The zombie Salesforce Flow

This week at work I struggled with a Salesforce Flow that I was trying to delete, but couldn’t. It seemed to be a bit of a ‘zombie’ Flow, that was a little bit alive and a little bit dead.  It all made sense in the end, but when I was in the middle of it all, it seemed inexplicable.

It started with a custom field that our company had added some time ago, which was no longer needed and I wanted to delete. On trying to delete the system wouldn’t let me, saying that it was in use by a Flow. I clicked on the “Where is this used?” button which identified that the field was referenced in a flow.

Clicking on the hyper link to the Flow, opened it in the Flow Builder, but that interface does not allow any way for the the Flow to be deleted.

So I went to the Setup interface,  to the Flows menu item to delete it. But although the Flow clearly existed (I had it open in Flow Builder a moment ago) it wasn’t appearing in the “All Flows” list for me to delete.

Next, I thought I’d try to delete this zombie flow by using a metadata deployment. I use the Gearset tool for deployments, and by comparing a sandbox Org without the Flow to the one that had the Flow I generated a ‘delete’ type deployment  … which then failed with the unhelpful error message “Insufficient access rights on cross-reference id”.

Eventually I figured out that the Flow couldn’t be deleted because it was referenced from a Process Builder. When I had located and deleted that Process Builder the ‘zombie’ Flow disappeared, and I was then able to delete the custom field. What made things tricky was that it wasn’t the latest active version of the Process Builder that referenced the Flow, but an earlier inactive version, so I had to search through all the earlier versions to identify the one that needed to be deleted.

The bottom line is that Salesforce won’t let you delete something that is referenced by some other design element. That’s a good thing. But the bad thing is that it can sometimes be hard (and non-obvious) finding what exactly is referencing the element you’re trying to delete.

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