Best Practice to Migrate Data into a New Dynamics CRM System

I often do CRM demos using the CRM trial for a couple of reasons.  One, the trial only takes a minute to spin up, and secondly, each company I demo I try to tailor the presentation to their company.  I find it easier to create a new environment than to demo and clean up a permanent demo environment.

So I almost always bring in some data to the new CRM system.  There are many options for entering data into Dynamics CRM; manually, tracking Outlook contacts, importing Outlook contacts and importing data via spreadsheets.    Although I will sometimes manually enter a few contacts or accounts,   for the most part I import via a spreadsheet and that is what I am writing about today.

Even though I do this a lot, I have checklist, or a plan.  With a new implementation, it should be a formal written document, for me, and my demo imports, I use a checklist, but the idea is the same.  Be systematic and do things in the right order; it will save much time.

Dynamics CRM, out of the box, requires that you start with Accounts, Contacts or Leads. You can import any record type into CRM, like Cases or Opportunities, but that is not for today’s discussion.

I will be using the Import Data Wizard.  This is a tool in Microsoft Dynamics CRM that allows you to load a large number of records that walks you through the data import process.   I will not be discussing the Import Data Template or CRM Data Maps (other tools in CRM), or ISV tools (like Scribe) that also can import data into CRM (like Cases or Opportunities above).  I will focus on the basic record type data imports using Import Data Wizard in this blog.

First on my checklist is what data is being imported and if multiple sources, what is the plan to get it into one Excel source file?  If multiple sources, cleansing and manipulating the data using Excel tools so that we have a clean import is a great first step.  Understand the delimiter settings of the import file (the characters that indicate the boundary between fields in this file) and using tools to make these consistent is critical. For example, each value is separated by a comma in a comma separated file, otherwise referred to as a CSV file.  There are many Excel text formulas that help in adding or getting rid of comma’s or extraneous characters if they are encountered.  Does this matter?  If you import thousands of records or contacts, it may take some time to get an error message and so it is just best practice to get the source file as clean as possible to minimize repeated failed import efforts that can waste time.  I find CSV is the easiest to format and work with, but XML Spreadsheet 2003 (.xml), .txt, and .zip formats can also be used.

Write down how source columns match with Dynamics CRM fields; this will help greatly with mapping the data. For example, if you have a column in the import file called City, it would be mapped to Address1:City in Dynamics CRM.  Go into CRM and look up the names of the field types that are available for import into your record type and this will make the mapping seamless.

Now that you have a clean import file and the field names in CRM that you are mapping to, it is as easy as the steps below to import data into CRM using the Import Data Wizard.

1.     Click on Import Data in the ribbon (you must in a view of records, NOT on a record)

2.     Browse to the file you want to import

3.     Choose your delimiter settings

4.     Choose your data map, either Default or Customized Data Maps

a.     (I use the Default as it will map some of the headers with CRM field names)

5.     In the Map Record Types screen, there are again two options, Create New or Record Types; choose Record Types and this will let you choose between Accounts, Contacts or Leads

6.     In the Map Fields screen, you can map source columns to Dynamics CRM fields that aren’t already mapped by CRM

7.     In the Review Settings and Import Data section, choose Allow Duplicate Detection. This results in the import using the duplicate detection settings to prevent the creation of duplicate records

8.     Select Owner for imported records, if it is not you

9.     Data Map Name allows you to save it for future use (this is only for recurring data imports)

That was easy.  If you have a larger number of records, you can check the status of the import by navigating to Workplace, and in the Navigation Pane, click Imports.  In the grid, double-click on the name of the file you just imported to check the status.

So here at KTL Solutions, we find the best practice is to have a clean import file, write down the names of the fields in CRM that you are mapping to and follow the simple steps above to make an easy data import.


STEVE HAMMETT | Director of Sales

Steve graduated from University of Maryland, Baltimore, with a Bachelor of Science (B.S.), in Economics and a few years later, a Master of Science (M.S.), in Information Technology. He has helped organizations for over fifteen years to solve business problems using technology. He is well informed with all Microsoft Business Solutions and is a Solutions Certified Sales Representative. Forfunhe looks to the outdoors, whether water, where he is a sailor (Coast Guard certified in Costal Piloting and Navigation), a PADI certified scuba diver, and a certified Red Cross Water Safety Instructor, or land, where he is a skier, hiker and mountain biker.

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