When workflows misbehave

You might find yourself scratching your head when trying to create a workflow. Me too. Now and again there’s something I come across with no solution on the user level… but users don’t generally know its not their fault! They get stuck in the mud trying to solve the unsolvable problem of “Why won’t this filter condition let me do xyz?” Ostensibly the user is under the assumption that the system must have been designed for things to work and that the error is human. Happens to the best of us. Don’t let it shake your confidence.

This past week I found myself on the consulting end of just such a problem. The user was attempting to make a workflow that triggered when the value of a field was greater than 800 lbs. There was another field which contained a value for total weight in lbs. What was perplexing the user was that the inequality “is greater than” was not available for the desired field but was available for the other weight field. Most curious indeed.

This is where the breakdown occurred. The user kept trying and trying until he lost confidence in his ability to create even the simplest workflow. “Why can’t I make this work? What am I doing wrong? How come My workflows don’t work?” It’s normal to get caught up in the why’s and cant’s of any problem. I encourage you to immediately drop this thought as soon as it pops into your mind. Let it go and begin to poke around the system.

So, what’s similar about these two fields? They both are weights, they both exist on the same module, they both have number values in them. What’s different? The filter conditions are different. Why are they different? There’s usually only one answer for that: the field type is not the same.

Next step is to test the fields to see what else makes them different. I did this by attempting to enter text in the weight fields. One of them was numeric and did not accept the text. The other allowed me to enter “pizza5423421-!”. There’s the problem! If you have a field that allows you to enter pizza and you are trying to build a condition that can only involve numbers, then you aren’t going to have any luck.

Let me demonstrate why that won’t work: “If ‘weight lost’ is greater than ‘pizza5423421-!’ trigger email.” There’s no way to determine if something is greater than pizza5423421-!. The field type that permits text entry can’t also allow a condition that is mathematical.

The solution is simple. Go change the field type in the database! Or contact us and we can do that for you.

When a workflow condition is not giving you the options you need don’t kick yourself. Instead, think about why the condition isn’t available. Then go explore. You’ll be much happier you did!

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