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Configuring Time-Based Email Alerts or Notifications

Creating an email alert or notification based on a field requires creating an Automatic Process in Salesforce. Salesforce offers a couple different ways to set this up: Workflow Rules and Process Builder. This article describes how to set up these notifications with Workflow Rules 

Setting up an Email Alert based on a Field using Workflow Rules requires 5 basic steps:

A. Create a Workflow Rule
B. Set the Criteria for the Workflow Rule
C. Add the Automated Action to your Workflow Rule
D. Identify your rule's default workflow user and Activate
E. Monitor your Time-Based Workflow Rules

*F. What To Do If You Get an Error*


Considerations when setting up a Workflow Rule 

  • Workflow rules on custom objects are automatically deleted if the custom object is deleted.
  • The order in which individual actions and types of actions are executed is not guaranteed. However, field update actions are executed first, followed by other actions.
  • Salesforce processes rules in the following order:
    1. Validation rules
    2. Assignment rules
    3. Auto-response rules
    4. Workflow rules (with immediate actions)
    5. Escalation rules
  • Workflow rules can be triggered any time a record is saved or created, depending on your rule criteria. However, rules created after saving records aren't triggered by those records retroactively.
  • Saving or creating records can trigger more than one rule.
  • The following actions don't trigger workflow rules.
    • Mass replacing picklist values
    • Using the option to replace a picklist value while deleting the current value.
    • Mass updating address fields
    • Mass updating divisions
    • Converting state and country data from the State and Country Picklists page in Setup
  • Time-Based Workflow Rule (i.e. Rules that are set up to trigger an action in the future) can always be monitored in Setup under Monitoring > Time-Based Workflow


A. Create a Workflow Rule

1. Go to Setup.


2. Go to Create.


3. Expand Workflows & Approvals, then click Workflow Rules.


4. On the All Workflow Rules pages, you'll see any Rules that are exist in your Org. To create a new rule, click New Rule.



B. Set the Criteria for the Workflow Rule

1. Select the Object on which your field lives. This is the field we want a rule to be based on. Then click Next. 


2. Name your rule and give it a Description


3. Then, we select our Evaluation Criteria. The below chart will help you decide which to select.


Evaluate the rule when a record is: Description


Evaluate the rule criteria each time a record is created. If the rule criteria is met, run the rule. Ignore all updates to existing records.

With this option, the rule never runs more than once per record.


Created, and every time it’s edited

Evaluate the rule criteria each time a record is created or updated. If the rule criteria is met, run the rule.

With this option, the rule repeatedly runs every time a record is edited as long as the record meets the rule criteria.


Created, and any time it’s edited to subsequently meet criteria

(Default) Evaluate the rule criteria each time a record is created or updated
  • For a new record, run the rule if the rule criteria is met.
  • For an updated record, run the rule only if the record is changed from not meeting the rule criteria to meeting the rule criteria.

With this option, the rule can run multiple times per record, but it won’t run when the record edits are unrelated to the rule criteria.

For example, suppose that for an opportunity record to meet the rule criteria, the opportunity probability must be greater than 50%. If you create an opportunity with a probability of 75%, the workflow rule runs. If you edit that opportunity by changing the probability to 25%, the edit doesn't cause the rule to run. If you then edit that opportunity by changing the probability from 25% to 75%, the edit causes the rule to run. With this last edit, the rule runs, because the record is changed from not meeting the rule criteria to meeting the rule criteria.


4.1 Choose your Rule Criteria.

  • Selecting Criteria Are Met allows you to select from several operators.
  • Formula Evaluates to True involves creating a formula that must evaluate to True. 


5. Then we'll input our Rule Criteria (what actions kick off the rule?) 



You can enter more than one line of Rule Criteria but remember, the rule will not run until every line of your criteria are met. It's best to keep it simple.

6. Click Save & Next.


C. Add the Automated Action to your Workflow Rule

1. Salesforce offers a couple of different types of actions which can trigger as a result of your Rule: Immediate Workflow Actions and Time-Dependent Workflow Actions.

