What to consider when migrating data to Microsoft Dynamics CRM

By - April 30, 2015

When you begin a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Specialists, there is one very important question you need to ask yourself very early on in the process.  “Will I be migrating data to my new Dynamics CRM system?”  There are many reasons why this is such an important question and there are many factors of this process that will affect your implementation.

For starters, when you begin planning your implementation and timeline you need to understand the true scope of data migration and the effort it will take to achieve it.  Of course every project is different, so it is difficult to generalize but for the sake of this article we will try to do so.  On average, Data Migration can be considered 25% – 35% of the overall project scope.  This is a rather large component that you either need to consider or simply cut out of your project.  My biggest piece of advice is to not take it lightly or consider it any less because this will become an issue during the implementation phase of the project.

There are many aspects of data migration that need to be considered.  How much data will be moving?  What is the architecture of the current data?  How will the existing data be mapped into the new Dynamics CRM schema?  What is our tolerance for inaccuracy or missing data?  What is the value of having legacy data in our new Dynamics CRM?  What tools will I be using to move the data?  All of these questions and more need to be discussed and considered before making any final decisions.

When you look at all of the factors and considerations, you need to then weigh the pros and cons, like any important decision making process.  In some cases, the cost in time and resource to accomplish it is simply not worth it as there is little value to seeing legacy data in your new system.  This is perfectly acceptable and in many cases a recommended decision.  In other cases the existing data is very important but it is better suited for manual re-entry as opposed to migration.  Again, another valid option that saves hours of outsourced labor.  In other cases it is absolutely pertinent that the data be migrated due to size, complexity, intellect, etc.  This is the decision that now must be taken very seriously and be done with great consideration and attention in your implementation.

When it comes to migrating data to your new Dynamics CRM system, there are a few things that can make or break the success of doing so.  One of the most important of those is accuracy.  Especially if you are in a business where there is little or no tolerance for data inaccuracy, you must do lots of preparation to ensure that all data being migrated is going to appear in your new system 100% flawless.  In some cases this means doing lots of pre-work and even some customization and configuration solely for the purposes of migration.  An important component of this, is around legacy users and groups.  Often data is owned by or completed by a user who is no longer with the company yet legacy data is affiliated with them.  This is one of those cases where the pre-work of setting up legacy users in the new system is vital to data accuracy.

Data mapping and architecture is another very large component of data migration.  Your legacy system has stored data in a way that needs to be analyzed and reviewed even prior to building your new system.  Sometimes there are anomalies and relationships in the data that can be uncovered that even the savviest business folks cannot explain during discovery and business process learning.  You should be prepared with ERDs (entity relationship diagrams), schema diagrams, sample data sets and any other materials you can produce very early in the requirements gathering process as this will help your consultant understand quite a bit about how the new system needs to be configured.

Once you thoroughly understand the architecture and map it to the new Dynamics CRM schema, you then must consider the size of the data you are moving.  Is it thousands of records or millions of records?  This answer can change it from a several week timeframe to a several month timeframe in an instant.  The tools you use, the infrastructure environment and the way in which you process data migration tasks will greatly affect this aspect.  We always suggest using a powerful ETL (extract-translate-load) tool to assist in the process.  This would be a system where you could write scripts that will pull data from a source environment, translate and map it to a new format and then import into the new environment.  A tool like this should be deployed in a powerful infrastructure that can allow fast transactions and quick processing.  The last thing you want is for technology to actually slow you down.

Sampling and testing are highly suggested in a data migration effort.  For example, if you are migrating one million records you would not want to migrate all of them and then review them for accuracy just to find out they are all wrong and require removal or re-engineering.  You would want to start with a small sample set of data that encompasses the full scope of the system and functionality for testing purposes.  Both consultants and business users should be involved in the process of review the migrated data in the new system.  There should be comparison between the legacy system and the new Dynamics CRM system to ensure accuracy and completeness.  Once this is proven successful, the scripts should be locked to prevent further changes and your migration process can officially begin.

One more thing to consider is differential data.  From the time a data migration begins to the time it ends can be quite some time.  Usually in this case you would have changes in your legacy system and new records being created along the way.  Those records need to be considered, or planned around when you get ready for go-live.  In some cases you can flip a switch and this is not a concern.  In others you can plan a process of dual data entry by your user base.  In others yet you will have to perform differential data loads on a daily, weekly, monthly basis to keep both systems in sync until you sunset the legacy system.  Regardless of your method, this aspect cannot be ignored or you will have a serious discrepancy of data.

When it comes to data migration I want you to understand that it is not something that should be taken lightly in your Dynamics CRM implementation project.  There needs to be significant thought, effort, time and resource put towards it and you need to decide what is best for your business.  No matter how beautifully a new Dynamics CRM system can be designed, if the data isn’t there or isn’t accurate you will not be very satisfied.

RSM has implemented more than 2,000 Microsoft Dynamics business solutions over the span of thirty years. We have a RSM Implementation Methodology. We can help you assess your situation and make the best recommended. Contact our professionals today for more information – crm@rsmus.com or by phone at 855.437.7202.

By: Chris Witham – New York Microsoft Dynamics CRM partner


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