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  • Writer's pictureCorey Schwitz

Preparing for a Salesforce Data Migration

Migrating data to and from Salesforce can be challenging, especially without having done it many times before. Successful data migration requires careful planning, backups, small-scale testing before making large changes, and a deep understanding of the different migration tools available in the SFDC ecosystem. 


Types of Salesforce data migration


To disambiguate, data migration could mean any of the following:


  1. Migrating data out of Salesforce to clean or enrich it before pushing it back in

  2. Migrating data from another CRM to Salesforce, or vice versa

  3. Migrating data from one Salesforce instance to another or merging two instances


Companies merging with or acquiring other organizations should pay particular attention to these best practices involved in migrating data.


Pre-migration preparation


Preparation is key to migrating data effectively, no matter what type of migration or use case applies to you.


Outline Your Data Model


Document the data you’ll be migrating. A simple spreadsheet will do. For each field in the source and destination instance, ensure the field type matches. List any field dependencies and other relationships associated with each field. Even if you don’t think every type of data from the legacy/source CRM will be needed, consider including it in the migration anyway until you’re certain (you can always delete it later if it ends up being unnecessary).


Prepare Field Types and Validation Rules In Both Instances


Using your data model, evaluate compatibility of the destination and source instance and make any required changes. Consider whether validation rules or other workflows in the receiving CRM instance will result in errors upon import and correct those first. This is particularly important when migrating from Hubspot, Dynamics, or another CRM to Salesforce or from a less well-managed instance of Salesforce to a better-managed and cleaner one.


Normalize Data In Excel


Excel is extremely helpful for visually reviewing data and prepping batches of it for migration. Review the type of data in each object’s field for compatibility, such as if one org has a version of a field with a Picklist type and another has a Text field type. Check validation rules to ensure that the source instance’s data won’t fail to meet the destination instance’s rules and cause errors. Always download reports so that they include unique Record IDs so that you can successfully re-import any data that you’re updating or upgrading without duplicate issues (in case more than one Lead or Contact has the same email on file).


Data Migration Tools


There are two main classes of migration tools: the simple import wizard and the more powerful Data Loader or Workbench. Most of the time, the latter will be your tool of choice for complex migrations of anything but very simple in-and-out data migration jobs. Merging instances or migrating from a different CRM into Salesforce will require the more powerful and complex option.


Salesforce Import Wizard


For simple migration jobs where you’re working with a few of the most common object types, you might be able to use Salesforce Import Wizard. The user interface is more intuitive than Data Loader or Workbench, and the process is generally more geared toward beginners. You can use the Import Wizard to practice your migration skills and then try your hand at Data Loader once you’re confident you won’t mess anything up.


Pro Tip: do this in a sandbox instance if you can. It’s always good to learn in a testing environment rather than risk doing damage to live data.


Data Loader or Workbench


Alternatively, most migrations will require you to use Salesforce Data Loader or Workbench to make the job more efficient and accommodate a wide range of data types and migration options.


Best practices for Salesforce data migration


Once you’ve built your data model, prepped both instances and tested the tools on small amounts of data, you’re ready to migrate live data.


Back up data pre-migration


Store Excel copies of any data you’re changing or deleting, and name the files human-readable names, so you’re not searching through report1279428312.csv, report0242783472.csv, etc., in the event you need to access backups. Consider maintaining the source CRM for 60-90 days after you’ve finished migrating the data to the destination CRM in case you need it to redo one of the migration jobs. When you export data, keep the Unique Record ID field on all of your exports so you have a unique identifier of each row.


Clean and deduplicate data


Enrich your data before importing it into Salesforce—i.e.: add any required fields that aren’t in the source data but are needed before the software will allow import. You can use third-party tools like Apollo or ZoomInfo for this. Clean, remove, and replace any corrupted data.


Next, consolidate duplicates (there may be lots!). If you're proficient, you can use a duplicate checker tool or a simple SQL script.


Finally, look for records you no longer need—for example, a bunch of old leads nobody has touched. Make sure to get internal approval—and keep those backups, too, just in case!


Ensure data privacy and security


Make security a priority during migration. Implement encryption measures where needed, restrict access based on roles, and keep compliant with data protection regulations. Be mindful of where you store backups and local copies of data, particularly any sensitive data that you may be handling. Regularly audit data handling procedures to maintain a secure environment throughout migration and beyond.


Data migration testing


Before a large job, start with small-scale tests of each import job and continue to verify accuracy and integrity throughout the process. If you’re getting error messages, address those across all of the data you’re working with. This is especially important when you’re overwriting data in the destination CRM. When deleting or overwriting, triple-check that you have backed up the data being changed.


Consider getting data migration help from Skydog Ops


Data migration is tricky and stressful for most business users and CRM admins. Unless you have the time and drive to learn the data science best practices, SFDC data tools, Excel skills, error codes, and third-party tools you’ll encounter, you’ll almost certainly want an expert partner for any large-scale migration, particularly when it comes to changing CRMs or executing post-acquisition plans when doing M&A.

Salesforce implementation specialists can lower the stakes of an important migration project and help you plan to avoid issues. 


Book a strategy session with us today using the button in the top right to learn about how we can make your Salesforce data migration accurate, efficient, and stress-free.

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