Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Person Accounts ignore Contact workflow rules and triggers

Every once in a while I find myself discussing the pros and cons Person Accounts, and inevitably a question comes up about how Account and Contact workflow rules and triggers are impacted. The vague statement that precipitates the question usually goes something like this, "Turning on Person Accounts creates problems for existing workflow rules and triggers." Today I finally decided to explore the validity of this statement myself, and the results were... well, disappointing.

The good news is that turning on Person Accounts will not break any of your existing functionality regarding Business Accounts and Contacts, as long as your Apex code is not automatically creating Contact records for accounts to emulate a one-to-one Account-Contact model.

The bad news is that none of your Contact workflow rules and triggers will fire for Person Account records. To me, this is a problem and poor design of the Person Accounts feature. Admins should at least be given the option to configure, perhaps via a checkbox, whether Contact workflow rules and triggers will fire for Person Account records. But as it currently stands, all benefits from existing Contact workflows and triggers are lost for person accounts.

If you agree with why the above bad news is bad, please promote this idea, "Person Accounts to work with Contact workflows and triggers." And read on if you want to know how I arrived at the above conclusions, which were tested in an Enterprise Edition org with Person Accounts enabled.

Test Setup (Summer '14)


The tests makes use of the following Text fields, for which history tracking is turned on:

  • Account Trigger Message (Account field)
  • Account Workflow Message (Account field)
  • Contact Trigger Message (Contact field)
  • Contact Workflow Message (Contact field)
To interact with those fields, we'll create two triggers and two workflow rules that simply set values for the implied fields on the Account and Contact object.
  • SetAccountTriggerMessage (Account trigger)
  • Set Account Workflow Message (Account workflow rule)
  • SetContactTriggerMessage (Contact trigger)
  • Set Contact Workflow Message (Contact workflow rule)
Now, with the stage set, let's move on to the tests.

Test 1: Create a person account


What happens when we create a person account?  Account workflow rules and triggers fire, but Contact workflow rules and triggers do not.

Test 2: Update an Account-only field on the person account


What happens when we update the Website field? Account workflow rules and triggers fire, but Contact ones do not.

Test 3: Update a Contact-only field on the person account


What happens when we update the Birthdate field? Oddly enough, Account workflow rules and triggers fire, but Contact ones do not.

Test 4: Update a special Account-Contact field on the person account


Knowing that the Account Name is linked to First Name and Last Name for Person Account records, what workflows and triggers will fire when you edit First Name or Last Name? Once again, Account workflow rules and triggers fire, but Contact ones do not.

Workaround for Contact workflows and triggers


The only supportable way to get Contact workflows and triggers to fire for Person Account records seems to be to recreate those workflows and triggers on the Account object. Whether this workaround is a pro or a con depends on your point of view. Obviously this creates more work and maintenance, but it allows for more granular and logical control over what happens with Contact fields for a person account vs. a regular contact.

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