Workflows—an Introduction

Written By: Dave Packard

from December 3, 2012

Workflows can be powerful tools in any CRM implementation, but I have found they are not fully understood. On several occasions I have seen customers view workflows as a virtual panacea to solve all their business process problems. I was able to pull them back from that view, but I realized a brief overview of what workflows can (and can’t) do would be helpful.

Workflows fire upon any of these triggers:

  • When a record is created
  • When the record status changes
  • When a record is assigned
  • When record fields change
  • When a record is deleted
  • When manually fired (on-demand)
  • When called from another workflow

Once fired the workflow can do any or all of the following:

  • Check to see if a condition(s) is met before doing anything
  • Timeout for x hours/days before doing anything
  • Create a record(s)
  • Update a record
  • Assign a record
  • Send email
  • Change a record status
  • Call another workflow
  • Stop

These are the general capabilities of workflows, but what exactly can they do? Some examples of workflows I have implemented include:

  • Email a record owner when a record is created or assigned (this can be internal or external emails)
  • Assigning a new Lead to a sales rep based on the Lead’s location
  • Create follow up tasks when an Opportunity is opened
  • Update the sales pipeline stage when the close percentage changes
  • Escalate a case to a manager if it hasn’t been touched in X hours
  • Create the Primary Contact when a prospect Account is created
  • Create a Unique ID for a record by concatenating several fields
  • Push notifications to users (such as daily goal progress)
  • Migrate data from an old field to a new one

A good rule of thumb for when to use a workflow is when a business process can be automated—basically, if X happens then Y must happen. If there is clear business logic then you can probably automate that process via a workflow, which will save you time and help streamline your business.

For example, creating a new Lead could trigger an email notification to the new owner of the lead, a follow up phone call due that day for the new owner, a follow up phone call due in two days, and an email to the Lead from that new owner to expect a call. This will save the user from having to create these follow up activities manually. If there are certain steps that help your sales process push a sale forward, look at workflows to automate wherever possible. Here is what the above workflow would look like:

These are some of the capabilities of what workflows can do, so what are their limitations?

  • They can only do what their logic says
  • They can’t define your process
  • They can’t enforce your sales process
  • They can’t sell

How do they work?

  • Workflows only fire when a trigger event occurs.
  • Automatic trigger events only occur when a record is saved.
  • On-demand workflows must be started manually.
  • Workflows are not instantaneous—it will take a little time for the workflow to fire and finish.

Workflows are a great tool to automate defined processes and reduce data entry. To discover how workflows can help your CRM system contact Cargas Systems, a certified Microsoft Dynamics CRM partner, offering software, services, and support that help improve your business processes.

By Dave Packard with Cargas Systems