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Salesforce Winter 21 Features – Lightning Flow

Post Series: Winter 21

Winter ’21 went live in the remaining production orgs over the weekend.  This is a huge release, so we’ll be covering all the features in five posts. We dug into Sales Cloud and platform features, learned all about what was new in Service Cloud and Field Service. We covered the brand new Service Cloud Voice product and Winter ’21 features in-depth, and later this week we will talk about the re-branded Experience Cloud (formerly Community Cloud). Whew. If that wasn’t enough content for you, today we’re excited to talk about Lightning Flow.

Winter ’21 is a pretty amazing release for Lightning Flows!  In fact, combined with the Summer ’20 Release, it is clear that Salesforce is positioning Flow as the go-to automation tool for the platform moving forward. They have a whole guide explaining exactly that – even going so far as to recommend Flow before Process Builder!  This means it’s time to up your Automation Game and really dig into Flow.  There are so many exciting things to unpack here, so let’s jump right in!

  • First up is a big one: trigger on delete. Trigger. On. Delete!
    Okay just… give me a minute here… we’re not even started and I’m getting emotional. Whew, deep breath. Consider how many times you’ve wanted to add automation for when a record is deleted, and the only option was Apex. No longer! With the new Record-Triggered, Before-Delete Flow option, you have the power to automate in just about all the ways you can with code. (Note: There is no Flow automation for “undelete”, you still have to write Apex for automation if you restore a record from the Recycle Bin.) It’s also cool to note that Salesforce is working to make sure that the flow builder canvas is dynamic based on the type of flow that you’re building. If only certain elements are allowed to work within a certain type of flow, the unsupported elements go away. That’s super-helpful to keep us from getting ourselves into trouble. If you think about it, Scheduled Flows helped us to reduce reliance on scheduled Apex jobs.  Combine that with Before-Delete Flows and Salesforce has closed gaps between coding and declarative automation.  Though we still must be careful to consider the Order of Execution with all these new tools at hand.
  • Universal Condition Logic
    This is a no-brainer and I’m so glad Flow has it now. Anywhere you can add conditions, you can now add logic – Get Records, Decisions, etc. Previously you were limited to AND logic; now there is OR logic, even custom logic (1 and 2 or 3 and 4). I mean, it’s the little things…
  • Pills
    Speaking of little things, there is now easier visualization of your data. No more of the {!Account.Whatever__c} notation… well that’s not true, it’s still there but now we have a new visual label and icon. For such a small thing, I think this is going to be huge for making Flows more readable and more approachable.
  • Related Record Links
    Also in the approachability department, now you can hop through lookup relationships to get data. You no longer need all those Get Records elements, which means you won’t hit the database as hard (saving those DML Limits).
  • Auto-Layout (Beta)
    We don’t usually cover features in beta, but I’m just too excited about this one. Finally! An option for those of us who like things arranged ‘just so.’ It’s embarrassing how much time I’ve spent arranging the elements in my Flows to make the connectors line up just… right… Seriously though, having a clean and organized Flow makes it much easier to read and understand. Now Salesforce is going to help us with the auto-layout option. There are still some caveats that they’re working out (two inputs into a Loop element, for example), plus toggling back-and-forth between the auto-layout and free-form modes is dangerous. But clearly, there is a lot of great work being done here – an organized flow is an efficient flow!
  • Global Variables
    This is a simple yet fun one – did you ever find yourself building a Flow and wondering, how the heck do I get the current user’s info? Why do I have to create a formula resource to access those global variables? Well thankfully that’s no longer necessary – tons of global variables are now available in flows.
  • Entry Criteria
    This one is both exciting and a little scary. I mean, the feature itself is excellent – specify entry conditions when a record-triggered flow fires, so that the flow only runs on records that meet that criteria. This saves you from needing to build a Decision element in your flow to handle that. Straightforward, right? And cool, because now you save some processing time by not running record-triggered flows on every record.But why scary? Well, remember how best practice is to have one record-change type Process Builder per object? Now we need to consider the same with Flow. When Salesforce gathers up all the record-triggered flows, there is no guarantee in what order they’ll run. So it’s time to start researching and establishing new best practices – if you have several different record-triggered flows, partitioned with this shiny new entry criteria, you need to consider if/how they’ll impact each other. Don’t think of this as a burden, but do be thoughtful about how you deploy these excellent new features!
  • Record Changes Option
    Well, that got a little heavy, can we lighten it up in here? Nope, not yet – this next feature is also a little advanced. In fact, I used to call this the “Advanced Flag” from how Process Builder presented the option. But I never liked that shorthand (the wording for Workflow Rules wasn’t any better). I mean, having to specify, “Execute outcome only if the record that triggered the flow to run is updated to meet the condition requirements,” is such a mouthful…Regardless of how we refer to it, this helps us narrow the focus of our automation so only specific changes fire specific actions. The record didn’t meet the criteria, this specific record change now means that it does meet the criteria, so we’re going to do the thing. Like, when an Opportunity Stage moves to “Pending”, send an email; but don’t send an email every time someone makes an update to the Opportunity that is already in “Pending” Stage. Advanced flag for sure…
  • Directed Error Messages
    I also refer to this as click-to-error. When you save your Flow and there are problems, Salesforce gives you a nice pop-up alert window outlining things. But it was just an outline; now they’re clickable links (when available). Save some clicks and dive right into the issue… as if your flows ever have an issue, am I right?
  • Debug-as-User
    An interesting feature that is only available in sandboxes – you can specify user impersonation when debugging a flow. It’s kind of an obvious thing – I built this awesome flow as a system administrator, I tested it as a system administrator, it runs awesome… but only as a system administrator. When I activated my flow and released it to users, things didn’t work? Well now I can head that off at the pass! It’s not that testing and debugging are the most fun parts of automation, but they’re necessary and it’s great to see Salesforce making it easier on us. Other recent features like rollback mode and record-variable inputs also are making it so much easier to debug. It makes us feel much more confident in the flows we build.

Salesforce is putting a lot of time and attention into Flow automation – writing architect guides, improving debugging, providing in-app guidance, adding visual enhancements for more approachability, and so on. It’s thrilling for me to see all this power being put in the hands of Salesforce admins. Just remember what they say: with great power comes great responsibility…

As always, feel free to contact us if you have any questions or would like help implementing any of these new features. We’ll get right back to you and would be happy to help. Thanks again for reading, and Experience Cloud will be our next and final Winter ’21 post!

Derek Camp

Derek is a 7x certified Salesforce Consultant at GearsCRM specializing in Field Service and Service Cloud. He has a passion for making order out of chaos and leveraging automation tools and business process improvement to build engaging experiences in Salesforce. When not traveling the world looking for amazing cheese, Derek can be found... oh, who are we kidding, it's all about cheese with him.

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