5 Questions to Ask A Potential Data Migration Partner - KELL Partners
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5 Questions to Ask A Potential Data Migration Partner

If your organization is migrating to Salesforce from a legacy system like Raiser’s Edge or Luminate CRM, you’re likely going to need the help of an integration partner or data consultant to help you migrate the data from your legacy system into Salesforce.

Choosing a partner that’s a good fit for your specific needs is important.  If you want to select a partner that is good at doing data migrations (rather than just selling them), it’s important to dig deeper than the standard questions about scope, cost and timing.

In our experience with over 1,500 Salesforce data migrations, here are the top 5 questions that prospects rarely ask, but should.

1. What software tools and technologies will you use for the data migration?

Every partner will need to use some set of tools to manage and transform your data and then load that data into Salesforce.   Pay attention to the types of tools that the prospective partner describes to see how well their answers match your expectations of the project and the partner.

Will they use general office productivity tools or software tools specifically designed for Salesforce data migrations?

General office productivity tools like MS Excel or MS Access are inexpensive and easy to use, and they can be a great option for small, simple data migrations.  Large or complex projects really require specialized tools that can handle huge volumes of data and complex data maps and transformation rules.

Will they use desktop-based tools or enterprise-grade server or cloud-based tools?  

Desktop tools are perfectly fine for small or simple data migrations, but are not a great fit for large, complex projects that have much greater demands for performance, reliability and security.

Will they use 3rd party tools?

Third party tools offer an easy way to automate some common tasks like loading data into Salesforce.  Examples include DemandTools and Data Loader.  These tools generally aren’t free.  Make sure you understand whether the cost of these tools is included in any proposal.

Will they use proprietary tools?

Proprietary tools are surprisingly uncommon in this industry.  If a potential partner has developed their own internal tools, that says a lot about the depth of their experience and expertise in Salesforce data migrations as well we their commitment to the market.

2. What data privacy and security controls do you use for client data?

By definition, your data migration partner will have access to and likely keep a copy of some or all of your organization’s data.  This is normal and expected.  You should also expect that they take the security and privacy of that data seriously and implement explicit controls and follow auditable processes to ensure its protection.

This is increasingly important with the adoption of GDPR and other data privacy standards around the globe that define explicit penalties for lapses in data privacy.  Make sure your partner can answer this question easily and confidently.

3. Will you “clean” my data, and if so, how?

In general, there are two ways that your data will need to be “cleaned” before it’s loaded into Salesforce.  It’s important to understand how a prospective partner will approach this process and how much of your team’s time and involvement will be required.

First, the partner will need to identify and correct any obvious data entry errors, duplications and inconsistencies.  A member of your team should be involved in this to provide institutional knowledge about your data and systems, but you probably want your partner to do most of the heavy lifting.  A good data migration partner should be able to identify and fix common errors so that your team is only responsible for outliers.

Second, the data will need to be transformed in such a way that it matches the Salesforce data model including any custom fields or workflows that you’ve set up.  This process should be done by your partner, and it should be set up as an automatic, repeatable process.

4. Will you dedupe my records?  If so, how?

Note that you should ask about finding and merging duplicate records separate from “cleaning’ your data.   The difference is that in some cases you may temporarily clean some records only for the purpose of finding and merging duplicates.

The best example of this is contact addresses.  You obviously want to merge two records whose addresses vary only by common abbreviations like “St.” vs “Street” or “N” vs “North”.  However, you don’t want to summarily change every “St” to “Street” and every “N” to “North.”  After all, “N” could mean “N Street” and “St” could be “St Vincent Ave”.

Details like this can tell you a lot about the level of expertise and experience that a potential partner will bring to your data migration.

5. How many times will you load my data into Salesforce?

This may seem like an odd question – you want to load your transformed data into Salesforce once, why would you do it more than once?  The surprising answer is that you’ll need at LEAST 3 DATA LOADS.  A test load, a production load and a differential load.

Most people forget about that last one, the differential load.  It’s necessary because it can take weeks or months to properly migrate data from a legacy system to Salesforce.  During that time, your organization is still operating, which means legacy data is being created and modified.  The differential load is the way to migrate just that new and modified data from a legacy system into Salesforce.

If you want to know how KELL Partners would answer these questions and how we could support your data migration effort, please contact us.   We’ve completed over 1,500 Salesforce data migrations and would welcome the opportunity to share our expertise with you.