Data ModelProject ManagementSalesforce

How to migrate data into Salesforce

There comes a time in every administrator’s life, where you might have to migrate data into Salesforce.  Why is that important?  Data is the core of any CRM platform and has the power to become a blocker for your customers and/or internal users!

A request to migrate data could be as simple as someone asking you to import data into Salesforce from a spreadsheet.  Or it could be due to the retirement of another system.  Even a merger/acquisition!  But when the time comes, you will need to be able to really get under the hood to understand the data and create a data migration plan.  Because without a plan, migrating data can become a massive risk to any project.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to dive into a number of topics relating to all things data migration.  YAY! I hear you screaming! Also please feel free to share any of your experiences in the comments below, as with all things data migration there is always plenty to learn!

So let’s get started and dive into the key things to plan for when you are attempting to migrate data into Salesforce.

Everyone loves data

Data is the lifeblood of any business.  And your data in your CRM is no different.  Good data can empower any business.  While on the flip side, data can also become a blocker for your teams when not managed well.  But the good news is this shows your users have something at stake in making it better.  These are the same people who can become your data champions!

To further the point I am trying to make around identifying your stakeholders.  Your end users play a big part in advising you on what the data actually means (for them).  And it is here you will also need to identify other potential stakeholders.  Does the data have an impact on sales reporting?  How about on your company’s financial reporting?  Or is it used to help serve or fulfil your customers.

Everyone loves data! Source: dilbert.com

I have a question for you ma’am!

As part of any data migration, you will need to get up to speed on understanding the data.  Understand and interrogate the old data.  Analyse it.  Test out any assumptions you might have.  And also think through how you want the data to look once the migration has been completed.

This is a time you are going to need to ask a lot of questions and ensure you (and your stakeholders) fully understand the definitions being used.  If there is something that doesn’t make sense, ask questions!  Questions are your friend!  Really drill down and confirm your understanding.  Leverage the experience of your stakeholders, bring them along the journey too.  And make a note of these questions are you get answers.

One lesson I have learned over many data migrations is no-one has all the answers unfortunately.  Most times you have to really dive into the data and test what you have been told.  This is one area that is a big risk to any project and can end up causing a lot of pain no matter how well planned!

I have been on the tail end of a few really complex data migrations.  Even with the best planning and stakeholders, there has always been an inconsistency somewhere in the data which has you screaming ‘WHY!!!!’   Especially if you are dealing with an older CRM!  (but that is a story for another time!).

The point I am trying to make is it has been down to the project team to really untangle and interrogate the data to make sure it makes sense.

Prepare, verify, test

One you understand the data, you can plan to migrate the data!  There can be a lot to think about at this stage.

In your preparation, you need to map out where you want the data to go.  Are there new fields created to support the migration or are you mapping to existing fields in Salesforce?  Does the data-type match (eg does a number field map to another number field)?  Do you have any validation rules or mandatory fields that might get in the way?  If so what is your plan to mitigate that?  Do you update the data before you move it?

Some of the biggest problems I have encountered in a data migration have all stemmed from a lack of full testing in a sandbox.

If you have access to a sandbox, plan out your testing.   Even if you have Professional Edition, you have access to at least a Developer Sandbox (check here).  Part of your testing needs to include verifying the actual data.  Does to match what you had in the data source?  Do any lookups to other records link up correctly?  Are the number of records the same?  All those questions you wrote down while understanding the data, can be very useful in the testing phase.

I have thrown a lot of questions around there, but hopefully you get an idea of some of the things to think about in this stage.  Testing is another great time to re-engage with your stakeholders.  Heck, even get them to login and run a few test scenarios on the migrated data.

Once you have tested and verified your data, you can start planning the go live and move into production!  Your almost there!

Step back in time

migrate data, but only with a backup plan
Back to the Future

With the actual data migration into a production / live system, you should plan in advance on how you intend to roll back any changes you make.  Even after testing in a sandbox, there could be something which causes you to halt the data migration.  And if that happens, you need to be able to restore the system to how it was before you started.

Take a backup, run reports, hold onto the import files from Dataloader.  Whatever it is, just know how you can go back without causing further issues.

This is doesn’t need to be overly complex, but it will depend on the size of the overall size of the data migration.  Sometime it can just be a simple plan to say ‘if this happens, this is how we move forward’.

Press the button & migrate data!

This is the fun part, and all your planning comes together.  This is where you start the migration and hopefully completed the migration as planned.

Once you have migrated the data into Salesforce, test and verify again.  Repeat the steps you did after you loaded the data into the sandbox.  Test and verify, test and verify!

Are you finished yet?  Good.  But did you disable any workflows/validation rule/mandatory fields?  Did you remember to turn them all back on?

And finally, and most importantly.  Have you communicated the successful data migration out to your stakeholders!? 🙂

Do you have any lessons learned?

As mentioned at the start of the post, I feel there is always soomething new to be learned everytime you migrate data.  One of the projects I am working on at the moment is pushing me to learn something new every day! (More on that in another post though).

Sharing is caring 🙂 Do you have any tips or things you like to plan for?  Share them in the comments section below!

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Adam Gill

I have been working with the Salesforce platform for over seven years now. My background includes a variety of CRM projects and experiences (both greenfield and legacy), covering a variety of industries. I currently have 4x certified, though always looking to increase that count! :-)

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