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Becoming a superhero Salesforce administrator is easier than you’d think – it is surprisingly easy to learn the basics of creating Fields, Workflow Rules, Reports, and all the other day-to-day work required to keep your system growing and evolving. But becoming a true master is about more than just knowing where to click – you have to know how to think about a requirement and the implications of your design choices. One common situation that really separates the novices from the experts is in choosing between Formula Fields and Workflow Field Updates in Salesforce.

Formula Fields and Workflow Field Updates can both accomplish the task of taking data from one field, transforming it, and populating another field. Formulas are great if you need to populate data from a looked-up field onto a different object – maybe you want Contact Phone on Cases, or Campaign Cost on Leads. Workflows can do this too, but if that value changes on the parent, it won’t be updated on the child, so avoid Workflows here, unless you want the snapshot value from when the lookup was first populated. Formulas are a great way to sum up amounts from various fields – say Amount Billed – Amount Paid = Balance. But if you want something to happen when the Balance reaches $0, you need to know that changes to the values in Formula Fields cannot fire a Workflow Rule or Trigger, so if you want an email to go out to the Account Executive if a balance ever dips into the negative, you’ll need to update that field via a Workflow Rule rather than a Formula. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or share your own pointers below!

-Jared and the Salesforce Guys