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What are the Workflow Rules? How to Set Them Up in Salesforce

Workflow rules are an important part of business process management.

They set the tone for the whole workflow, and thus, overall efficiency.

Luckily, workflow rules aren’t all that complicated to establish, especially if you’re using a CRM like Salesforce to help you out.

In this article, we’ll go in depth into what workflow rules are, their benefits, and how to set them up.

What are workflows?

Workflows are a series of tasks that need to be completed in a sequence.

Basically, it’s the management of “repetitive processes and tasks which occur in a particular order.” 

Workflows are not the same as business process management (BPM), but they are an integral part. There can be one or dozens of workflows that make up business processes, depending on how complex the processes are. 

In the world of business and project management, having efficient and well-defined workflows is crucial for ensuring the smooth and successful execution of tasks and processes.

Workflows can be simple or complex, depending on the nature of the task or process at hand. They can involve a single individual or multiple teams and departments working together in a coordinated manner.

The main purpose of a workflow is to streamline and automate repetitive tasks, eliminate bottlenecks, and improve overall efficiency and productivity.

What are workflow rules?

Workflow rules are a fundamental component of any CRM system, including Salesforce. They are a powerful tool for automating and managing various business processes, eliminating manual repetitive tasks, and improving overall efficiency and productivity.

At their core, workflow rules define specific criteria and actions that need to be taken when certain conditions are met. These rules can be set up to trigger actions such as sending outbound messages, updating field values, sending email alerts, or creating follow-up tasks. By automating these actions, organizations can ensure that important tasks are completed in a timely manner, reducing the chances of errors or delays.

To determine when a workflow rule should run, evaluation criteria are defined. These criteria can be based on field values, record types, ownership of records, or any other relevant criteria.

One of the key features of workflow rules is the ability to set up time-dependent actions. This means that actions can be scheduled to occur at specific times or intervals. For example, a workflow rule can be configured to send a reminder email to sales team members if a certain opportunity record remains untouched for a specific number of days.

In addition to workflow rules, Salesforce offers other tools such as Process Builder and Flow Builder to assist in the creation and management of more complex business processes. These tools provide advanced features and capabilities to handle intricate workflows and ensure that every step is executed smoothly.

With these tools, organizations can build workflows that span multiple teams and departments, enabling collaboration and coordination across the entire organization.

Benefits of workflow rules

Workflow rules offer numerous benefits to organizations by automating processes and streamlining tasks. Here are some key advantages of using workflow rules:

Increased efficiency

Workflow rules automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks, freeing up valuable time for employees to focus on more important activities. By automating actions such as email notifications, field updates, and task creation, workflow rules ensure that tasks and processes are completed promptly and accurately, reducing the chances of errors or delays.

Improved consistency and standardization

Workflow rules enforce consistent procedures and business rules, ensuring that processes are executed in a standardized manner across the organization. By defining specific criteria and actions, workflow rules eliminate variability and ensure that tasks are completed in a consistent and predictable way. This helps in maintaining data integrity and upholding organizational standards.

Enhanced communication and collaboration

Workflow rules facilitate communication and collaboration by automatically notifying the right individuals or teams when certain conditions are met. For example, a workflow rule can trigger an email alert to notify the sales team about a new high-priority opportunity. This improves coordination and ensures that the right people are informed and can take appropriate action.

Proactive task management

Workflow rules can be configured with time-dependent actions, allowing organizations to set up reminders and escalations for important tasks. For instance, a workflow rule can send a reminder email to team members if a task remains untouched for a specified period. This helps in avoiding bottlenecks and ensuring that important tasks are not forgotten or overlooked.

Simplified process management

Workflow rules provide a visual interface for designing and managing business processes. This simplifies the process management by allowing users to easily create, modify, and track workflows. With features like triggers, conditions, and actions, users can define complex workflows without the need for extensive coding or technical expertise.

Scalability and flexibility

Workflow rules can be easily modified and adapted to changing business requirements. As organizations grow and evolve, workflows can be updated to accommodate new processes and incorporate additional criteria and actions. This scalability and flexibility ensure that workflows can keep pace with organizational growth and changes in business needs.

Setting up Workflow Rules

To begin, you’ll need to access the Workflow Rules section in Salesforce. This can be found in the Setup menu under the Automation section. Once you’re in the Workflow Rules section, you can start creating your rules by clicking on the “New Rule” button.

When creating a workflow rule, the first step is defining the rule criteria. This involves specifying the conditions that need to be met in order for the rule to be triggered. You can use various operators and logical statements to create complex rule criteria.

Next, you’ll need to determine the actions that should be taken when the rule criteria are met. There are several actions available, including email alerts, field updates, and task creation.

Moreover, Salesforce provides a visual and user-friendly interface called Process Builder that simplifies the setup and management of workflow rules. Process Builder allows you to create and modify complex workflows without the need for extensive coding or technical expertise.

Another crucial aspect is considering the evaluation criteria and execution options for workflow rules. Salesforce offers four types of evaluation criteria: when a record is created, when a record is edited, when a record is created or edited, and when a record is created or edited, with specific changes to selected fields. You can choose the most suitable evaluation criteria based on your business needs.

