A CRM data migration checklist needs enough detail and specifics to truly be useful to your team. None of the ones we saw covered enough of the specifics. So, our seasoned data migration experts at Cobalt have drafted a highly actionable migration checklist for a CRM or AMS system.

Cobalt’s team moves clients from association management software (iMIS, Personify, MemberClicks, MemberSuite, etc.), commercial CRM systems (e.g. Salesforce), and smaller proprietary CRM systems to Dynamics 365. What you’ll find below is a crystal-clear sense of the process we have used to seamlessly and securely migrate over 200 clients to Microsoft Dynamics 365 in the last few years.

If your association or team is moving from an on-premise CRM to a cloud-based association management software solution, this framework will be easy to adopt or adapt for your specific needs.

If you are planning a CRM data migration as an in-house project, be sure to also check out our complete CRM Migration Guide. It has even more resources and key considerations to ensure a successful project with minimum CRM downtime for your users.

Thinking about outsourcing your CRM migration?  Let us know if you have questions or want to schedule a quick call with our team to talk about the possibilities of partnering with Cobalt for this project.

The Importance of a Data Migration Checklist in CRM Transitions

Transitioning your organization’s AMS or CRM system is a significant undertaking that requires meticulous planning and execution. At the heart of this process lies data migration, a critical step that ensures the seamless transfer of valuable information from your old CRM to the new platform. Here’s why having a robust data migration checklist is indispensable in this endeavor.

  1. Preserving Data Integrity: A well-structured data migration checklist serves as a roadmap for maintaining the integrity of your data throughout the transition process. It outlines steps for data validation, verification, and cleansing to ensure accuracy and consistency in your new CRM system.
  2. Minimizing Disruption: By following a data migration checklist, you can minimize disruption to your organization’s operations. Detailed planning and execution help mitigate the risk of downtime and ensure that essential business functions remain uninterrupted during the transition period.
  3. Ensuring Compliance and Security: Compliance with regulatory requirements and data security standards is paramount in today’s business landscape. A comprehensive data migration checklist includes measures for safeguarding sensitive information and ensures adherence to relevant regulations, such as GDPR or HIPAA.
  4. Facilitating Smooth Transition: Transitioning to a new CRM system can be complex, involving multiple stakeholders and systems. A well-defined data migration checklist streamlines the process, providing clarity and guidance to all involved parties and facilitating a smooth transition from start to finish.
  5. Optimizing Performance and Functionality: Effective data migration is not just about moving data; it’s about optimizing performance and functionality in your new CRM environment. A meticulously crafted checklist includes provisions for data mapping, transformation, and testing, ensuring that your new system operates at peak efficiency.
  6. Mitigating Risks and Challenges: Data migration projects are not without risks and challenges, ranging from data loss to system incompatibility. A comprehensive checklist anticipates these risks and includes contingency plans to mitigate them, reducing the likelihood of setbacks and delays.
  7. Enhancing User Adoption: User adoption is key to the success of any CRM transition. A well-executed data migration checklist ensures that the new system meets the needs of end-users, fostering acceptance and engagement from the outset.

Cobalt’s Data Migration Checklist Overview

Here is the high-level flowchart view of the CRM data migration project process we use with all of our clients:

Comprehensive CRM data migration steps workflow
This is the CRM data migration workflow Cobalt uses with clients.

The key objective for this process is to ensure there is overall alignment in the process of direct client data conversions and ensure all of our tested, refined processes are followed in the ideal sequence.

The key milestones for a successful CRM data migration process are:

  • A project kickoff meeting
  • A data project charter alignment OR data scope definition
  • Data mapping and initial data conversion
  • Data migration
  • Data sign-off
  • Go-live (data conversion and support transition)

Let’s take a closer look at these milestones and some priority considerations for your team.

Data Migration Checklist (Phase 1): Project Kick-off Meeting

This initial meeting is crucial for beginning the clarifications we need to ensure a truly seamless data migration from your old CRM to your new system. After hundreds of successful migrations, our team has refined processes we will employ. The project kick-off meeting is where we will explain those, and hear more about the needs and expectations from your team.

If you are tackling this project as an in-house project, do not neglect this step! It is one of the primary reasons that CRM migration projects drag out or fail altogether.

The primary objective in this stage, which actually involves a kick-off meeting and up to a week of set-up work and foundational preparation, is to achieve clarity about the process moving forward.

At this point in the project kick-off stage, the client (or your internal team) will need to provide some data sources to whoever is handling the CRM data migration process. The typical flow for this sub-stage looks like:

  1. The client uploads a data source to a secure FTP site and notifies our team.
  2. We restore the database to user acceptance testing (UAT) SQL server.
  3. We query the data source to validate that it can be queried successfully.
  4. If the data source cannot be queried for some reason, we validate the problem, notify the client team, and try again.
  5. Once the data source has been successfully queried, we are ready to move on in the process: either a CRM Data Migration Project Charter Alignment or a Data Scope Definition.

Data Migration Checklist (Phase 2): Project Charter Alignment

The primary goal of a CRM data migration project charter alignment phase is to ensure alignment with the client on the objectives, success criteria, assumptions, risks and business continuity goals.

