Smarter Text in Flows

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As Salesforce admins, I hope you have figured out that Flows can make your system super smart. I think this is a smart little hack to flows that can help make them even smarter!

Hopefully not this smart

Here is the setup. You have a flow and in this flow there is some data that is stored in variables. Because this data wants to go forth and adventure, you might use a text template to put some, well, text around those variables so that it makes sense. The text template would then be used in an email alert (just for example).

The thing is, as we all know, the minute you get the text of ANYTHING dialed in, someone asks for it to change. So, into the flow you go, modify the text template, save a new version, etc, etc, etc.

But, what if there was a better way? That question was rhetorical, since there totally is a better way.

For this blog example, I am just going to have a two screens, one as a starting point and a final screen that will substitute for the above mentioned email alert.

flow overview

No clever caption for this

Notice, there is NO text templates in this flow.

Look - No Text Templates

But, the end screen has all this text? WHAAAT?

Final Product

And, just to prove I am not pulling a fast one, here is what that field looks like…it is just variables.

and just to prove...

Instead of using a text template, I am using a text field on an object. The trick here is that you have to enter the variable technical names (Curly brackets, exclamation points) into the text field. This text field is then pulled in the flow via the record look up and will accept the values from the variables.

Really, this is acting JUST LIKE A TEXT TEMPLATE, but with the advantage being that if you want to modify the verbiage you don’t have to go through the modify / save as / activate cycle.

But, we can make this EVEN BETTER! Obviously, having to enter the technical variable name limits how many people can actually use this. But, by adding a bunch of code…LOL, just kidding. We are going to build out a formula field instead. You have to do some gymnastics to get the formatting to work, but once you have it built out, you now have a formula that will show up on the actual records itself and used just like the text field above.

formula           formula on screen

And, the end result is the same!

automagical results

 

so, what do you all think? useful? not? any suggestions? I even take requests if there is a weird question (about salesforce) you might have.

 

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Fuzzy Searching in Salesforce Flows

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Salesforce flows are a magical thing, like good coffee at work and unicorns.

coffee unicorn.jpg

This is how I want my coffee delivered.

 

I have come to realize that there are limits to even the most magical things (BOOO!).

The limitation I have found in flows is around how you search for records…but, let me be clear, it really isn’t a big deal. For most people, finding records using the typical “equals”, “contains”, “starts with” and “ends with” functions will work just fine. I however, found myself going down a path where that wasn’t going to quite cut it. The challenge is how to search on a text input in a manner that is more google like. I don’t know what the kids now a days call it, but back in my day, we might call if “Fuzzy Matching”.

Fozzie_bear.png

Fuzzy, Not Fozzie!

For example, let’s revisit my Jaeger Dispatching System (Special Note, Pacific Rim 2 is scheduled). This system uses dynamic drop downs for the Jaegers, but, what happens when you have a bunch of Jaegers’?  You can build out a record search based on a text box, but, as mentioned before, you are limited to “equals”, “contains”, “starts with” and “ends with” functions. At this point, you might be saying, fine, just use a “contains” operator…and that would work, except what happens when the user spells something wrong? Contains is just two wild cards, so if you entered in “Dangur” instead of “Danger” you would not get a hit.

 

What happened next is pretty funny. I started thinking about how there are patterns in words…and then started thinking about how the pairs of letters could work. Spoiler alert, it totally worked. I proved it in Excel by just using a vlookup and some formulas, so I got pretty excited. It was then that I googled this matching pairs thing and found out that yep, some one wrote about all the fancy math behind it.

http://www.catalysoft.com/articles/StrikeAMatch.html

So, after building out the proof in Excel that this would work, I set about trying to get this to work in Salesforce…specifically a flow. I want to be able to enter in some characters into a text box and see returned results based on how well they matched my search term.

The first thing I did is create a field that removes the spaces from the Jaegers’ names and made them lower case. I don’t want it being “Cherno Alpha”, I wanted “chernoalpha”. This is done via formula field. If doing this in real life, I would build out my formula to also remove punctuation, but this is just for my Jaeger dispatch and my blog, so I am just removing spaces.

Thus, concludes the non flow part of this blog…what follows next is like 100% awesome, you have been warned.

TAKETHISCAT.jpg

Woot! FINALLY got to use this meme!

