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

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Dynamic Screens using Visualforce and Flows

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Oh boy, do I have something real nice for you all today!

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Something Real Nice!

Let’s say, you find myself in the world of action adventure blockbuster “Pacific Rim”. You are tracking Kaiju in an object called “Kaiju” and and tracking Jaegers with an object called “Jaeger”. From the detail page of Kaiju, I create a new detail button called “Dispatch Jaeger” that runs a flow by calling a Visualforce page. I know this is not typical, but stick with me! This flow associates the selected Jaeger to the Kaiju so then the whupping can commence!

Kaiju vs Jaeger

That works pretty well, but a user will always have to be on a Kaiju detail page to dispatch a Jaeger, so it might be good to put something on the home page that allows someone to either dispatch a Jaeger on an existing Kaiju OR create a new Kaiju and Dispatch a Jaeger all at once.

The first place I went is the google verse because I thought I would just create a small Visualforce page with an input box on do some sort of URL hack to get it to push a value to the already created Visualforce page that launches my flow. Turns out, there is really no such thing as “small” when it comes to this type of stuff. Most of the articles I read involved some sort of controller, so my overhead went pretty quickly from one Visualforce page to Visualforce page + controller + tester.

Back to the drawing board I went!

2015-12-09 15_45_16-pacific rim whiteboard - Google Search.png

I remembered some early work I did with flows where I used a decision element as my starting point, which would then direct a user to certain pages. I decided to explore the option of using this, and it worked!

Here is what I did! I modified my dispatch Jaeger flow so that the starting element is a decision.

Flow Overview

Starting Decision

This decision checks to see if KaijuId is being passed over from the Visualforce page, which it would be if you were launching it from Kaiju Detail. If this value does not start with the prefix for the Kaiju record (This works WAAAY better than checking for null or not null), it redirects to the newly created “quick dispatch” screen element.

I added my Visualforce page to my home screen and boom, my flow correctly presented me with the quick create screen!Home Page

However, I still needed the ability to create a dispatch from the detail screen, so let’s click the button and see what happens!

Dispatch from Record Yep, the flow determines that I am running a dispatch from a record detail and points me to the right screen!

To sum it up…I was able to with Zero Extra Code, modify my flow so that two different screens are presented to the user based on if they were dispatching a Jaeger from a specific Kaiju, or were having to dispatch a Jaeger from the home page via a quick create function.

Dispatch jaeger VF code
You might also be wondering why I am using a visualforce page? Well, if you want to run flows in a community, you have to wrap that flow in a visualforce page…That being said, you can totally do this same type of thing with a URL launched flow too…the functionality is really the same with the novelty part of this being that it works within Visualforce.

So, that wraps this post up! Thanks for checking it, comments / questions are always appreciated.
Also, quick note, I will be at the Salesforce World Tour in Seattle on the 17th. I would be more than happy to talk about flows or other Salesforce awesomeness, just look for this guy:

Salesforce in Seattle!

I am smiling because I support Salesforce

Automagically create tasks from templates in Salesforce!

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If you are like me, everyday upon waking up, you are craving coffee. This craving requires action and also requires a set number of steps that will repeated as long as this craving is happening (Hopefully, forever and ever). If I were to map this out, it might look like this:Tasks to Coffee

The act of me waking up will prompt a series of tasks, and this is something that is repeatable EVERY TIME.

Now, apply this to your users. How often will the user be DOING something that requires them to CREATE a task or series of tasks? Here are a few examples I could think of:

  • After closing a deal, follow up tasks are scheduled for 30 / 60 / 90 days out
  • After contacting a lead, follow up tasks are scheduled
  • After losing a deal, create a set up follow up tasks

The key to this exercise is identifying ACTIONS that will require a set of tasks to be created. This is the challenge that I decided to take on with my Salesforce BFF visual flow and my Salesforce Frenemy Process Builder. The idea was that when a case meets a certain criteria, a series of tasks will be created…and is this wasn’t challenging enough, I decided to kick it up a notch and design the functionality in such a way that the tasks are not hard coded but actually templatized.

Here are the ingredients to this functionality:

  • “templitized” tasks
  • A flow
  • A process (though, you could use a flow trigger as well)

At a high level, what will happen is that the flow is kicked off via the process (or trigger). The flow does a query of all tasks and ONLY pulls those that meet our templatized criteria. These are then used as templates for the creation of new tasks. The example below is how I built this out so that a series of tasks are created when I mark a case as “Ready for Coffee”.

Enough talking! Release the Screen Shots!

Release the Screen Shots

Step 1 – Create a “templatized” task

In this case, I note that the task is a template by placing a flag on the subject and setting the task status to completed. By setting the status to completed, you can keep the task from staying open and visible on the users home page. In the example I am building out, I am looking for a subject that ends with “!MakeMeCoffee”.

