process builder vs flows

Process Builder vs Flows: navigating Salesforce automation

7 min read19th of May 2021

Process Builder and Flows are both built using the same Salesforce feature called Lightning Flow. 

But what are the differences between the two, and when should you be using each? Below, we’ve answered some of the most common questions we get asked.

What is Process Builder?

Process Builder is an automated Salesforce tool that allows you to control the order of actions or evaluate the criteria for a record. 

Process Builder gives you the ability to use straightforward ‘If/Then’ logic to easily add automation to your Salesforce environment. Process Builders consist of a triggering event, criteria, then an action that will take place (you can also make these time dependent). 

For example, If a user updates a field/creates a new record that matches the criteria Then the system will trigger an action. The UI of Process Builder allows creators to ‘point and click’ to create automation which lends itself nicely for a technical Business Analyst or a less technical system admin persona – however, it doesn’t come with as many ‘bells and whistles’ as Flows.

Limitations of Process Builder

  • Each Process Builder only relates to one object that you set up to start on
  • Once you have the triggering object, you can only use child objects in relation to the current object
  • Cannot delete records
  • Cannot do more complex actions 
  • Actions are evaluated in the order they appear in process builder

Key actions you can complete with Process Builder

  • Launch Apex *this will only show apex classes with an invokable method
  • Updating a field
  • Creating a record
  • Sending an Email Alert 
  • Launching a flow *This now flows can be launched without a process builder, however, if you would like to add a ‘Wait’ element in your flow you will need to launch the flow from a process builder
  • Post to Chatter
  • Processes * Allows you to launch invokable processes
  • Quick Actions 
  • Quip
  • Send Custom Notifications
  • Send Survey Invitation 
  • Submit for approval
Process Builder

What are Flows?

In Salesforce, a Flow is an application that gives you the ability to automate complex processes and even allows you to provide end-users with quick screens to input the data you need. 

With each new release of Flow, Salesforce is paving the way for a declarative solution that has a lot of the same capabilities as code. Flow also takes up a lot less processing time than Process Builder (depending on how you build them) so it should be taken into consideration if you are building multi-node process builders. 

If you have a background in technology and have dabbled with code before, the logic of Flow tends to make more sense. If that’s not your background you can still learn, and Salesforce has some great Trailheads to help you quickly get up to speed!

How flows can be triggered:

  • Screen flows: if you need a user-friendly interface to collect data, this is your key 
  • Scheduled-triggered flows: before this could only be done using code! 
  • Auto launched flows: triggered from Process builder, apex, platform events
  • Record-triggered: When a record updates or is created that meets criteria it can fire a flow 
    • Used to need a process builder to do this for you
    • These can now run before or after the record is saved, process builder can only do after a record is saved
  • Platform event-triggered flow: when an event message is received it can trigger a flow

Key actions you can complete with Flows

  • Update records 
  • Loop through records
  • Search for unrelated objects/records 
  • Submit for approval 
  • Adding in pause or ‘Wait’ elements
  • Post to Chatter
  • Create new records
  • Sending email alerts
  • Apex 
  • Using ‘PRIORVALUE’ if you are using a record-triggered flow
Flow

When to use each

Process Builder

BEST FOR: Simple automation to update the current record or child records

Flows

BEST FOR: Complex automation 

  • On Opportunity stage = close won: Create one project from a template
  • For meeting creation: Create a project kick-off meeting as soon as a project is created
  • For ticket creation: If the health of a project turns red create a risk ticket
  •  On Opportunity stage = close won: Create multiple projects from templates related to the opportunity products sold  
  • For meeting creation: Create a scheduled meeting that gets created weekly for implementation projects
  • For ticket creation: Create a flow screen to guide users to create tickets on the Account page

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