The first couple things are pretty basic, I have a start screen that has a text box. Next, I have a fast lookup on my Jaeger object. This gets all the Jaegers and puts them all in a collection. Next up is my loop, where I go through each Jaeger record. The only “gotcha” is that when you do the fastlookup, you need to bring over your formatted text from the record. Screen shots of this would be pretty boring, so here is a picture of all the giant robot toys.Jaeger Toys.jpg

Within the loop, I start with two assignments that copy the formatted Jaeger Name (no spaces) and the search string to variables.
I am going to use these variables for the rest of the functions, including the formulas. I take the search string that was entered and format it up.  I remove the spaces, count how many pairs I have and if the value has a remainder, I also remove the last character. I do this because otherwise the matched pair logic would be searching on a single digit, which would skew the results. The formula also checks if the search string is just 3 char, and if it is, it will treat these three char as one “pair”. Pictures and Text!

Formatted Search String

if(len(substitute({!Search_String},” “,””))<>3,
if(
mod(len(substitute({!Search_String},” “,””)),2)<>0,
left(substitute({!Search_String},” “,””),len(substitute({!Search_String},” “,””))-1),
substitute({!Search_String},” “,””)),substitute({!Search_String},” “,””))

Now I have to compare my first matched pair to the formatted name. of the search string that was formatted. I use a formula to get my matched pair:assignment - formatted search string.png

if(len(substitute({!Search_String},” “,””))<>3,
lower(left({!varSearchStringUseCopy},2)),lower(left({!varSearchStringUseCopy},3)))

 

The flow will next do a name check via the decision function. If the Formatted Jaeger Name contains the current matched pair, the flow adds a value of 1 to the counter variable and adds the current pair to a variable that will show the matches and the ID of the current record to another variable. Ugh, that was hard to read, here is a picture:assignment - match found

If the pair is NOT a match, well, I don’t really do anything with it but you might want to shove it to a debug variable. In fact, if you are starting this from scratch, I would HIGHLY suggest you do this!

Next up is yet another assignment, this time though, we are removing the pair was just searched on. This is done with, you guessed it, a formula:

if(len(substitute({!Search_String},” “,””))<>3,
substitute({!varSearchStringUseCopy},left({!varSearchStringUseCopy},2),””),substitute({!varSearchStringUseCopy},left({!varSearchStringUseCopy},3),””))

remove search string

Once that is completed, we check to see if there are more pairs to check. This is done by looking at the number of pairs left after the current pair is removed. This is in a formula I like to call “DisappearingSearchString”:

len({!varSearchStringUseCopy})

The whole process looks like this:

match process

If all the pairs have been used, the flow then checks to see if there were any matches with a decision point on the counter variable. If yes, then we add the matching data into a variable and then start the loop all over again. Because we will want to display some results in a table like format, be sure to append a text template that has a line break at the end of the string. To do this, create a text template with <br> in it.

build out result line.png

One of the things I really wanted was a way to see how many of the pairs were found in a given record. I do this with this formula:

({!varTripCount}/{!frmSearchStringPairs})*100

 

Before the loop starts all over again, any used variables are reset:

clear counters.png

So, enough talk! Let’s see how this works! For comparison purposes, I put in an alternate lookup that will use the “Contains” search function of what was entered in the input.

I also added more Jaegers, 8 in total!

Jaeger List.png

boom

 

First search string is going to be “Eureka”:

Eureka.png

and here are the results:Search Results - Eureka.png

The “Contains” function did what I expected and returned two records, “Striker Eureka” and “Eureka Smack”. However, it did not find “Striker Eurek”, but the matched pairs function did!

Let’s try this on another scenario. Suppose there is someone new in the Jaeger Dispatching Center and they forgot that it is “Cherno Alpha” and they enter in “Alpha Cherno”.

Search String.png

The “contains” search function would literally return ZERO results, whereas the matched pairs function would show an 80% match with Cherno Alpha.Results - Cherno Alpha.png

So, there you have it. With a bit of work, you can do fozzie…err…fuzzy search results with in a flow with Zero coding!

As always, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please let me know!

Andrew

Cleaner Page Layouts using Flows and Formulas (1 of 3)

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Back in the day, when I was just a transfer student at Everett Community College, “one week” was a hit single and I was a newbie coder taking visual basic.

