Workflow Rules vs. Process Builder (feat. APEX)

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Automating business processes for your users can take your applications from “nice” to legitimately useful. A savvy admin can save users time and clicks while creating consistency of processes and increasing data integrity, so mastering the tools available on the Salesforce platform can be very valuable to any organization.

We’ve recently just released a more in-depth article that compares Process Builder Vs Flow, check it out after reading this one!

Workflow Rule

Workflow has been an admin’s friend for a long time. Workflows can:

  • Update a field
  • Send an email
  • Create a Task
  • Send an outbound message (communication with another system)

These can be initiated when a record is created, whenever it meets a certain condition, or whenever it is first set to meet a certain condition. The actions can be performed in any combination and can even have a time delay, rather than be performed immediately.

Process Builder

Process Builder is a newer tool for admins which is even more powerful. In addition to everything a workflow can do (except for sending outbound messages), you can:

  • Create a record (not just Tasks!)
  • Update related records
  • Launch a Quick Action
  • Post to Chatter
  • Launch a Flow
  • Call Apex code
  • Submit for approval
  • Invoke another process

Process Builder also extends upon the things that workflow does. For updating related records, Process Builder can update any field on any related record, where Workflow can only update some fields on a parent record of a Master-Detail relationship. Process Builder can also update multiple related records in a situation when all of a record’s child records need the same update.

Also, Process Builder finally gives admins the ability to set the exact order of operations, whereas with Workflow we had no control. No more complex workarounds to be able to ensure things happen in a certain order!

Since Process Builder also has the ability to configure multiple if-then conditions in one Process rather than separate Workflow rules, it helps new admins and admins who inherit orgs visualize the business processes with its sleek visual interface.

Process Builder has versions, so you can retain deactivated Processes. This can be very helpful if you realize something isn’t working and want to look back to what was happening before.

Lastly, one of the biggest reasons to use Process Builder, might just be because it’s the future.

According to Salesforce:

We’re no longer enhancing Workflow. We still support your use of workflow rules, and will continue to do so. But all new functionality for the workflow use case will come through Process Builder. If you want to use the shiny new functionality, migrate your automation to Process Builder.

If you have a mature org, it no doubt has lots of Workflow rules already running. As you see from Salesforce, they aren’t discontinuing Workflow support, so there’s no imminent reason to go back and convert them to Processes. That said, take the time when you can to make replacement Processes in a sandbox, so that you can future-proof your org. Salesforce has an excellent Trailhead module to walk you through migrating Workflows to Processes.

For all new Objects it’s advisable to eschew Workflow in favor of Processes. Be careful if you need to add new automations to existing Objects that already contain Workflow, however. You probably want to stick with Workflow if you can. Per Salesforce:

Because you can’t choose which workflow rule is evaluated first, choose one tool to automate everything for a given object. If you use both Workflow and Process Builder, you can’t reliably predict the results of a record change.


Finally, there’s always Apex to help you achieve “everything else” — whatever business requirements you have that can’t be accomplished through declarative configuration. If you have access to a developer, with Apex the sky is the limit. With Apex you could do the following:

  • Delete records
  • Update unrelated records
  • Share records with more complex criteria than Sharing Rules permits
  • Add/remove users in Chatter Groups and Public Groups
  • Create email templates that pulls info from multiple records and Objects (combined with Visualforce)
  • And more

Apex is powerful tool, but do your best to minimize its use. Don’t be afraid to employ it, but makes sure you think it through thoroughly to determine if there is a way you can accomplish what you need declaratively. Using Apex means that you’ll need to write test coverage and the more Apex you have, the longer it will take deployments from Sandboxes because the changes need to be validated against all of the code.

By knowing the tools available, what they can do (and their limitations), and when is best to use each, you’re in a position to give your users the best experience possible while also creating an environment for your organization to have the best data possible.

11 thoughts on “Workflow Rules vs. Process Builder (feat. APEX)

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    The use of flow adds more options and flexibility often without the use of (apex) trigger development. However … not all objects are exposed to workflow, flow and or process builder so it requires some exploring. From my experience … the lack of support for auto-launched flow for community users and not being able to apply a template (id) for sending emails using from would really be a huge benefit.

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    Depending on your org and the complexity of existing workflows, triggers and the like you have to very careful deploying a Process Builder solution – It can easily hit system limits and also we have found it to impede existing processes in some cases and prefer to deploy a workflow rule instead of spending time to debug …. At the same time we do have some PB processes and they do work fine

  3. Pingback: Useful declarative workflow vs. APEX links | togbox

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    Really good article. Completely agree. I would like to add that when you combine Workflows and Process builders in an object given, Workflows are executed first. In my opinion sometimes is a good combination use both. For example, I prefer Worfklows to create time depedent actions if it is possible (Process Builder doesn’t allow search time actions very well), and when this actions are executed use Process Builders to bulkify business logic

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    Great article but, “using Apex means that you’ll need to write test coverage and the more Apex you have, the longer it will take deployments from Sandboxes because the changes need to be validated against all of the code” is not necessarily true because test cases just need to cover at least 75% of the code in order to deploy. Definitely agree with the main point of this article, even Salesforce states you should use the OOB tools (i,e. Workflows, Process Builder, Data Loader) about 70% of the time and Apex about 30%

  6. Avatar

    Are there limits to the number of active processes? I need 95 active workflow rules and am limited to 50. So, I’m wondering if I can have 95 processes. Thanks!

    1. Avatar

      Tina, is there a reason you need 95 individual processes? I’m genuinely curious as to why someone would need so many.

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