Immediate Workflow Actions, like their name suggests, are executed as soon as the workflow rule finishes evaluating the record. This is a good choice is you want a field to be updated or if you want an email alert immediately when the rule criteria is met.

Time-Dependent Workflow Actions are executed at a specific time, such as 3 days before a due date. When that specific time passes, the workflow rule re-evaluates the record to make sure that it still meets the rule criteria. If the record does, the workflow rule executes those actions.

Because this example is based on the amount of time before the Training Assignment Due Date, we'll click Add Time Trigger.


2. Choose your Time Trigger and click Save.


3. Now that we've identified the action's trigger, we need to identify what exactly the action is.

Click Add Workflow Action and select Add Email Alert.


4. On this page, we'll identify the alert email should say and whom it should be sent to.

Enter Description. This step isn’t difficult, but giving it a clear and comprehensive description is vital when you have multiple Email Alerts in place, so that admins can easily recognize what each are about.

Click in the Unique Name field and it will automatically be filled.

Select your Email Template by clicking on the Lookup Icon. If you don't find an email template you want to use, or you'd like to create a custom template for this Workflow Rule, this article can help you.

Next, we'll identify to whom this email alert should be sent. You can select by individual user, or use the Recipient Type picklist to select recipients by group, role, related user, etc. Move the recipients you'd like to select from the Available Recipients box to the Selected Recipients box. You can also manually enter any email addresses you'd like alerted below.


5. When you're finished, click Save.

6. Back in the rule set up, click Done.



D. Identify your rule's default workflow user

1. In your Workflow Rule, click Activate.


2. You will get a pop-up which alerts you that you must set the Default User for this Workflow. Click OK.

When the user who triggered the rule isn’t active, Salesforce displays the username of the default workflow user in the the Sending User field for email. Salesforce does not display this username for outbound messages. If a problem occurs with a pending action, the default workflow user receives an email notification.


3. Click the Lookup Icon to find and select your default user. Leave all other setting as is. Then click Save.


4. Back in your Workflow Rule, you can see that it is now Activated. You can tell because now the Deactivate button is available at the top. If you ever want to turn these alerts off, click this button.

To see all of your Workflow Rules, click Back to List: Workflow Rules at top.



E.Monitor your Time-Based Workflow Rules

1. You can always monitor the Time-Based Triggers in the queue to be sent by going to Setup.


2. Type Time-Based Workflow into the Setup Quick Search box. Then click Time-Based Workflow below.


3. Leave the search criteria blank and click Search.


4. All of the pending email alerts will be displayed below. You can delete any specific future email alerts by clicking Delete.




F. What To Do If You Get an Error

A common error you may seen when setting up a Time-Based Email Alert is "Hourly limit exceeded for processing workflow time triggers." This will arrive via email.

Not to worry! This can mostly likely be easily solved with an email to Salesforce Support with a request to increase your org's hourly limit on processes workflow time triggers. Many orgs are set up with 50 as default. Salesforce can increase this to 1,000 at no additional cost. 

Sometimes no error message will appear and email notifications are still not received by users.

You can use the Test Deliverability function in your org's Setup to help troubleshoot why the user is not receiving emails:

  • Setup --> Email Administration --> Test Deliverability

To change Deliverability settings:

  • Setup --> Email Administration --> Deliverability
  • Access to Send Email (All Email Services) --> Access Level
    • Update to "All Email" to allow all types of outbound emails

FYI : Workflow Rules vs. Process Builder

Though this article makes use of Workflow Rules, it is only one method for creating automatic processes in Salesforce. Another method is a feature called Process Builder. Rather than using multiple set up screens (as in Workflow Rules), Process Builder allows for building a process graphically, resembling a flow chart.

In addition to the differences in visualization, there are other points of distinction. A Workflow Rule can only be made to Create Tasks, Update Fields, send Email Alerts and Outbound Messages. By contrast, the Process Builder can create and update Records, launch an entire Flow, send an email, submit things for approval, call apex methods (custom code), and post to Chatter (Salesforce’s internal enterprise social network). The only thing Process Builder can’t do which Workflow Rules can is send outbound XML messages.


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