Next to scripting, Workflows are the most powerful way to implement custom processes in NetSuite. But what is a workflow?
An Introduction to Workflows
At SuiteRep, we tend to wear several different hats. One day, we might perform common admin tasks for a client. Another day, we might be developing a major company automation with SuiteScript. But at other times, we may just create a quick workflow to get a particular job done.
A workflow, part of what NetSuite calls SuiteFlow, is a method to create customized automations in NetSuite. In simple terms, a workflow is a user-friendly alternative to SuiteScript.
The greatest benefit to workflows is accessibility. If a company needs a simple automation, a NetSuite admin can create a workflow without much difficulty. Creating such an automation through code, even if it’s simple, would be very challenging for someone without programming experience. NetSuite seeks to curb any barriers to NetSuite automation by providing workflows.
Yes, it is true that SuiteScripting has a greater capacity for creating complex automations. But sometimes the simple things work best. We’ll try to explain in this series how to create workflows in a responsible and beneficial way.
To use workflows responsibly, we need to make sure we’re using workflows as intended. There are some notable limitations we should be aware of.
From experience, there is one rule of thumb we must follow when creating workflows: use workflows for only simple automations.
Now, this needs to be fleshed out a bit. Here are a couple thoughts on why you should use workflows for only simple automations:
1. Too many workflows can cause bugs and create chaos
Unlike a carefully developed SuiteScript automation, similar simultaneously functioning workflows on a record may cause problems. We recommend against using too many workflows on a particular record, especially if they perform similar tasks. You may not end up with any issues, but sometimes problems do emerge. And if they do, debugging the source of those problems can be quite difficult.
2. An overly complex workflow can be nearly impossible to debug
Not only can too many workflows cause issues, but also a single workflow that is too complex can also cause significant problems. I’ve seen some workflows that look like a rocket scientist developed them. Those types of workflows should probably be relegated to the world of code.
When to Use a Workflow
Workflows should be used for simple automations. A simple automation is one that a workflow can perform more easily than a SuiteScript.
As a general rule of thumb, if a SuiteScript can do the job you need better than a workflow can, you should probably invest in a well-made SuiteScript. Doing so may significantly reduce bugs and stress in the future, since modifying a complicated workflow can be a lot more difficult than modifying a well-made script.
Despite the limitations, workflows are still a fantastic tool that every NetSuite admin should know. Stay tuned to our upcoming posts in the series to learn more about workflows and how they can benefit your company!