How to Ensure a Successful Data Migration with Salesforce

Published on
August 17, 2017

Just about every Salesforce implementation involves data migration at some point. It could be the first time you implement Salesforce or perhaps your process includes monthly migrations. Or, it could be when you add a new system. Many things can happen to require migrating data in and out of Salesforce.Like any interaction involving humans, data, and transition, data migration projects can include a few hurdles to overcome, and planning is essential to success. Organizations that opt out of or shortchange planning could face these problems:

  • Analytics: Inaccurate information negatively affects data.
  • Adoption: Fewer team members will use a new or added system that is not set up correctly.
  • Customer relationships: Bad data can affect customers as wrong information in their accounts could alter orders, membership data, or services.

Planning for Data Migration

Salesforce data migration projects typically have repeatable processes. It's a great opportunity to build processes and checklists to ensure every step is completed.Regardless where the data comes from — Excel spreadsheets or a legacy system — you'll want to work through the project with these steps:

  1. Find stakeholders: Engaging end users in planning ensures their buy-in and support for the project. Stakeholders know the data best and can come from different teams within a department or different departments.
  2. Identify data: Stakeholders know what data needs to be migrated and can answer questions on how it's structured, where it's stored, whether it's clean, possibilities for data duplication, and how it will affect Salesforce data. It may require creating new or appending current data fields, validations, and field values in Salesforce.
  3. Prepare data: Since you've determined what changes need to be done in Step 2, it's time to put the changes in place to guarantee error-free data migration. Add or modify objects, fields, workflows, and validations.
  4. Test migration: No one wants to have to back out after importing a ton of data into the system. Rather than risking the data in production, run the test in a sandbox and fix any issues.
  5. Migrate data: The test migration should prepare you for the migration into production. Prior to migrating, inform Salesforce users what will be happening and how it will affect them. After migrating data into Salesforce, validate the data. Although you did this in Step 4, you'll want to double check in the live system.

Salesforce offers native data migration tools, such as Data Loader and Data Import Wizard. Third-party apps also exist to help automate data migration. Salesforce partners may have existing tools or can develop them based on an organization's requirements.

Common Data Migration Issues

It's not a matter of "if" but rather "when" you'll run into migration issues. The key is to be prepared for them. The most common data migration issues include:

  • Having poor quality data
  • Lacking tools and resources
  • Omitting mapping of data to new structure and format
  • Skipping testing
  • Failing to prepare for effect of current data, processes, and validation on migrated data and vice versa
  • Bypassing data governance policies
  • Discovering unexpected data issues and exceptions
  • Overlooking access and permissions

Preparing for Salesforce Data Migration

It's rare that any two data migration projects are the same, so every migration may require different tools and resources. That said, here are considerations to incorporate in any data migration project:

  • Identify who should be involved: It may not be just the stakeholders, admins, and developers who need to have a say. You'll want to include the people who will work with the data.
  • Start early: Data migration projects tend to be a part of a larger project. An early start would be prior to the start of the big project. You can identify, prepare, clean, restructure, and map the data ahead of time.
  • Build enough time into the schedule: Data tends to have a lot of exceptions, and you want to be ready to address them. Questions arise and issues surface when you work with both humans and data. If the schedule is not realistic, people may skip steps to meet deadlines. Getting the work done right is just as important as getting it done on time.
  • Assign the right people: Avoid assigning too many people on a task or inviting too many people to a meeting. When you identify who should be involved, outline each person's role.
  • Select the right tools: Salesforce and AppExchange have many tools for data migration projects. In some cases, an organization may need tweaks made to an existing tool or to develop a new one.
  • Test the migration: Conduct migration testing in a separate environment from the live system and verify the results. Resolve any issues prior to migrating in production. And verify the data in production as well.

For more tips, check out this Salesforce article on 15 things to consider before your next data migration. Salesforce data migration has a lot involved especially since it tends to be a small part of a bigger project. Although data migration may be a subset of something bigger, it's no small task, and the outcome can make or break the success of the bigger project.

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