Finally, it’s essential to test your workflow rules before deploying them to ensure they are functioning as intended. Salesforce provides a “Debug” option that enables you to simulate the execution of workflow rules and identify any potential issues or errors.

Salesforce Workflow Rule use cases

Here are some use cases of Workflow Rules in Salesforce:

Outbound messages

With the ability to trigger messages when specific criteria are met, businesses can set up notifications and alerts to keep teams informed about important updates or events. Whether it’s sending shipping notifications to customers or providing real-time updates to suppliers, Workflow Rules make it easy to keep stakeholders in the loop.

Field updates

By defining certain criteria, businesses can automatically update field values within Salesforce records. For example, when a sales opportunity reaches a certain stage, Workflow Rules can be used to update the opportunity status or assign it to the appropriate sales team member. This eliminates the need for manual intervention, ensuring data accuracy and reducing the risk of errors.

Email alerts

By setting up rules based on specific criteria, businesses can automatically trigger email notifications to relevant parties. For instance, a Workflow Rule can be configured to send an email alert to a sales manager when a high-value opportunity is created. This ensures that key stakeholders are promptly informed and can take action as needed.

Time-dependent actions 

By specifying time triggers and conditions, businesses can automate actions that need to be performed at specific intervals. For instance, a Workflow Rule can be set up to send a reminder email to a customer two days before a subscription renewal date. This ensures timely communication and reduces the risk of missed opportunities.

Process Builder

By combining multiple actions and criteria, businesses can design intricate business processes that cater to their unique needs. Whether it’s assigning follow-up tasks, updating multiple fields simultaneously, or executing a series of actions, the possibilities are endless.

Components of workflow rules

Workflow rules are composed of several components that work together to automate and streamline business processes. These components include rule criteria, workflow actions, and time-dependent actions.

Rule criteria 

Businesses can define criteria based on various fields and their values, allowing them to target specific records or events. For example, a rule criteria could be set to trigger a Workflow Rule when the Opportunity Stage field is changed to “Closed Won.” This ensures that the Workflow Rule is only applied to relevant records, minimizing unnecessary automation.

Workflow actions

Salesforce offers a range of actions that can be taken, depending on the needs of the business. Some common workflow actions include field updates, email alerts, and outbound messages. For instance, when a record meets the specified criteria, a Workflow Rule can be set up to automatically update a field, send an email notification to a user or group, or even send an outbound message to an external system.

Time-dependent actions

This is useful for tasks that need to happen in the future, such as sending a reminder email or creating a follow-up task. By setting a time trigger and defining the conditions, businesses can automate these actions and ensure that they are executed at the appropriate time.

In addition to these components, Workflow Rules can also be customized further using:

  • Advanced filters
  • Custom formulas
  • Logical operators
  • Process Builder
  • Email templates
  • Drop-down list

This level of flexibility allows businesses to create complex workflows that cater to their unique needs and requirements. For example, a Workflow Rule can be set up to trigger only if multiple criteria are met, using logical operators like AND or OR.

Applying Workflow Rules to BPM software

Your workflow rules don’t have to be kept on Salesforce. There are a number of BPM vendors out there that integrate with Salesforce, allowing you to transfer your rules.

Process Street

Process Street gives you the ability to invite anyone to collaborate on a workflow, whether they work in-house or not. 

It keeps each step of every process organized and uses integrations with third-party apps such as Zapier, Salesforce, and Slack to automate the workflow and keep everything in one place. Integrations like that really help to streamline operations and make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

Additionally, you can leave comments on workflows, which automatically send notifications to the person you’re leaving a comment for, so everyone is always in the loop.

Monday has a very user-friendly interface and utilizes timelines and calendars to structure tasks, giving users a clear picture of when things should be completed. 

You can also change the view to see the project tasks laid out in a Kanban or Gantt chart. 

Monday gives project managers a lot of flexibility in their methodologies, so whether you prefer Agile or Scrum, Monday will work for you just the same.


Trello is excellent for remote project management.

In my previous job as a remote project manager, I used Trello to manage multiple projects at once to great success. It’s a great way to collaborate and have all the steps of the project clearly laid out and defined. 

You can see what your colleagues have done, or are currently working on in real-time, making it easier to know the status of your project without having to wait for replies from someone in another time zone.


Asana is the best budget option for small businesses. If you have a team of 15 or fewer, Asana is a great option. Its free plan is much richer in features than other software, and it offers unlimited projects and file storage for small teams. 

If your operations and projects are basic, you will never need to upgrade to a paid plan. You can even use automation on the free plan!


Airtable is a great tool for tracking projects. We actually use Airtable ourselves here at Process Street. We use it to track our monthly tasks, keep projects on schedule, and see the status of everyone’s work throughout. 

It automates with Process Street and Slack so we can see when we have new assignments and even does real-time performance monitoring, so you don’t have to do any of the data tracking yourself. It’s great for teams like hours who work remotely and asynchronously. 

Workflows are certainly a time investment, but they are a worthy one. 

Just remember that the biggest sign that a workflow is doing what it’s supposed to is that it makes life easier for everyone, not more difficult. 

Even the maintenance they require is outweighed by the time and money saved and the better work environment created. Just follow the workflow rules and you’ll be good to go!

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