Salesforce Process Automation: the difference between Process Builder, Workflow, and Visual Workflow

Always use Process Builder wherever possible.


Salesforce has so many Process Automation options, it can be difficult to decide which one to use. Granted, there is lots of overlap, but there are a few fundamental differences once you get to know them. The best approach to deciding which Process Automation option to use is to ask yourself the following questions:

Do I need to interact with the user?

If the process you are automating relies on interacting with the user (e.g. to obtain input), you will have to use Visual Workflow to do this, as it is the only Process Automation option in Salesforce that supports screens. Easy decision.

Do I need to create a record (other than a Task)?

All three tools can create Tasks, but if you want to create other types of records (including Chatter posts), you will need to use Process Builder, or alternatively Visual Workflow if your process is more complex.

Do I need to delete a record?

Only Visual Workflow will allow you to delete records. No decision to be made here.

Do I need to send an outbound message to an external service?

If you are communicating with an external service (such as an API) and need to send an outbound message from Salesforce in XML format, you will have to use Workflow. None of the other Process Automation tools offer this facility without the need to write supporting Apex code.

Do I need to invoke some Apex code?

If the answer to this question is yes, you will need to use Process Builder or if your process is more complex, Visual Workflow.

The preceding five questions should be enough to put you on the right track in terms of which automation tool you will probably need. However, there are a few finer points that may sway your final decision. See this Trailhead article for some in-depth detail to help you choose.

What you can do with Process Builder

Process Builder should always be your first port of call when looking to automate processes in Salesforce. With Process Builder, you can:

  • Create records
  • Update records related to the one that triggered the process
  • Post to Chatter
  • Send Email Alerts
  • Invoke other Processes
  • Launch Flows
  • Submit records to an Approval Process
  • Call Apex code
  • Use a Quick Action

What you can do with Visual Workflow

Basically, anything you can do with Process Builder you can also do with Visual Workflow – all except invoke Processes. However, with Visual Workflow you can also:

  • Update any record (not just ones related to the record that triggered the Flow)
  • Delete records
  • Send emails (not just email alerts)

What you can do with Workflow

Workflow is a little more limited. With Workflow Actions you can:

  • Create Tasks
  • Update the record that triggered the Workflow Rule (or its parent record)
  • Launch Flows (this is coming soon – a pilot is in progress)
  • Send Email Alerts
  • Send outbound messages in XML format without using code

If you need any more information, Trailhead is your go-to place. There’s an excellent module on Process Automation that will teach you everything you need to know, in the usual fun Trailhead style. Go for it, Trailblazer!

Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash.

Salesforce Certified Administrator Exam Tips

How to pass your Salesforce Administrator exam.


So far, I have found the Salesforce Certified Administrator exam to be one on the toughest I have ever taken. Maybe there’s something about the pressure of knowing a stranger somewhere in the world is watching you closely through your webcam while you sweat over sixty multiple-choice questions?

One thing’s for sure – you have to know Salesforce pretty well in order to get through this exam. It goes into a lot of detail and involves thinking through some tricky scenarios, so even if you’ve been working with Salesforce for a number of years, you will need to do some study and revision in order to pass.

First step: honestly assess your own ability

Your first step should be to download the study guide from the Salesforce Certification website. This contains an exam outline which breaks down the exam into sections like this one:


You should have knowledge and hands-on experience of each of the features and functions covered in each of the sections before you attempt the exam. Don’t try to fluff it, or you will end up failing and having to pay to resit. As with many things in life, preparation is absolutely key here.

Methodically work your way through this exam outline and highlight any sections you feel you may be weak in. A good approach might be to score yourself out of ten for each item, so you know where to focus your study/revision. It’s very important to be honest with yourself.

Each section is weighted according to its importance, and for the higher weighted sections you can expect correspondingly more questions in the exam. So for example, there will be more questions around Security & Access features than there are about the AppExchange.

Fill in knowledge gaps using Trailhead

So you’ve now mapped out where your strengths and weaknesses are in terms of the exam content. What’s the next step?

Trailhead is Salesforce’s very own online learning resource, and it’s fantastic. Salesforce staff use it internally, which should give you an idea of the quality of its content. On Trailhead you can search for individual topics and work your way through detailed modules which explain the concepts, give you hands-on practice, then test your knowledge as you go along.

Update: there’s now a dedicated ‘Trailmix’ for those preparing for their Certified Salesforce Administrator exam.

Mock exams and flashcards

There are many mock exams and flashcards available on sites like Quizlet and Cram. While these are good for testing yourself and gaining a bit of confidence, the quality is variable and you shouldn’t totally rely on them because they may not cover everything you need to know in order to pass the exam.

Salesforce Ben and some of the other Salesforce superstars provide great mock exams for many of the Salesforce certifications. The quality of these is higher, and I recommend them for testing your knowledge, but I urge you not to be lulled into a false sense of security.

On mock exams, I was getting close to 100% and was totally confident I was going to ace the real exam. The truth is the official Salesforce Certified Administrator credential is a killer, with much longer/trickier scenario-based questions than any of the mock exams I have seen. Many other Salesforce Certified Professionals agree this is the toughest exam they have done so far because it is so broad.

You can do it!

Don’t let this post put you off aiming for this credential. If I can do it, so can you. However, don’t waste your money sitting the exam if you’re not ready. It costs $200 for the first attempt and $100 for every attempt thereafter.

The first step described in this post is crucial – identify your strengths and weaknesses, and focus your learning. If you take this approach and cover everything in the exam outline in the study guide, you will pass.

I find Salesforce exams really nerve-wracking. Doing them from home also makes them prone to things going wrong. I have had Internet connections drop mid-way through exams, cats jump on the table and walk across my keyboard, and window cleaners try to chat to me through the glass, all while the timer was ticking and that little webcam was silently watching my every move!

Despite these challenges, I survived the experience and have now passed several Salesforce exams. You can do the same.

Did this post help you?

If these tips helped you, please share the love by leaving a comment and/or sharing with your Salesforce Ohana!

Image credit: photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash.