can even be extended with Apex plugins, allowing you to incorporate more complex bits of functionality. An example of this is worked out in our follow-up blog: Writing Salesforce Visual Flow Apex Plug-ins.

Conclusion

The Salesforce Visual workflow feature allows for creating business processes in a way that is complementary to workflows, validation rules and approval processes. The default flow components can be extended by Apex based plug-ins. The combination of these represent a unique way to automate business processes on the Force.com platform without any code.

Samuel De Rycke

Salesforce Developer