By Sandor Schellenberg, Solution Architect, Irelate Netherlands

A key component of every Microsoft Dynamics CRM project is data migration.

You can have the most wonderful and enriched CRM application, but without data it is in most cases useless.

Too often, the importance of data migration, along with the reliability of the data, are underestimated. If you telephone clients, you want to use the most current telephone number, not to mention, you want to know which quote you offered on a proposal is most recent and which data you included in a report is the latest.

The problem with data migration is that it tends to be neglected-in part because budget isn't allocated for it, and a sense that existing data isn't that bad and that the upgrading can occur "later."

Successful data migration begins at the beginning of the Dynamics CRM project--during the process of gathering the business requirements and writing the functional design. This phase in the project is very important for establishing a foundation of including reliable data for your new system.

At the end of this process, you should know exactly what data is required, which data should be migrated, and which external data you would need for your Dynamics CRM application.

Companies typically have one key source of data--usually the system that would be replaced--and then several other sources like a website, back office system, etc. It still amazing that key data continues to be stored on the desktop...and often in our favourite Dynamics CRM application: Microsoft Excel.

In more complex environments, the migration specialist may have to gather the required data from several sources. This quest for the right data could be go smoothly, but more likely, the specialist will run into trouble. The most inconvenient problem would be unreliable data. Then the key question becomes how we could determine which data is reliable and which is not. After research and many queries and comparisons, the specialist could come up with a proposal, which the business should acknowledge and agree to be the best solution. In daily life, this would take a lot of time with meetings, discussion etc etc.

Another related challenge is data cleansing. After the reliable data is identified, the data source(s) should cleansed before launching the design and building of the data migration process.

Is there one solution that could prevent data migration problems? Unfortunately not. But here are several suggestions that can help head off issues:

1.  Your Dynamics CRM implementation requires a team with experienced professionals, rather than a single individual. Team success in data migration lies in the gathering of the requirements.

2. Immediately after the project kick off, have the team conduct data analysis and assessment. This assessment should give you the first feeling as to the possible issues you would run into during the data migration process. You could immediately act on the results of the assessment and prevent delays during later stages of the project.

3. Understand that the role of the data migration specialist requires more than only migrating data from source A to source B. The specialist needs to know about all the sources, such as back office, website, etc. The specialist would be the one, who can help the team determine or foresee coming issues regarding data integrity, reliability and impact on the project.