(Your welcome for this ear worm)

During this class, we had a discussion on page layouts, that went a little something like this:

If you design a layout that has a bad tab order, and it reduces the speed of a transaction by one second, is it a big deal? Well, consider it this way: If your software is bought by a million people, and they can complete 500 transactions a day, your one second reduction of efficiency is costing the consumer 500000000 seconds per day…which is 8,333,333 minutes or 138,888 hours. If the average wage of those users is ten dollars an hour, your one second in efficiency now has cost 1.3million dollars per day.

Not even a Lego Calculator could make that discussion cool

With guilt trip thusly set to “argh”, I focused my efforts on UI design and making things work efficiently. Even now, I can remember the tab order of one of my first CRM’s I worked on…because it was out of order.

The stakes have changed since I was taking Visual Basic. I (we) support sales, and lost productivity is not simply about lost time, but about what your sales teams COULD have been doing. The math is pretty easy…and pretty scary:

Time spent clicking / scrolling / using salesforce in an inefficient manner

X by Number of times

X by Number of Users

X by days in year

= Time wasted = Money Lost = No free coffee

For the sake of this blog post, I am going to clean up the contact layout. I have sat with my users and estimated that they waste about 2 seconds every time they hit the layout  because of a section that Marketing has requested. This section consists of four check boxes, three text boxes and one URL field in a two column layout. This section was created for marketing and was placed near to the top of the layout in return for the data not being required. This section pushed a much more used section down below the scroll line (IE, users would have to scroll to see it). Marketing has given the OK on making this section not visible as long as there is some visual refernce to these fields still on the page layout.

A user will typically hit the contact layout 25 times per day and I have 25 users. If I can compact the layout, I should be able to reduce scroll time by about half, which should save about 45 (sales) hours per year. Notice, I didn’t just say hours, I said sales hours. Sure, saving 45 regular hours might not be much in the whole scheme of things, but sales hours is like a force multiplier. If you enabled your sales teams to have even a few more minutes per week, they can make a few more calls, make a few more emails, make a few more dollars.

Take a minute to enjoy this worn out cat.

Phew

I am beat just writing about this!

I am going to break this whole thing out into three distinct chunks:

1)      Create the Summarizing Formulas (In this blog)

2)      Create the Visual Prompts (Next Blog)

3)      Make Data Entry awesome with Flows (Next Next Blog)

Summarizing Formulas

Personally, I tend to write smaller, nested formulas that analyze bits and pieces of data. This makes it a bit easier (in my opinion) to write that final formula that presents the results to the user. While you could probably write this all in one huge formula, for the sake of troubleshooting and scalability, I am going to create the following fields:

1)      Create a formula to look at the 3 text fields (Return Type is Text)

Text(

if(len(Test_Text_1__c)>0,1,0)+

if(len(Test_Text_2__c)>0,1,0)+

if(len(Test_Text_3__c)>0,1,0))&” out of 3 populated; ”

Text Box Formula

2)      Create a formula to look at the URL field (Return Type is Text)

if(len(Test_URL__c)>0,”URL Present”,”URL Not Present”)

URL Formula

3)      Create a formula to look at the check box fields (Return Type is Text)

Text(

if(Example_Check_Box1__c=TRUE,1,0)+

if(Example_Check_Box_2__c=TRUE,1,0)+

if(Example_Check_Box_3__c=TRUE,1,0)+

if(Example_Check_Box_4__c=TRUE,1,0))&” out of 4 set to True; “Check Box Formula

4)      Create a formula to aggregate the above

Check_Example_CheckBox__c &” “& Check_Test_Text__c &” “& Check_Test_URL__cAggregate Formula

The net result is a field that will present the user with data facts not data entry points. Aside from having a cleaner layout, I a firm believer that if presented with text, most humans brains at least acknowlege that text before moving on. By reducing the clutter, you are making your overall page layout less fatiguing.

End Result

Individual Results

In the next post, I am going to discuss how we are going to visually prompt the user to give us data, but until then consider the other benefits of this type of functionality:

1) You could use these fields in reports to give better summaries

2) You could write validation rules off of these formulas rather than the individual fields

3) You could write workflows off of these formulas

See you all next week, same BatTime, same BatChannel where I will show you all how to kick it up a notch and grab your users attention!

Kick it up a notch

You totally thought I was doing Batman pic, weren’t you?

Andrew