14 Components of a Successful CRM Data Migration

CRM Data Migration SuccessFor those who have never been involved in a CRM data migration project, there can be a misperception that data migration is a simple, technical exercise of mapping and moving data from old fields to new fields.

However, if your team has been using a contact management system for many years and your organization is switching to a new CRM system, data migration may well end up being the largest single component of the entire CRM implementation project.

Data migration almost always requires a number of business-level decisions. It’s not a task that should be delegated solely to the technical team. Over the years, we’ve heard about many sub-standard data migrations that have adversely affected an entire CRM deployment.

CRM Data Migration Elements

CRM data migration, done properly, usually involves some or all of the following components:

1. Understanding Legacy System Use Cases

When a company is moving from a legacy system, such as a mature contact manager, into a CRM system, it’s important to understand the specific functionality users have come to rely upon over the years.

Does the legacy system have fully integrated email? Has task automation been set up in the existing system? Are the sales users accustomed to an interface that facilitates powering through a high volume of outbound calls? Are there key integrations with other systems?

2. Finding Substitutes for Critical Legacy Functionality

Not all legacy contact manager functionality has precise equivalents within a given CRM system. Replicating certain pieces of important functionality may require extra customization or the use of third party products.

3. Preparing Users for Upcoming Changes

Sometimes, a new CRM system is, with little warning, introduced to users who have been interacting with a legacy system in very specific ways for many years.

When users are not prepared for the changes in navigation, how emails are associated to records, process automation and more, some users may outright reject the new system. Representative end users should be involved in the process from the beginning.

4. Setting Up The Target CRM With The Right Structure

It’s almost impossible to decouple CRM system customization and CRM data migration. It should be the same team that does both — CRM customization and data migration are inextricably connected. The CRM system needs to be customized in a way that all key legacy data has well thought out destination locations.

5. Deciding on Cut Off Dates and Record & Field Exclusions

Here are several examples of business level questions with regard to what data should be excluded from the migration.

If your legacy system has been in place for more than, say, ten years, should all activity history and email history be brought into the system?

If a contact record has not been edited for over, say, seven years, and has no added history records over the same amount of time, does it make sense to import that record?

If a custom field is only populated with data in a few dozen records, is that custom field needed moving forward?

6. Reviewing Data Maps at a Business Level

If a developer creates a set of data maps and then imports legacy data without business-level oversight, the developer may fail to fully conform the needs of the business. It’s important for someone from the business to spend the time to review what legacy data will end up going to which areas in the new CRM system.

7. Extracting Source Data

Depending on how antiquated the legacy system is, extracting data may be a multi-step process. It can also involve creating views in the legacy database in order to consolidate data from different tables.

8. Preparing Source Data

After the data extraction, based upon what decisions were made about cut off dates, record exclusion, field exclusion, picklist consolidation and more, the legacy data needs to be properly prepared (ordered and transformed) for transfer into the CRM system.

In order for blocks of memo text to be easily readable in a new system, superfluous characters may need to be stripped from legacy memo fields, especially when email history is involved.

9. Merging Duplicate Records

If the existence of duplicate records in the legacy database is a pervasive issue, then duplicates can be both identified and bulk merged after the source data is extracted.

If there are a minimal number of duplicates, it might be better to import all duplicates and then use the “stare and compare” deduplication functionality that’s available in most CRM systems so that what data to retain can be made on a field by field basis.

10. Corralling File Attachments

With legacy contact managers in particular, file attachments can reside within dozens or even hundreds of different folders across the network. Important file attachments need to be copied into a central location for proper handling. This can be a particularly time consuming effort.

11. Determining How to Handle File Attachments

If there are a large number of file attachments in the legacy system, should these be brought into the CRM system’s native file attachment area, or should they be brought into a third party cloud storage solution that connects to the CRM system? If the latter, what’s the cloud storage system that will be used? The answer to this will determine the overall approach to migrating attachments.

12. Performing a Test Import or Test Imports

“Grip it and rip it” is never a good policy for data migration. It’s critical to perform at least one test migration and have several stakeholders take the time to review the results of the test migration on table by table and field by field basis.

13. Performing the Final Data Migration

After testing and adjusting the import scripts a final data migration can be performed. With proper planning and preparation, this can be accomplished relatively quickly such that the legacy system is only “frozen” and considered read-only for one business day. Friday is the best day of the week for a final data migration, as non-business weekend days can be taken advantage of.

14. Post Data Migration Cleanup

No matter how well executed the process is, there will likely be a few details that were overlooked. The days and weeks after switching over to the new CRM system may also be a time for additional data cleanup and for appending any overlooked data to CRM records.


Since data migration is a large, if not the largest, component of a first-phase CRM implementation, it should be given a commensurate level of attention. It’s important to view CRM data migration as both a technical and a business exercise.

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