Salesforce Data Migration Best Practices

October 13, 2021

Tim Combridge

Over the last two decades, Salesforce has become much more than a cloud-based CRM system. The amount of client data that it houses is increasing exponentially. Developers are integrating and transacting data between Salesforce and other systems more than ever before. Most importantly, more systems are being folded into and more new customers are using Salesforce every single day. Overall, these behaviours and trends mean that more data is being migrated into Salesforce and architects are required to design far more complex and scalable data models as a result.

Table Of Contents

  1. Two Common Use Cases for Salesforce Data Migration
  2. Salesforce Data Migration: Business Requirements/Strategy
  3. Salesforce Data Migration: Technical Requirements/Strategy
  4. Salesforce Data Migration Tools
  5. Salesforce Data Migration Checklist — Key Points to Keep in Mind
  6. Summary

Two Common Use Cases for Salesforce Data Migration

Importing Data From Another System to Salesforce

There are a number of reasons to move data in from other systems to Salesforce. The first would be simply that the functionality of the other system has been rebuilt inside of the Salesforce platform, and there’s no need to continue using two separate systems. Another reason would be that a business is moving from another CRM solution onto Salesforce, and would obviously need to bring their data with them. One further reason is that a business is working in collaboration with another business that doesn’t use Salesforce, and they need to periodically import data from their system.

Moving Data From One Salesforce Org to Another

On the other side of the coin, a business may need to move data between two or more different Salesforce orgs. This may be because a larger multi-departmental business operates multiple Salesforce orgs in conjunction with one another, and needs to shift data between them. Another example would be that an org’s data model has unfortunately not been designed to be scalable, and the business is no longer able to operate without rebuilding from the ground up in a new Salesforce org. The relevant data should follow them into the new org, after it has been cleaned and aligned to the new data model.

Salesforce Data Migration: Business Requirements/Strategy

There are some key strategic points from a business perspective that must be taken into account when planning a Salesforce data migration:

  1. Communication is key. Ensure the migration is communicated thoroughly, and that all relevant parties are made aware of the upcoming changes. This one is particularly important if there is a major migration taking place — a full import of data from another system or a legacy CRM, and the data migration will have a large impact on multiple teams or business units.
  2. Define the migration scope and budget. Make sure to make a definitive plan as to the exact scope of the migration. If only a subset of data is being migrated, or only a single team’s data will be impacted, this will need to be communicated. Similarly, larger data migrations can take a lot of time and effort — especially when cleansing larger data sets, or merging data from multiple origins. Keeping a Salesforce data migration project within a set budget is important, and this budget should be defined from the outset.
  3. Define the migration timeline. Once your scope has been determined, set a timeline with measurable milestones throughout the migration. Your users need to know exactly when the cutover will be, and which system they need to use to perform their ‘business as usual’ tasks. Creating a timeline makes it easier to structure the execution of your data migration, but if those milestone dates need to be changed due to delays or unforeseen issues, don’t be afraid to do so.
  4. Clean your data before migration. Plan for where your data is going, not where it’s coming from - clean it before importing it into your Salesforce environment. Ensuring your data is clean before it is imported means your Salesforce data integrity remains intact and your users are still able to get valuable information from your data.
  5. Plan and build the data model. In conjunction with the above point, it may be worth reconsidering your data model before replicating it within Salesforce. The beauty of performing a data migration into a new system is that you have a fresh canvas on which to build. If your data has been getting increasingly more complicated over time, take this opportunity to simplify the model and tidy your data. Ensuring you have a thought out data model means that your Salesforce org will remain scalable for a longer period of time, which is critical for any growing business.
  6. Validate your migrated data. It’s important to validate your data once it has been migrated into Salesforce. This way you can ensure it has retained its integrity, especially on key pieces of information such as contact details (like email addresses, phone numbers, etc). Sometimes things don’t go as planned during a data migration, so you should always spot-check your data afterwards.
  7. Clean your data after migration. I know, you have already cleaned your data BEFORE migration, but you’ll likely need to do some cleanup after as well. Often during a migration, you’ll find you have duplicate data as a result of merging more than one data source. Merge these duplicates and tidy up any additional data to ensure that your users have the best experience inside Salesforce.
  8. Celebrate your win. A Salesforce Data Migration is no easy task, so be sure to reward yourself and your team as you hit milestones. Not only is it well deserved, but getting your users excited about the Salesforce system will increase user adoption as they begin to use it.

Salesforce Data Migration: Technical Requirements/Strategy

Just as there are some important business points that must be considered, the technical requirements of a Salesforce data migration are also imperative. When performing a Salesforce data migration, consider the following:

  1. Create a data governance plan. There’s no point importing data into Salesforce and spending time and effort cleaning it up if it’s going to fall apart shortly after the data migration. It’s critical to create a data governance plan to ensure that the data is kept clean and valuable to the business on an ongoing basis.

