Salesforce data migration: types, stages, and best practices

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Companies preparing to adopt Salesforce can face several challenges. One of them is moving data from their legacy systems into the new platform without the risk of losing valuable assets and exceeding the planned migration time or budget limits.

Migrating data to Salesforce is a complex initiative requiring technical expertise, profound knowledge of data mapping, validation, and security, and strong project management skills. If conducted improperly, data migration can result in data quality issues, automation failures, malfunctioning apps, and errors in the system.

By following the best Salesforce migration practices, organizations can transfer data faster, minimize disruptions, and harness the full power of the platform.

Types of data migration in Salesforce

The migration process can vary depending on whether you switch to Salesforce from another CRM system, move data between orgs within Salesforce, or upgrade from Salesforce Classic to Salesforce Lightning Experience.

These migration scenarios can further fall into three types based on the migration object:

  • Database migration. This includes transferring data from an external database into Salesforce. Differences in the database technology and data models between the source and target databases affect the complexity and effort required to migrate the data.
  • Application migration. When you shift to Salesforce from another CRM, you need not only to migrate data but also restore the processes from your legacy app within Salesforce via configuration or customization.
  • Storage migration. In addition to data storage, Salesforce provides space for files, attachments, content, and documents from the CRM and related apps or sales prospecting tools. However, the platform’s storage volume is strictly limited, so companies can opt for migrating their Salesforce files to external repositories.

Salesforce data migration stages

There is no one-size-fits-all data migration strategy because every organization has unique data sets and reasons behind migration. Still, most Salesforce migration processes share the same key stages.

  1. Planning and preparation. Start with drawing up a migration plan. For this, define your migration goals, perform a high-level analysis of the source system, evaluate your existing data sets, and estimate the available budget and timeframe. The preparation phase should also set data standards to avoid potential data issues during and after migration.
  2. Data auditing and profiling. This stage involves selecting customer, sales, and marketing data or metadata for migration and determining a data model. The marketing data can contain campaign data, meaning, a clean email list, or other user information elements. Then, you inspect the full scope of your data to identify and eliminate any data quality issues, duplications, anomalies, and unwanted entities before the migration.
  3. Target Salesforce org preparation. To ensure that the destination Salesforce org is ready to receive the data, consider developing custom fields for data that was contained in the non-standard fields in your legacy system or old Salesforce instance. Set up the same relationships between the fields as in the source CRM.
  4. Execution of migration. Now, it’s time to extract, transform, and load the source data into the new Salesforce environment using the suitable migration approach. Depending on the volume and complexity of your data, you can import it all at once or gradually in small portions.
  5. Post-migration audit. Once completed, the migration process needs to be validated to make sure the data in the new environment is complete, accurate, and apt for business use.

Four best practices for Salesforce migration

Here are four tips to help you make your transition to Salesforce smooth.

Prepare a data governance plan

A data governance plan establishes how to manage data before, during, and after the migration and helps ensure the high quality and integrity of your data. It also sets up key roles in data governance, their responsibilities, and data access rights to provide better accountability, coordination, and risk management within the project. With a data governance plan in place, organizations can determine how to validate data accuracy, store legacy data, and achieve regulatory compliance.

Your data governance plan can be an enterprise-wide initiative or an agreement between the team members responsible for Salesforce and data management.

Back up your data

Create a full backup of the data and metadata you plan to move to Salesforce before the actual data loading. If you migrate between Salesforce instances, it is also recommended to back up the data in your existing Salesforce org. By doing this, you can preserve your source data or restore it in case of failures during the migration or accidental deletion.

Salesforce advises using native data backup tools or relying on third-party solutions provided by Salesforce partners on AppExchange. Some of these tools can automate backups of data and metadata and provide a data recovery mechanism.

Select an optimal migration tool

To automate data migration to or from Salesforce, companies can use a tool that orchestrates the copying and validation of data from the source systems of records to the corresponding target systems of records. Salesforce offers an array of native data migration tools, but third-party apps can also help.

Although all the tools have similarities in functionality, each has its strong and weak points and is suitable for particular use cases. For example, some data migration tools can migrate only a limited amount of data. In contrast, others handle huge data volumes but require a technical background to operate and are not intended for business users.

When choosing a data migration tool, decision-makers should consider the volume, complexity, type, and format of data to be migrated as well as the tool’ feature set, automation capabilities, user-friendliness, pricing, and vendor support.

Test your data migration plan with a pilot project

If you switch to Salesforce from another CRM system, the differences in the data structure between Salesforce and your existing legacy software can lead to data conflicts during migration.

To prevent this challenge, we recommend starting your migration with a pilot run. For this, select a representative portion of the source data, prepare it for import to Salesforce, and perform the migration using the tool of your choice, going through all the steps you’ve planned, from data backup to final validation. This way, you can see how your migration plan works in reality, identify shortcomings, and improve the readiness of the teams involved for the Salesforce migration.

Final thoughts

Data migration is a fundamental aspect of a successful Salesforce implementation. Yet, it’s a complex process that requires establishing a clear strategy, appropriate preparation, and adhering to the recommended data migration guidelines.

For a seamless transition to Salesforce, consider teaming up with a certified Salesforce partner to perform end-to-end data migration or guide you through it, from the initial source data assessment to post-migration data testing. Knowledgeable of all intricacies of Salesforce, seasoned experts can help you prevent unexpected issues, preserve your data quality, and make your new Salesforce org up and running.