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Michael Ochs

Over the past few weeks, we at Cobalt, have published several articles explaining why it’s finally time to move from Microsoft Dynamics CRM on-premise over to Dynamics 365. We also recognize that this is easier said than done. If you’re contemplating a move to the cloud, then you’ve no doubt considered the complexity and cost that such a migration entails. There’s no simple switch you can flip that will ensure that your data makes the jump from your on-premise CRM to the cloud unscathed.

To perform this migration, you or your CRM partner will likely use a third party tool. There are a number of these migration tools out there (Cobalt has its own tool for this, called Migration Dynamics). Whether you’re using our tool or someone else’s, there are five important questions you should ask your CRM implementation partner about the tool’s migration capabilities:

Does the tool automatically handle mapping all entities and fields?

Let’s say you want to migrate all of the standard entities (contacts, accounts, leads, opportunities, activities etc.) as well as your custom entities from Dynamics on-premise to Dynamics 365. Typically you would have to map all the entities as well as all the fields in each of those entities to corresponding entities and fields in the destination system. Without a tool that does this automatically, you would have to pay for your partner to oversee this kind of mapping. Not only does it take more time without such a tool, but it can also drive up costs considerably.

Does the tool handle migrating customizations?

This is a question we’re asked often about our own Migration Dynamics. Over the lifetime of your CRM, you’ve likely added a number of custom fields to entities. While migration tools in general will handle migrating the data associated with these custom entities and fields they aren’t built to move the customizations themselves. However, depending on how these customizations were created and in what version they were created, migrating the customizations can be as simple as exporting them as part of a solution and importing them into the target system.

Does the tool automatically handle special relationships, entity types, and fields?

When you perform a task within Dynamics 365/CRM — tasks like creating a new contact — the system will record the time that you created that contact, when it was modified, and who it was created, modified, and owned by. But when you migrate to the cloud, the creation and modified dates as well as the owner for all your contacts and other entities will reset to the present day and are assigned to the user performing the migration. So, you’ll want to know if your migration tool addresses this issue by transferring this information automatically. You’ll also need it to carry over any special relationships — for instance, if you sent an email to multiple recipients there are special relationships created in the database that most migration tools can’t easily handle. Finally, what about disabled users? Let’s say you have an employee who had their own CRM account and then later left your organization. After their departure, you likely disabled their user account. It’s quite common, when a migration occurs, you’ll want to maintain the information related to this user, but not want to pay for a license to migrate that user’s information. It’s important that you determine whether the migration tool you plan to use ensures that disabled accounts remain disabled so you’re not charged for more licenses just to migrate a disabled user’s data.

Does the tool allow for migrating data while the source organization is still operational?

This is an important one. A migration can take hours or even days, so it’s imperative that you know whether part or all of your CRM will be down during the migration. This is especially true if your CRM has some kind of customer-facing portal on the web. The last thing you want is for a user to encounter an error message when they go to purchase something or sign up for a service. Migration Dynamics is able to perform the migration without any downtime, whereas other tools do temporarily render your CRM inoperable.

Does the tool include free user support?

The entire reason you’re likely using a migration tool is to cut down on migration costs, so you should probably inquire whether user support is free. At Cobalt, our Migration Dynamics user support is free; we use a Zendesk support portal and can answer user queries via email or phone. You can contact us if you’re experiencing technical problems, if you have questions about how the tool works, or even you just want to learn best practices.  

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These are only a few of the many things to consider when you are preparing to migrate to Dynamics 365, but it’s important that you consider these questions when choosing a migration tool. Not all migration tools are the same and not all are equipped to migrate to the cloud. Be sure to discuss your options when getting a quote from your partner to decide what the best option is for you and your organization.

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