Task Template XLS

I am using the connector for this because…well…it works and I didn’t want to do it by hand!

Step 2 – Create your flow

The basics of the flow is that there is a fast look up to find your templatized tasks and put them into a Sobject Collection. This collection is then looped through with your regular loop de loop, which builds out the set of tasks that will be created. Be sure to build out a formula for the subject field that strips away the template flags,

Build Task Subject

else, well, you might end up with a lot of stuff!

Flow Magic

As usual, when I built out my flow, I built out one version that is driven off of the UI (pictured below). This way, I can do rapid testing without activating anything. After things are 90% happy, I will remove UI elements and save it as a new flow.

Step 3 – Create your process

Process builder is my frenemy…I see the potential, but am still really sore over loosing flow triggers. But, the cool thing is that we have folks out there in the Upper Echelons of Salesforce looking at our comments and reading our blogs and they are making changes and I am excited for where process builder is going! Soapbox aside, I created a process for case and set the criteria.

Criteria Logic - Process Builder

The ONLY thing this process is doing is calling the flow and passing over just enough information to run. In the past when I have used flow triggers, I tended to push over more information, but since process builder requires activate / clone / activate cycle if something goes ker-plewy (for the record, I did this cycle 7(!) times for this demo!), I have switched over to just pushing over the minimum as a variable.

OK, so the work is done, you are all set…Let’s see how this works!

Now, for the proof.

I have my case created, and I am going to check the box that signals that I would like some coffee.Ready...

As you can see, tasks are now created associated with the case.Go!

To emphasize again, the power of the template is that if I (as a user, not a system admin) wanted to change something about the tasks are created, I can do so on my own and not have to wait for a system admin. Another great benefit for the admin / developer is that nothing is hard coded except for template criteria…and even that could be made more dynamic to handle further scenarios.

Further mind blowing awesomeness is that this is NOT just for tasks on cases…it could be anywhere…or even applied to other objects!

Questions / Comments / Buy me a coffee?

Andrew

Fun with Salesforce Flows – Parsing Multi Select Picklist fields

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Fun with Flows – Parsing Data

I recently ran into a challenge while making / scripting / conjuring a fairly complex flow. I needed to get data out of a Multi Select Picklist (MSP) field for use later on in my flow. The google hive brain did not help at all…literally, I couldn’t find anything when googling on terms such as “salesforce visual flow parse”. Once I started googling ““salesforce parse” I got lots of results…for apex solutions.

So once again, I find myself faced with the following:

1)      Check my “Clicks Not Code” membership at the door and start down the apex path?

2)      Write some crazy formula field to do this work and then pass data back and forth?

3)      Put on my thinking cap and figure out a way to get this done with in a flow?

And as usual, I opt for #3.

First things first, I had to figure out what I had to work with. To do this, I extracted some data from my MSP fields and found that MSP’s store their data in a very logical way, ((“Value””SemiColon”)). What this means to me is that when I run the query on the object and push MSP field data to a variable, it is going to ONLY bring over the data that has been selected and it was going to show up as a text string. I had a hunch that the MSP would act this, but you know what they say, “Trust but verify”. This behavior also reinforced why I wanted to parse the data. Carrying around a full string like “Value 1; Value 2; Value 3” really reduces what you can do within flows.

Now that I know what I am working with, I can go about getting the data into the format I want. The quick synopsis is that I am going to:

1)      Create variable for the MSP Values

2)      Create decisions for each MSP Value

3)      String the decisions together

For this example, I have the MSP field “McDuck” that contains the values Huey, Louie, Dewey, Donald, Daisey and Scrooge. I want to separate out any selection into their own variable for use in other parts of my flow. Here are the steps I am going to run through (Visual in the PDF).

1)      Query “GetData” passes the values in the field “McDuck” to “varGotMcDuckData”

Image

2)      The data in “varGotMcDuckData” is then ran through a number of decision setps.

     ParseHuey takes a look at “varGotMcDuckData” and if the data in that variable contains “Huey”, then populates “VarHuey” with “Huey”

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      ParseDewey takes a look at “varGotMcDuckData” and if the data in that variable contains “Dewey”, then populates “VarDewey” with “Dewey”

Image

3) Rinse, wash, repeat as needed!

There are a couple things important to keep in mind when doing this. The first is that these can get really big really quick. Don’t be afraid to use a subflow to do the dirty work (Future Topic!). Also keep in mind that once data gets passed into a variable, data is retained there until the flow stops. If you are going to have a multi-step process you need to build in a clean step where the variables are scrubbed of data.

Even though this is a fairly elaborate process, it really does go by quickly. The added benefit is that flows are recyclable, so if I ever had a need to parse out the McDucks in a flow anywhere, I could reference my parsing flows over and over and over again.

 

Andrew