Embarking on a data migration journey is challenging and often daunting, yet also exciting and extremely rewarding. The reward is clear: all your data will be clean, organised, and in a single place. That being said, the risk of failure is something that should not be overlooked and instead should be expected, planned for, and mitigated where possible. While not a straightforward undertaking, it can be significantly simplified with thorough preparation and planning.
No one embarks on a data migration project with the intent to mess up their data, right? It seems like a straightforward idea, but the stark reality is that 84% of data migration projects don’t pan out as intended, according to Bloor Research. This can be a scary fact when considering your Salesforce data import needs!
Think about the reason that your business is looking to embark on a data migration project. Whether big or small, whether ‘critical data’ or simply tertiary data that is being migrated to round out your customer data, does your business really have the time, money, and resources to waste with failed data migration?
As the title of this section suggests, it pays to be prepared. It pays in terms of cost savings to your business. It pays in terms of speed and competitive advantage that you will gain by having your data organised while others do not. Perhaps most importantly, it pays in terms of building a better experience for your customers as you have everything you need to know about them ready and available to your whole team in an organised manner.
By this point, you understand the risks involved in a Salesforce data import project. We’re here to help you plan the best project possible with minimal risk to your data, customers, and business. This Ultimate Salesforce Data Migration Checklist has been developed off the back of countless Salesforce data import projects.
This checklist is designed to be a general guide for all data imports, whether you’re setting up a recurring automated data import, importing data through a Salesforce integration, or moving a large data set from Excel to Salesforce.
Before kicking off your migration you really need to understand exactly what data you are migrating, including its structure, format, relationships, and dependencies. Clearly define the reason why your business needs to perform the Salesforce data import and set a clear scope of work.
This is the first step because it is absolutely crucial to set boundaries and define the project before getting too deep into the work itself. This clarity helps to prevent scope creep which minimises the overall risk of timeline and budgetary overruns. It also helps to set clear success metrics at this point so the business can accurately gauge if the Salesforce data import project was successful.
“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions” - Albert Einstein.
As you learned in the first part of this article, unfortunately not every Salesforce data import goes to plan. Your business should learn to expect problems and get into the habit of preparing for and avoiding these problems in advance.
This is why you should create both a Migration Plan (a plan for what you are looking to achieve) and a Rollback Plan (a plan for what you will do if the Migration Plan doesn’t roll out as expected). Your business should be prepared both for what it wants to achieve and for what happens if things go wrong. This way, no matter what happens, your business remains in control of the situation.
Luckily for you, you’ve already got a great starting template for your Migration Plan - this checklist! You can use the guidance within this article as a method of structuring your Migration Plan for your Salesforce data import project.
Your business’s data is among its most important assets; this is likely why you are considering a Salesforce data import in the first place. Given that the next steps involve you performing an assessment of your data and making changes to it (more on that below) you absolutely need to create a backup of your data in its original state.
The reason for backing up your data is so that you have an original copy of it for use at any time throughout the Salesforce data import process. Whether you perform a bad data cleanse, the format of your data is changed and damages its accuracy, or a de-duplication or merge goes wrong, your data is still safe and sound.
You should not only include the data that is going into Salesforce in your backup but also the data that is currently in Salesforce. The whole point of an import is usually so that your data is connected together, so if there is an issue with the imported data it may spill over into your existing data. If something goes wrong, both your new and existing data sets are still available for clean up or restoration.
Part of the first step in this checklist was to define your Salesforce data import and understand exactly what is going to be included, where it is going, and the format it needs to be in to go there. This step focuses more on the nitty-gritty of that - you will need to map each field from your source Excel or CSV sheet to the object and field it needs to be stored in once it is imported to Salesforce.
You should carefully consider exactly what the data structure of your new records should be in the destination Salesforce environment. You will often find that source systems may not have the same relational database structure as Salesforce and as such will combine objects together. For example, you may find that some data sets include Account, Contact, and Activity data together in a single record. You should transform this data (more on that later) to follow Salesforce best practices and make use of the relationships between records in Salesforce. Don’t just map and migrate your data exactly as it was in the source platform as you won’t realise any value in migrating your data.
There are numerous options when it comes to Salesforce data import tools. You’ll need to be thoughtful when selecting a tool based on the data you are migrating, how much transformation is required, where the data is coming from or going to, whether it is a once-off or recurring data migration, and your budget.
When selecting a tool for your Salesforce data import you should consider not only the current need but also the needs your business may have in the future. This will likely have an impact on the tool you decide to use. Free tools typically don’t offer complex features such as automation and integration. Although completely free tools may seem appealing they may negatively affect your business in the future if they don’t also grow and scale with your business needs. If you do choose a free tool you should consider one with paid add-ons that can be used to enhance your abilities in the future without having to move to a completely different tool.
