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Microsoft Dynamics CRM enterprise data migrations, part 1– Gathering requirements


Almost all enterprise CRM implementations have a significant requirement for a data migration. Many of our enterprise customers have one or more legacy systems which contain all of their valuable customer data. And, as a large part of the value of a CRM system comes from the data within the system, it’s a logical requirement to migrate this data into the new system.


A data migration however can be a challenging,  complex, and risky operation. This blog is the first  in a two-part series which will list the key attention points when planning, analyzing and performing a data migration.


Quality of the legacy data

The first question to ask about a data migration requirement is “what is the quality of the legacy data?”. It is important to know about the structure of the fields, missing mandatory values, and/or duplicates well before even starting to look at the process as the data quality will impact most of the steps along the way.


How much legacy data needs to be migrated?

By default, a lot of customers will ask to migrate all legacy data into the new CRM system. This, however, is not the best approach in most scenarios. We usually tell customers to reconsider this by looking at their future business processes and only migrate data which adds value in their processes.


As a general rule, I generally recommend not migrating data older than 5 years into the new system unless there is a good reason  (i.e. legislation, specific reporting, corporate policy, etc.).


Format and availability of the legacy data

Next, it is important to start looking at the technologies which are involved -- what technologies are used in the source and target systems (i.e. SQL Server, Oracle, etc.)? We’ve seen anything from DB2 to databases which have encryption on some of the data.


It is also important to know if it is possible to get a copy of the legacy data for the development and testing of the data migration. As customer data is a key differentiator for many of our customers, this can be challenging and I have been in situations where data cannot leave the company’s servers which adds extra complexity.


Analysis of the data migration

Analysis of a data migration is not at all a supplier-only process. It is important to identify a key person at the customer site who knows the data and structure of the source system very well. Start by having initial discussions with this person and ask for an Entity Relationship Diagram (ERD) of the source system.


When the initial discussions are done, we want to start performing a detailed data analysis by creating an extensive data mapping. This document will contain the fields and details of both the source and target system as well as certain transformations, for example, for dropdown lists where values are often different between the source and target system (i.e. salutations, countries, etc.).


When you are starting a new CRM project which has a data migration or interfacing requirement, this could also be a good opportunity to match some of the field structures and values between the source and target system to lower complexity.


Below is an example of a mapping document. It is important to clarify, validate and review it numerous times before declaring it final.



As you can see in this example, it is also important to define an order when migrating records in a data migration. This is best done by looking at the ERD and defining logical paths through the relationships in the target system (i.e. you can only import complaints when the customer records already exist.)

  1. Import Customer XYZ
  2. Import Complaint A with a reference to Customer XYZ

Conclusion part one

Thank you for reading part 1 of my blog post. I hope you gained some insight on data migrations and their importance in a successful CRM implementation. The key objectives should be to set realistic expectations, perform extensive analysis of the source and target systems, define a clear scope, and keep aiming for win-win scenarios.


As an enterprise service provider, Hewlett-Packard has a global pool of expert resources that can help guide you through this process. If you would like to find out more about this, please get in touch by sending an email to

My next post will continue to talk about data migrations -- which technology to use, the actual development, testing, planning, and  some general tips and hints.


Other helpful links:

HP Enterprise Applications Services for Microsoft Dynamics CRM



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About the Author
Over the past 5 years, I have participated in the different stages of delivering Microsoft Enterprise Applications to customers as large as ...

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