    The data governance plan should detail how data should be managed going forward. Things like how legacy data should be kept in the new environment, how data should be validated before being stored, who is responsible for data cleanliness, etc. These things should all form part of the data governance plan.
  2. Selecting the data migration tool. Select your migration tool wisely. Keep in mind limitations of each tool, and compare the limitations to the data that you need to import. For example, if you have more than 50k records to import, don’t use the Salesforce Data Import Wizard.
  3. Identify required or read only fields. Identify any required fields or read-only fields on your Salesforce objects. It’s important to ensure there is a value against every required field before attempting to import records, otherwise it will be rejected by the system.
  4. Plan the order of migration. Plan for a correct migration order — if your records require a Master Detail relationship to be populated, and you haven’t inserted the parent record first, your child records will fail.
  5. Planning the naming convention of labels and API names. When building your data model out, ensure you have a consistent naming convention for your objects’ and fields’ API names. API names are used when writing Apex or building out declarative automations using tools like Flow Builder. Salesforce Best Practice would be to keep the Labels and API names aligned where possible.
  6. Ensure correct date format. Ensure your date values align with Salesforce’s standard date format. You can set your dates using the YYYY-MM-DDThh:mm:ssZ format when migrating data to Salesforce (YYYY = year, MM = month, DD = date, hh = hour, mm = minutes, ss = seconds. T identifies the start of the time, and Z identifies that the standard timezone should be used).
  7. Plan for the inevitable errors. There’s a high chance you will run into some kind of error during your Salesforce data migration. This will likely be due to data not being cleansed properly, or data not being formatted correctly, or a Validation Rule being hit inside of Salesforce. Salesforce Best Practice is to record the error that you receive. This way, you can continue along your original data migration plan as much as possible and tidy up any leftover data at the end, rather than getting stuck at a single point.

Salesforce Data Migration Tools

Salesforce Data Import Wizard

The Salesforce Data Import Wizard is Salesforce’s built in import tool that operates within the Salesforce web app — there’s no need for a software download to use this tool. It works with a number of Standard Objects as well as Custom Objects, and allows up to 50k records to be uploaded at once.

Salesforce API: Apex Data Loader

The Salesforce API offers many different methods to manipulate Salesforce data. Using either the SOAP or REST API, a developer can get, push, update, or delete data from with the Salesforce database. There are applications that make use of the Salesforce API to make it easier for end users to make use of its flexibility - one such manifestation of this is the Salesforce Apex Data Loader.

The Salesforce Apex Data Loader is a free, downloadable piece of software that makes use of the Salesforce API to insert, update, upsert, and delete data from a Salesforce org. There are two main ways to use the Data Loader: through the User Interface (which supports both macOS and Windows), and through the CLI (which supports Windows only).

Skyvia

Skyvia offers Salesforce migration features that make any migration easier. Using the Salesforce Connector in Skyvia, you can enhance your Salesforce data migration plans with the functionality of a powerful cloud-based data platform.

Unlike many other tools, Skyvia is a cloud-based tool that requires little-to-no configuration. This means that you don’t need to download a small software client onto a local computer to run it — simply access it via the web browser. Using Skyvia Import, you’re able to connect Salesforce and other cloud apps or databases and easily migrate data into your Salesforce environment. This could be useful when you’re migrating from another system into Salesforce, or if you need to continually keep importing new data into Salesforce (ie. new Contacts from a POS system).

Not only can you use Skyvia to import data into one Salesforce org, you can also connect multiple Salesforce environments and transfer data between orgs. Skyvia makes it super simple to perform a Salesforce to Salesforce data migration. Once again, whether this is a once-off migration from one org to another, or you need to keep records in sync between two or more Salesforce orgs, Skyvia makes it easy.

Data Migration and syncing is one thing, but having a complete backup of your Salesforce data is also incredibly important. Skyvia Backup allows you to connect a Salesforce org and back it up prior to a major migration or change. Keeping an ongoing backup of your data is also a Salesforce best practice, regardless of major imports or changes.

Salesforce Data Migration Checklist — Key Points to Keep in Mind

Planning is key to almost any major change inside Salesforce, and that includes a Salesforce Data Migration. Below is a simple checklist that you can use to plan out your Data Migration and should start you off on the path of success:

  1. Backup. ALWAYS take a backup before performing any form of data migration. This ensures that even if something goes drastically wrong, the original data remains intact and can be restored. This means that business will continue to run as smoothly as possible, even in a worst case scenario. Skyvia Backup allows you to take a Salesforce data backup with ease.
  2. Sort your data before migrating. Decide on the data that needs to be migrated - be sure to make a note as to where it will come from, where it’s going to, and how to handle any conflicts (ie. one system should remain the source of truth).
  3. Create your data migration plan. Create a migration plan — specify the order in which each object must be migrated (ie. Accounts before Contacts, Campaigns and Contacts before Campaign Membership).
  4. Create a data migration workbook. Build a data migration workbook that contains a detailed list of the information that is being migrated in or out of the system. This will help keep track and make sure nothing is forgotten or left behind during the migration.
  5. Create a communications schedule. Create a communications schedule for larger migrations. Keep relevant business teams in the loop so they’re aware of changes to their ‘business as usual’ tasks.
  6. Documentation is vital to a successful Salesforce data migration. Be sure to document each and every step before, during, and after the migration. This will ensure that each step is recorded in case there are any discrepancies in the data that aren’t immediately identified. Creating an auditable migration checklist also means that learnings and inefficiencies can be identified before the next migration.

Summary

Building out a fresh new Salesforce data model or adding to an existing one is only the first step when either performing a full data migration into Salesforce or importing external data into Salesforce. The migration is just as important, and carries a lot of risk with it. For this reason, it’s important to build out your Salesforce data migration plan and checklists properly, and remember to communicate and celebrate your migration plan milestones with users and stakeholders.

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