One such tool you could look at using for your Salesforce data import project is Dataimporter. You can sign up for free by visiting this link and testing it out for yourself. Dataimporter enables its users to perform once-off or automated Salesforce data imports or direct Salesforce to Salesforce integrations. There are direct integrations with other sources such as Google Drive, OneDrive, SharePoint, Dropbox, Google Sheets, and more. You can pull data directly from an Excel spreadsheet or CSV file as well.
These are all features that you should consider when selecting a tool. You may not require them all, and there may be other options that you prefer, but you need to know exactly what your Salesforce data import tool needs to be capable of prior to starting your migration project.
Your Salesforce data integrity should be protected at all costs. Think about it like this - you didn’t invest all this time, effort, and capital to have your data compromised by a poor Salesforce data import. You should cleanse your data thoroughly and bring it up to standard before allowing it to come in contact with your Salesforce org.
This cleansing may be in the form of standardising phone number formats or address data. It may be ensuring that certain fields contain data or splitting a single record across multiple objects which was mentioned above. It could be deduplicating your data, or comparing your new data to your existing Salesforce data and ensuring that records are being updated, not duplicated, by the new data that is being imported.
Data transformation refers to the process of converting data from one format into another to meet specific requirements. In this case, it means reshaping the data you are looking to use for your Salesforce data import and making sure it fits properly within the Salesforce data model. Data transformation, alongside data cleansing, is an absolutely imperative step to ensure your data quality and compatibility with existing Salesforce data and functionality.
A Salesforce data import isn’t just about moving data from another system into Salesforce, there’s a bit more to it than that. You need to ensure that once the data has been imported into Salesforce it is able to be used by existing functions and automation within the system, and is accessible to users as expected.
It is extremely important to allow sufficient time for your Salesforce data import testing prior to the actual data migration. If you run into any issues along the way, you may even need to perform a second round of testing to make sure that everything is running smoothly before continuing to your main data import. This is why testing is critical - if you skip this step and something goes wrong you may miss a targeted go-live date. Worse yet, you may create a wealth of problems for your business in the form of dirty, incorrect, and corrupt data.
The best way to do this is by creating a test plan and performing a migration of a sample subset of your data into a sandbox for sanity checking. Your test plan needs to be a summary of what you’ve already done to date (notably the definition of scope, details of the cleansing and transformation of your data, and a detailed description of your data mapping activities) as well as details on how you will gauge the success or failure of your Salesforce data import. This typically will include a series of User Stories that can be used for testing immediately after the data is migrated.
A sample migration is as simple, yet effective, as it sounds - cut a small slice of your data and perform your end-to-end migration, then measure the outcome. Test the migrated data against your User Stories to ensure that everything has gone to plan. You will need to address any issues that arise prior to a full Salesforce data import into your production environment.
There are invested parties within your business that would like to be kept up to date with the status of your Salesforce data import. They have an investment in the data itself and how it
impacts their business-as-usual operations, but not necessarily the technical aspects of your migration.
This means that they will want to know an expected timeline for when they can begin working with the data and using it to progress the business. They will want to also be kept in the loop about any significant changes to this timeline. They will also want to know what major changes, if any, there are to their day-to-day operations or the functionality of the system.
Transparency is key here - you will need to be upfront and open with the business about any setbacks or delays and provide explanations along with potential solutions or mitigation strategies that you are implementing to bring their data to them sooner.
Remember to keep your messaging relevant. Your business wants to know what’s going on, but they don’t want to know the nitty-gritty details about every single step along the way. Highlight the key aspects of the Salesforce data import project that are most relevant to each team and tailor the messaging accordingly.
This is one step that is quite often overlooked - you should carefully and accurately record any and all steps taken along the Salesforce data import path. Maintain comprehensive documentation of the entire process including any configuration changes required to support the new data (ie. new objects or fields), any changes to security that were required, or any settings or features that were changed or enabled.
Remember also to document any issues that occurred during the migration process as this may impact future imports or integrations. Once you have found a resolution for your issue, you may be able to reapply it if it rears its ugly head in the future.
This documentation will be the first place to look for any troubleshooting if there are problems with the new data down the line. If this is a recurring migration, your documentation will act as a playbook for any future data imports that follow the same structure.
Where the last point was focused more on the documentation to be created around the steps taken during the Salesforce data import project, this point focuses more on the data itself and what happens to it during the migration. You should implement robust logging mechanisms to track the progress of your migration.
This is typically a feature that is included in the migration tool that you would use to move the data and is often exported as CSV files. These logs can be used to see the real-time success or failure of your migrated data and point you towards any anomalies that are experienced.
The reality is that as you continue to monitor your data you will likely run into some errors. This can occur at any point either during your Salesforce data import or during business as usual. Errors are sometimes easy to read and figure out what’s going on in your org, and other times they’re harder to decipher. You can read one of our previous posts if you’d like to learn more about some of the most common errors that you may run into during a Salesforce data migration.
