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Salesforce Process Automation: Advice for Nonprofits and Higher Ed

By August 29, 2019

Flow Builder
One common example of process automation is Flow Builder.

“Where do I start?”

As a Customer Success Architect, I work with the most ambitious organisations who are using Salesforce to change the world. But resources are limited, and many nonprofit and higher education organisations are trying to do more with less. To streamline and automate manual processes in Salesforce, I suggest you look into process automation to achieve three key things:

    1. Improve efficiency to reduce overheads
    2. Reduce information capture error rates to increase accuracy
    3. Direct more funds to support your mission

Salesforce Process Builder, Flow, Workflow, and approval processes automate some or all components of complex processes without writing a single line of code. Add in validation rules, assignment rules, escalation rules, auto-response rules, and macros, and you’re talking about a comprehensive set of features to further automate business activities.

If the complexity or volume of your data makes code a better choice, Apex and VisualForce can help you out. And if you have bigger inter-system automation requirements, you can look beyond core Salesforce at Heroku and Integration options.

When we all agree that Process Automation is a wonderful thing, the next question is always the same: “Where do I start?” To share the knowledge I’ve gained over the years, I want to share these three guidelines with you as you determine what to automate at your organisation.

Pro Tip #1: A Fresh Start

Pro Tip #1: A Fresh StartThis is the time to review all of your processes and determine if any can be removed or simplified. I frequently see business processes that are unnecessarily complex and the result of “I’ll just add this small step…” changes over time. Make the effort to improve those processes first, avoiding unnecessary steps as you progress. Then, prioritise your processes by looking at change effort, impact, and risk (so you don’t disrupt the fundraisers just before the Christmas campaign, or the finance folks just before financial year end…you get the idea!).

Once you know what, think about who: which team in your organisation will be willing to work with you to analyse and test your automations? How will you communicate and provide the right feedback channels? Getting this ready will help keep momentum within your project later on.

Pro Tip #2: Look for ROI

Pro Tip #2: Look for ROIWhile you don’t need to write code to implement process automation, you do need time. You’ll need to evaluate whether or not it’s worth the effort to automate per process. Here’s a simple example: a manual process run manually once a month takes an experienced person 1 hour each time (12 hours a year, or 1.5 working days). The automation looks to be complex and will take a few rounds of design, build, testing, and monitoring to get it right – let’s say all that adds up to 3 working days. So it’s not worth it, right? You won’t start seeing an effort return until 2 years have passed. But wait! What if, after automation is deployed, you ask the person spending that 1 hour every month to do something far more valuable with their time? That, right there, is where you can really start to see your ROI.

And it’s not just about time to build. Here are some other metrics you can use to demonstrate the value of automation:

    1. Number of screens users have to navigate, assigning time values to each screen.
    2. Amount of time it takes from process start to completion.
    3. Throughput of completed processes.
    4. Reduction in error rates or complaints.

Pro Tip 3: Think Ahead

Pro Tip 3: Think AheadEven before you’ve finalised what processes to automate, you should think about how you will deploy and maintain your solutions, and help your teams understand the changes. Process automation should be an ever-evolving activity: be ready to constantly capture, validate and prioritise your use cases, and then design, build, test, deploy, and monitor your automation solutions. Be sure you’re committing to a realistic change schedule that aligns to the scale and pace of your organisation. And take some time to get your admins and developers ready – no better place to start than Trailhead!

So now you know where to start looking and what to start looking at. Next in the series, we’ll look at tools and methods available to get your automations up and running on the Salesforce platform.


This blog is part one of a three part series on Using Process Automation, and part of our larger “Ask an Architect” content series. Register for our Architect-led Process Automation webinar in October. Last but not least, don’t forget to download our latest whitepaper on the topic.

To learn more about engaging a Customer Success Architect in your organization, please contact your Account Executive.

About the Author
Richard BoothRichard Booth is a Senior Principal Customer Success Architect at based in the London area in the UK. He helps nonprofit and higher education organisations make the best possible use of Salesforce technologies to deliver impact and support their mission. You can connect with Richard on LinkedIn.