Automation Showdown: Process Builder vs Workflow

Ahhh, the great automation debate: Process Builder versus Workflow. Both are powerful tools, both offering countless benefits. More than likely there is at least one of each kind of automation enabled in your org right now. But which one should you be using for that next automation request?

Based on Trailhead exercises, you should be using Process Builder. I have yet to take a trail that instructs Trailblazers to use Workflow. Just a few weeks ago I was participating in a Circles of Success at a user group meeting where we were discussing automation, and the bulk of the conversation was spent talking about Process Builder (and very little about best practices related to these tools).

Perhaps I’m old enough to still have quite a soft spot in my hear for Workflow. After all, I’ve been in the Salesforce community for 10 years now and Workflow used to be the only way a non-technical Admin could automate anything. Has Workflow fallen out of favor? Let’s find out!

Process Builder

This tool is definitely the new kid on the block. With all of its flashy Lightning Experience interface and all of the whiz-bang actions it can do (can I get a “holla” for the record create action?), it’s easy to be lured in by Process Builder’s siren call.

Process Builder is built atop the Flow (aka Visual Flow) platform but requires less technical ability than Flow. Because of the underlying architecture, it’s powerful too. Here are just a few things you can do with Process Builder.

  • Leverage cross-object entry criteria
  • Evaluate multiple entry criteria nodes in a single process builder (instead of say, using 80 Workflows)
  • Create new records
  • Create Chatter posts
  • Call Flows
  • Call Apex
  • Submit a record for approval

With all of those benefits, Process Builder is a home run, right? Well, not so fast. There are some drawbacks to consider. For example, Process Builder is not bulkified in a way that allows for high volume transactions to be done en mass without significantly reducing the batch size. By reducing the batch size, I mean down to a batch of 10 records in some cases.

I’ve also experienced issues in highly customized orgs with lots of code and workflows where Process Builder doesn’t play nice. It has fired at the wrong time and reverted fields to old values; caused errors in bulk updates being done via code; and can be difficult to troubleshoot.

So, there are the traditional pros and cons. But what about Workflow?

Workflow

Workflow is the tried and true method that many of us are familiar with for automating business processes. It’s a workhorse. Based on the filter criteria, you can do things like update a record, or send an email. It’s simple and intuitive. It’s a minimalists dream!

True, the list of capabilities is much less impressive:

  • Single object entry criteria (can only use data points found on the named object for criteria)
  • New Email Alert
  • New Task
  • New Field Update
  • New Outbound Action

Workflow is properly bulkified, meaning that Admins can run mass updates to hundreds, thousands, or millions of records and Workflows will fire and process their actions every time without fail.

But, like with Process Builder, there are downsides. Specifically, the reduced capabilities means that you’ll need to get creative with your field criteria by creating formula fields to pull related data to the object the Workflow is built on (this is a hack to cross-object entry criteria). One Workflow can contain only one set of entry criteria so you’ll need to create more Workflows to accomplish the same updates that one Process Builder can accommodate.

So, if you’re still following along, you’re probably noticing that there are major pluses and minuses to both. Which one will win this showdown?

The Verdict

The truth is that both tools are extremely powerful and terribly useful. The winner will be situational, meaning that you shouldn’t use one over the other exclusively, you should use both in your org. Evaluate the requirements, and determine the best tool for the job. Process Builder shouldn’t always be the tool of choice.

It boils down to this: if the requirements allow you to use Workflows, use Workflows. If not, then move to Process Builder. You’ll find far less issues with your business processes and related code, as well as data updates by first evaluating and using Workflow whenever possible.

Process Builder vs Workflow

Admin Hero Trailmix

If you’re new to process automation, don’t worry! Trailhead has you covered. Learn all about Workflow and Process Builder by getting hands-on with Trailhead and this custom Admin Hero – Automation Showdown Trailmix!

Have a different opinion? Leave a comment below!

 

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Steph
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Steph

What about how they interact with each other? In your opinion, if you’re working with an object that already has a Process as a prerequisite, does that skew the decision? Or when you want the new action in a particular place along the firing line.

For example I’ve been debating whether to move all workflows into a single process builder (where before there was a mix of Processes and workflows.) I’m still not sure which is the best move for either performance, or for firing order.

Earl Major
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Earl Major

Great Post!!!!!!!

Brian Kwong
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Thoughts: Don’t assume you can use Workflow and have it work nicely with Process Builder… for example, don’t assume that workflow will make a field update and then the process will get evaluated. It can work, but a lot will ride on your process criteria. The order will go something like: Record Edit -> Workflow & Process -> Workflow Record Edit -> Workflow & Process. It can be a muddy complication you simply don’t want to have to deal with. In my opinion, Process Builder has two big failings: 1. Error handling is terrible user & admin experience 2. Bulkification… Read more »

Erik Nelke
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Erik Nelke

Very big fan of PB! It’s allowed us to leap forward where we would have otherwise needed a much more technical resource.

The only downside for us is the really clunky view of the processes. No grouping or filtering to make that page not very useful even wit careful naming conventions.

Terry Miller
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I’m also a big fan of PB but we do have to be smart in how we use it. Brian hit exactly on two of the common mistakes I see made with PB. First, in the PB decision box, always check to be sure the process needs to run. If updating Field1 to “A” then make sure it’s not already set to “A”. It’s so easy to be sloppy and end up running processes that don’t need to run. Second, always set the values in your file when uploading data so PB doesn’t have to. The third thing I’d add… Read more »

Niki Vankerk
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Niki Vankerk

Don’t forget about those time based workflows – Process Builder has a miserable interface for confirming which records are pending actions, when and which action. WF has a lovely interface where you can see which records are scheduled and when for each workflow and even has a way to bulk delete items if you want to selectively remove notifications or actions from the queue. Error messaging is also quite, well, miserable if you have apex running or other code as the fault email is vague at best and the actual condition that throws errors during the processing of the PB… Read more »

Micah Perry
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Micah Perry

If I run into bulk errors with PB, I’ll often build in a “0 days after Rule Trigger Date” scheduled action which delays my PB action by a few seconds. This has solved a lot of those bulk error issues. I’m not sure if I’m hurting my org more than helping it with this, as it’s a common fix with my processes.

However, I am constantly going back to using Workflow if I’m able to achieve what I need with just that.

Jessica
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Jessica

Hey Brent, any thoughts on whether Workflows will ever cease to be supported by Salesforce? I’ve been hearing Salesforce folks push Process Builder as the new Workflow, but I’m not sure if I’m reading too much into that statement, and making my own assumptions about Workflows going away in the future.

Marta
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Marta

Great article. You hit the nail on the head. Sadly, I found out some of these lessons the hard way. Do we know if Salesforce has anything in the works to get PB to be more bulkified? Your flowchart is my new “go to” for choosing the right tool for the job.

Gidi
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Gidi

Brent Hi, Thank you for the post! I was wondering if your conclusion regarding this debate stays the same. I’m a PB fan. Lately, I had a disagreement with my co-workers regarding this debate. They want to stay with Workflows since they think it’s more stable. I vote for PB, although I agree the Error handling is poor. Sometimes, Salesforce Admins create a Workflow and after a month they realize they need another Workflow with a similar logic (but a bit different). So now they would create another Workflow and another one and eventually, they will end up with many… Read more »

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