The above checklist may have opened a can of worms (or two!) for you and flagged some additional points for consideration that you and your business may not have previously considered. This is exactly what Dataimporter has been developed to do - to fill the gaps and ensure successful Salesforce data migration no matter what your business requirements are. Dataimporter has a free version and add-ons that you can optionally select as they are required to scale our solution to your business needs.
Our solution can be used to support your data migration projects from the simplest of Salesforce data imports to complex, recurring, and integrated data transformations. Although not an exhaustive list, the below highlights a number of features that could be used to solve some of the issues that the checklist may have raised for your business.
Testing is absolutely critical to the success of your project, as you read above. This is why Dataimporter has included a built-in data sampling tool that that allows you to choose a random number of sample records to test your job before applying it to the whole data set, and it’s built right into the standard job creation process inside of Dataimporter.
Immediately after you’ve set your object and field mapping you will be presented with the ability to ‘Take Sample of Data’. Check this box, set your Sample Size in the field that is displayed, and continue through the execution of the job.
Once you have executed the job you will see the total number of records processed in the job is equal to the number that you set in the Sample Size field, and by clicking View Successful you will see a random sample of the records in your source file have been pushed in as a test. To demonstrate this visually I created an Excel spreadsheet of 100 Leads (Test 001 to Test100, in that order) and the successfully imported records show a random sample from that list in no particular order, as below.
In the success screen that you can see in the screenshot above, you’ll notice a series of buttons that you can use to manipulate the records from a job, one of which is Rollback. If you’ve run into an issue with your Salesforce data import job and you need to remove it from the system, or you’ve completed a sample import and need to revert it, you can do so using this button.
Once you’ve clicked the button you will need to confirm on a second screen, as per the screenshot above, which will remove the records from the system.
Please note that the rollback functionality is only available for 7 days from when you initially ran your job.
When introducing your users to new functionality within Salesforce it’s always best to do so with a clean set of data. Dataimporter has a purpose-built data seeding tool to help streamline this process and make it as simple as possible.
Your data varies in shape, and Dataimporter’s seeding tool is flexible enough to ensure you get a variety of high-quality sandbox data of all shapes and sizes. This may include sample people, financial information, food, transportation data, and more. In the screenshot below, for example, you can see that Dataimporter supports not only a ‘text’ variable but also a ‘sentence’ variable, which can be used to populate some dummy data in the Description field of a Lead.
You can configure the number of records you wish to create as well as tighten up the formatting of certain fields using Masks. Dataimporter also automatically identifies picklist fields and can select from their values. Dataimporter will give you a preview of three of your seed records to confirm it has been configured correctly before allowing you to insert the data.
Constructing new field values from multiple columns in your source data is something that Dataimporter also can do for you using the Formulas feature. This step is often done outside of your Salesforce data import tool using Excel, but Dataimporter allows you to streamline your process by doing it for you within the migration tool itself.
Dataimporter formulas work similarly to Salesforce and Excel formulas and can be used to add virtual columns to your source data that can be mapped in job templates.
Dataimporter Formulas has been designed to be as similar to Excel and Salesforce as possible, and you can find more information on the exact operators and functions on the help page.
There’s nothing like duplicate records to mess up your cleaned Salesforce data, but luckily for you, Dataimporter can remove any double-ups with the click of a button! When you’re setting up a job and you get to the Clean page, simply click the Deduplicate Rows checkbox and specify the fields that should be used to identify if a record is a duplicate.
Some Salesforce data import jobs need to be repeated on a regular basis. Often this sort of data loading is done manually and requires matching source files to templates, loading the data in and checking for errors, and THEN getting on with business as usual. Dataimporter takes the manual strain out of this work by empowering your business to automate these regular jobs on a set schedule.
Schedule scan be configured for jobs that use an external data source only (see Third-Party Integrations).
You may need to pull data from multiple sources for your Salesforce data import project, and Dataimporter makes this easy with native integrations to a series of the most commonly used data repositories. You can connect to Google Drive, Google Sheets, OneDrive, SharePoint, Azure SQL, Dropbox, and more without needing to write a single line of code! Simply navigate to the Integrations page in Dataimporter, select your source, and follow the intuitive prompts to integrate.
For a full, up-to-date list of natively supported third-party integrations, you can check out the Integrations page on our website.
Remember that each Salesforce data migration is unique and that you will need to adapt these general principles to the specific requirements of your project. Regular communication with stakeholders and a flexible approach are key to successful data migration.
If you have any further questions about migrating or integrating your Salesforce data, feel free to reach out to us for some additional clarity. We specialise in all things data, and the Dataimporter tool has been designed with the intent to make these projects as streamlined as possible.
You can sign up to Dataimporter for free here and use it to lead a successful Salesforce data import project for your business. If you’ve already started realising the benefit that Dataimporter can bring to your business and are looking for some guidance you can access the Help Center at any time.