First Time Flownatic Tips
First Time Flownatic Tips

First Time Flownatic Tips

08/19/2020 by Melinda Smith
Here are some of the most complicated Flow concepts that took me some effort to master, but simplified, along with some advice to make your life as an admin easier.

So you want to be a Flownatic? Flows are quickly becoming THE hot new thing for admins to create in Salesforce. I’ve even heard they may make Process Builder obsolete! But do you find them a bit tricky? You’re not alone. It can feel like a brain stretch to get a handle on these code-adjacent terms. 

Resources and Variables 

For me, the hardest one was the concept of Resources in Flows. In the Flow toolbox, you have little vessels for creating, holding, or updating your variables and records. Wrapping your head around Resources and Variables is a critical piece to comprehending Flows.  

Resources answer the question: how are you going to hold pieces of data you’re requesting?  The challenge is that it's a capability with which admins (and consultants) are often not very familiar. A Resource is any value or set of values you can reference in a Flow. Some are straightforward, like a Contact record ID or picklist choice sets. These kinds of resources tend to speak for themselves.

Of all the Resource types, the trickiest one for me was resource variables. ”Ugh, why won't these click in my head?”  I know I’ve said it and you may have too. It helped to step back and look at the definition. What is a variable anyway?

  1. not consistent or having a fixed pattern; liable to change.
  2. able to be changed or adapted.
  1. an element, feature, or factor that is liable to vary or change.
  2. a quantity which during a calculation is assumed to vary or be capable of varying in value.
‘a data item that may take on more than one value during the runtime of a program.’

If a variable still feels like something you create out of thin air, then you’re on the right track!  This is because that’s essentially what you do. It is a conceptual holder of things; I like to think of it as a container of sorts. 

Talking to Your Flows

The next thing to understand in order to become a Flownatic is that unlike Process Builder, you have to tell the Flow exactly what to do for every single tiny step.

Think about writing a user story for a developer. You wouldn’t say, “Get this person's name and add if they’re new, if not update the record.” You’re leaving out so many details, like what Account with which to link the Contact, and how are you determining a ‘match,’ or what if it's a match but with new information…?

When you use Process Builder, it does those tiny behind-the-scene steps for you. Trailhead is still your friend here and I recommend you work through the Build a Simple Flow Trailhead. Let’s reference what they mention to clarify how the nodes translate. 

Screen = get info from a user AND hold it in a created VARIABLE

Get Records = From info entered, go find what was requested in the database, then hold

Decision = What to do with what I’m holding (2 choices)

Create Records = Use what I was holding to create new

Assignment = Pass what I was holding 

Update Records = Use the match I’m now holding and update that record

Each have some additional information but this is the gist of these Elements.

Lightbulb Moment

It really started to sink in when I understood that every tiny detail had to be called out. 

I had to talk to a Flow like my 7 year old. If I tell her to pick up her room, she will, but only to her definition of ‘done.’ I HAVE to be specific about what is considered picked up, what items to be moved/removed, what items to put back and the definition of ‘done’ to get the results that I want, I have to be very thorough in my instructions.

  • Naming Conventions. Create a standard for yourself when naming variables and other resources. This way you’ll know what you want, how to debug and what goes where (credit James Bujold)
  • Read and re-read and read again till it clicks. I did the first module on the Build a Simple Flow over a couple days and read each step till I really understood.

Happy flow building, Flownatics! What flow concepts do you still hard to master? Let me know in the Salesforce Trailblazer Community or chat with me @girlygeeksocial