Learning Flow like Arithmetic

I’m not going to spend time on why you should learn Flow. Flow is the future of declarative automation. Nothing wrong with the limited paradigms of Workflow and Process Builder. They will be around a long time. Unless you overdid Process Builder, I don’t agree with Salesforce Optimizer authors that you should convert to Flow and eliminate Process Builder. I think you need to work smarter than that. An Orchestrator is real and going to stitch together automations, screens, and approvals, giving amazing power to your users through the humble admin-eloper. Developers can now call Flows from their code and APEX and Flow can cooperate side by side like never before. But before you can do any of that, you have to know Flow really well.

I hear all the time that “so-and-so is a really good [doctor, counselor, teacher].” I think a lot of the time it’s purely anecdotal, but when it’s based on many encounters with the same person, I think what they are really saying is that “so-and-so and I make a really good team when it comes to [medical care, therapy, and learning]”. Thus, I encourage you to find a way to learn flow that matches with YOU, your experiences, and your style. I have seen all sorts of learning efforts around flow. Most start with the idea of being a programmer. That’s not for many and perhaps most admin-elopers. 

Today I’m sharing an approach I took with Salesforce newbies in an 8 hour B.A.M. class. Newbies learning flow? Yes… in a survey I did of Salesforce Saturday participants, all new within 2 year, they all wished they had learned flow sooner! Don’t wait! Don’t walk! Run!

My approach to the four classes was to be productive immediately and use all the newest features. No history. No programming jargon. Just learning from scratch… It seemed to work according to the participants. I judged it a success because most of the participants kept coming back. Here were the four class concept themes:

Addition: Learn to string things together in 1-2-3 order to do tasks. Get a record. Change something and update it. Or show it. Or ask for input that you use. Doesn’t matter how many things you add up, it’s still an addition. We can do that! And your flow grows longer but no “wider.”

Multiplication: Learn to multiply and your flow gets wider. There are only currently two main things that do that: conditional logic (if then else then ease then) and flow has an amazingly powerful and “simple” but not mainstream conditional logic operator. It doesn’t require super complex equations. It checks the first condition first and then goes on to the next and the next. It has a default if nothing turns out to be true. And your flow gets wider for every option you add. The only other main way to make your flow “wider” is with a loop. And it’s very simple currently. Get a collection of objects, loop for each one and do stuff inside the loop.

Algebra: If that freaks you out, call it word problems. To solve a bunch of really useful problems, you want to combine flow with a trigger on a record change. Or tie the flow to a button or even a component pane on your record page. Or a pop-up window. All are possible. The parts of Salesforce working together form an algebra. And you can delight users with these really simply!

Calculus: Yeah… it sounds hard and it is advanced. But if you want to build complex and high quality things easily… you’re going to want to leverage calculus! If you prefer, you can call it integration. What I mean by this currently is adding components you don’t write to solve things. There are dozens of super useful functions you can add to Flow on unOfficialSF.com. They expose APEX functions to do all sorts of things with collections so you don’t violate Flow governor limits so easily. They expose the cool tricks that developers have been using for a decade to take a record and ask Salesforce to display it with all the UI power available for display or editing and save. You can build a full UI with one single element in Flow. They expose the power of APEX to build tables of records and allow selection of one or multiple records as well as in-line editing, sorting and filtering. You can literally query for a group of records, display them, let the user edit and save certain fields, and allow the user to select one for the next step in two Flow steps. This is the power of calculus!

If this learning style or approach works for you, I saved the class notes, video presentations, homework assignments and homeworks solutions. They are “original” (as original can be, I suppose) to me. They are available in a learning management system which I purchased and configured. By providing your email address in a Hub Message (no other way please), I would let you have a login to the MLS. I don’t claim it is snazzy or fancy. I just claim that if you match the learning style, you can learn or sharpen your flow pretty solidly. Message me if this particular learning method seems to be a good fit for you. Volunteers and good-will offerings may improve the offering over time.

No matter where you find the material, start learning flow now! Use flow soon! Master flow and keep remastering it. No underlying technology has grown faster in Salesforce that I can remember. And it’s not over, I promise!

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