Thursday, December 10, 2009

Workflow Components

The individual components that make up workflow are rules and associated actions — tasks, field updates, and alerts.

In general, a workflow rule is the main container for a set of workflow instructions. It includes the criteria for when the workflow should be activated, as well as the particular actions that should take place when the criteria for that rule are met. Every workflow rule must be based on a single object that users will choose when they define the rule, as this object then influences the fields that are available for setting workflow activation criteria.

For example, if a user defines a workflow rule for the “Job Application” object in an HR application, he/she will be able to set workflow activation criteria based on the values of fields like “Job Application Number” and “Status”. Users can also set workflow activation criteria based on standard fields, like “Record Owner” or “Created Date”, as well as fields based on the currently active user when a rule is evaluated, such as their “Role” or “Time Zone”.

When a workflow rule is triggered, there are many types of actions that can occur, starting with a workflow task (or step), which assigns a task to a user according to a particular template. Just as in Microsoft Outlook, tasks include information about something that needs to be done by a certain time, such as making a telephone call, creating an order, shipping goods, or paying an invoice. Typically, assigned tasks appear in a user’s “My Tasks” related list on their home tab (or page) and generate reminder messages that pop up when a user logs in.

When an administrator defines a workflow task, he/she provides default values for data fields like “Assignee”, “Subject”, “Status”, “Priority”, and “Due Date” for tasks that are generated by its associated workflow rule. Administrators can also make sure that a notification email is sent to the assignee when a task is automatically generated.

In additon, a workflow field update changes the value of a particular field on the record that initially triggered the workflow rule, while a workflow alert sends an email according to a specified email template. Unlike workflow tasks, which can only be assigned to users of the application, workflow alerts can be sent to any user or contact, as long as they have a valid email address.

A workflow rule can include any combination of these actions when the rule is triggered. For example, one rule might send out an alert and update two fields on a particular record. The action that one workflow rule takes can also trigger the execution of another workflow rule.

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