Mistake 1: Thinking you’ll get away without having a data migration plan

Sadly, it’s surprising how often we encounter customers who fail to make a data migration plan and don’t appreciate why they need one. To put it in context, let’s look at your data this way: 

You are moving to a new house. It’s smaller, more modern, is in a much nicer location than your current one and has myriad new features (and perhaps even a hot tub). But – there’s a lot less space to store those things you don’t need or use anymore, and you can’t afford the expense of an extra room to stack it in. So, you must make some tough decisions about what you are taking, why you need it, and where it will go.  

Which is why you need a plan of attack. Data migration starts with picking over and downsizing your amassed data with knowledge, intelligence, and pragmatism while being aware of the desired end outcome.  

A planning document provides tables of the data that needs to be shifted, for example, contacts, accounts, and associated emails. And it specifies what doesn’t come – the information you don’t care about. For example, do you really need a contact’s middle name or historic fields? The plan also specifies what the data needs to look like in the new system and details the mapping from the old system to the new one. (Psst: your partner should be able to provide you with a template.)   

A new CRM is an opportunity to do more and do it much better. And it always starts with a planned ‘what, why, where’ approach to your data which supports your customer and user-centric visions. Critically, make the plan in conjunction with someone who is across your data and can dedicate their time and energy to making intelligent decisions. 

Mistake 2: Taking a ‘no data left behind’ approach

Of course, you could opt to shift everything and sort it out later. After all, who doesn’t like packing then unpacking stuff only to subsequently throw it in a rubbish skip? 

Yet, we’ve seen it happen. Despite knowing they’re moving to smaller premises, some customers elect to shift everything from their legacy on-premises solution to their new cloud application. And by everything, we mean all the data they accumulated over the years (just because they could) that never added value to the business. If it wasn’t helpful then, it won’t be helpful now.  

Moving everything is also an expensive decision. As cloud storage costs increase, along with the price of just about everything else, few businesses can financially justify filling their space with useless and unused data.

Just because storing legacy data on-premises is comparatively inexpensive (throw another SDD into your server, and you’re done), online storage is a different ballgame. What may not initially seem too expensive for a month will become a burden over the course of years and cannibalise budget from more important activities.  

A new CRM is an excellent opportunity to clean house. Just because you have data from 10 years ago doesn’t mean it’s still valuable or relevant. It’s like those bone-handled fish knives you were gifted all those years ago. They’re of little use these days and even less value in a world that prefers sushi and chopsticks.  

Mistake 3: Moving data you don’t love

Decide what data you care about. If you don’t love it, it won’t add business value, or it is out-of-date, then be ruthless and leave it behind. Use the Marie Kondo approach; if your data doesn’t bring you (business) joy, out it goes.  

For example, like your collection of ‘Now you’re 21!’ birthday cards from a few decades ago, it’s highly improbably that those historical notes about a customer meeting from five or ten years ago will serve any useful purpose now.  

That unloved or outdated data won’t help generate insights or inform the future. It just takes up valuable space. And as mentioned in the previous point, it will cost you more to store than it’s worth. 

Mistake 4: Not appointing a data migration owner

Who should make those data decisions? Who’s going to help shift house? 

Leave it to the subject matter experts (or SMEs, as we fondly call them). Your SME should be someone who has used the old CRM system for long enough to know whether a data set is useful, rather than someone new to the business who has no appreciation for its potential value going forward. 

And give your SME time to do the job properly. Making a call on which data to discard shouldn’t be arbitrary, but a well-considered decision made with a deep understanding of how the business will use that data.

And as it’s rare that any one person has a 360-degree view of the data, your SME also needs to embark on an information-gathering exercise, talking to other impacted users to establish what’s important to them. And, once this is done, your SME needs to take charge of the data cleansing process – ensuring everything that’s to be migrated is both accurate and in a consistent format (for example, phone numbers).

If your designated SME is new to the business, they may – understandably - err on the side of caution and choose to select too much data rather than risk making the ‘wrong’ decision. Bringing a broken lava lamp to a new digital environment isn’t a great decision.  

Mistake 5: Thinking your partner is your data donkey 

In an ideal world, your CRM partner would understand your business to an exceptional depth and know precisely and intuitively which data is critical to the company and needs to be migrated. And they’d shoulder the entire burden of (and responsibility for) making your data decisions for you. 

Time and again, we’ve seen this expectation raised by customers who haven’t assigned a dedicated data migration resource to the role of data owner and anticipate their partner will be their data donkey.  

And we’ve answered ‘no.’ No sensible partner will take on the role of understanding and evaluating 20 years’ worth of accumulated data. And no sensible customer would want to pay for the time it would take an external consultant to complete the task.  

We’re more than happy to move your data into the new system, guide you by sharing best practices, and help you make smart decisions - but to be blunt - it’s your data, and you need to do the hard work to sort it out in preparation for D-Day.  

Mistake 6: Leaving your data migration until (un)lucky last

The ‘when’ of migrating data also counts – big time.  

By not scheduling data migration as a priority, you may end up spending time sitting around on Kmart beanbags and eating expensive takeaways with plastic forks until the ‘things you need’ finally arrive at your new house. So, you’re not enjoying your new abode to its full potential, are unable to entertain guests, or get value from your new investment.  

We recommend that planning for your data migration coincides with the beginning of your project. There are many internal discussions and decisions to be made, and they will all take time. You’ll also need to ensure that the old data maps perfectly to the new system for UAT (user acceptance testing) and doesn’t function as a distraction or bottleneck.  

By the time you get to the UAT stage with your new CRM, you must be sure that the data you bring across is correct. That it’s in the right place, in a valid format, and that nothing is missing. And that it’s been tested. Fixing up data retrospectively poses considerable risks to go-live deadlines and doesn’t sit well with unimpressed stakeholders. 

Hint: Experience suggests that you should expect to double the amount of time you estimated to get your data migration ready.  

Do it now

The upshot is that if you take a smart, proactive approach to your data migration now, you’ll save your business a lot of pain later. Data migration only becomes a roadblock to CRM success when there’s no plan and little thought or action.  

You may be familiar with the old saying, ‘what can go wrong, will go wrong.’ In the case of data migration, that’s not true. Project failure due to poor data migration is avoidable if you take a strategic approach and elevate it from your list of ‘must do’ project tasks to a ‘must prioritise, plan and execute well’ one.  

Great outcomes start with great conversations


Great outcomes start with great conversations

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