It is crucial to clarify these things prior to the start of the data conversion and identify any areas where our estimate needs to be revised or scope reduced. For in-house teams, this is also where your investment in planning will help you avoid the surprises and setbacks that can tank your project or lead to badly missed deadlines.

Our project charter process typically takes about 2.5 weeks, which allows generous time for the client to review our initial draft, send feedback or revisions, and approve a finalized document. Here is a helpful project charter approval process:

  1. Draft an initial project charter (we use a refined template) that is informed by what has been learned in the project kick-off stage.
  2. After the project charter skeleton and guidance have been sent to the client, allow a week for review of the charter elements, collecting feedback, and scheduling a project charter meeting to finalize or further clarify its elements.
  3. Then, allow for another week for our team to absorb feedback and suggested revisions, communicate with the client, ensure business continuity, revise the charter agreement, and draft any necessary addendums to our initial estimate (in the case of discovered misalignment).
  4. All parties sign off on the agreed upon project charter and documentation.

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Data Migration Checklist (Phase 3): Data Scope Definition

Depending on the client and project needs, after the project kick-off meeting is complete, our team may alternatively move into a brief data scope definition phase. The key objective at this stage is to align with the client on the scope of the data to be converted from the old data source into the new system (for our clients, that is Dynamics 365) and setup the appropriate scope in our software project management platform (we use FogBugz for our CRM data migration projects).

This part of our CRM data migration checklist includes the following priorities:

  • Set up and customize FogBugz with new milestones and customized adjustments to our refined project template.
  • Review the project charter and create placeholder cases for custom functionality related entities or modules.
  • Validate the high-level modules that need to be converted.
  • Identify any non-functionality, dependent custom entities that need to be converted.
  • Create module-level cases for any modules that don’t already have a case in FogBugz.

One of the primary goals of this stage is to ensure that no case related to data is opened during the project that cannot be tied back to a parent case created during this process.

Data Mapping and Initial Data Conversion

The data mapping and initial data conversion phase of this project is where you are likely to have difficulty and questions. And because this step can be so highly customized and specific to your particular CRM system and its data structure, no one can provide a one-size-fits-all data mapping guide here.

However, we want to provide you with the greatest level of detail possible in this CRM data migration checklist so you can adapt it for your own project — or know what to expect if you partner with Cobalt in a move to Dynamics 365. Here is a dependable workflow checklist for this critical phase:

Data Migration Checklist (Phase 4): Initial Data Mapping

(Timeline: 1 day – 2 weeks, depending on project complexity)

  • Work directly, and early on, with the SMEs to discuss and understand the data source.
  • Our team will discuss each the Cobalt modules relevant to your initial migration, and document mapping and data transformation information to reflect our decisions and plan.
  • We will also determine and document champion contact records for auditing/testing/data validation purposes during migration for each module.

Data Migration Checklist (Phase 5): Initial Data Migration

(Timeline: 1-2 weeks)

  • Generate SQL code to match the destination Dynamics 365 entities.
  • Write transformation logic from initial conversion feedback to entity definitions.
  • Migrate data into the client’s UAT environment.
  • Perform a test using the documented champion contact record in the CRM.
  • Ensure the data conversion was successful and no errors are displayed on records — or make necessary changes to the data conversion.
  • Repeat until all cases marked for initial data conversion are resolved.

Data Migration Checklist (Phase 6): Initial Data Walkthrough and Review

(Timeline: 1 day – 1 week)

  • Review initial data conversion with the client (or your internal team).
  • Document feedback as child cases under parent module case (one case per entity for feedback).

Data Migration Checklist (Phase 7): Initial Data Fixes

(Timeline: 1 – 3 days)

  • Review feedback cases, determine any questions, and discuss them with the client/team.
  • Implement data fixes.
  • Test data fixes and resolve all cases.

As you can see from the notes in our data migration checklist phases, the timeline for this part of the project can vary. That’s because of factors such as the project complexity, data structure, client responsiveness, and more. Plan for somewhere between 7 — 30 business days to complete the data mapping and initial data conversion under ideal conditions.

Data Migration

At this point in your CRM data migration project, all of the groundwork we (or your IT team) have done is ready to pay off in a seamless, secure data migration into your new CRM system. This stage of the project will look very similar to the process used in the initial data migration step in the previous phases.

This part of the CRM migration checklist will need to be adapted for your specific needs if you are moving to another system. A basic, sprint-based workflow checklist should include:

Data Migration Checklist (Phase 8): Data Migration Preparation

  • Update the software project management system you are using. For new sprint cases, update parent cases or create child cases under existing parent cases after the sprint documentation is approved with necessary customization information.
  • Review all cases to determine and schedule additional data mapping, if necessary.

Data Migration Checklist (Phase 9): Data Migration and Data Fixes

  • Generate SQL code to match the destination Dynamics 365 entities (if this is an initial entity migration).
  • Write transformation logic from initial conversion feedback to entity definitions or fix the existing logic.
  • Migrate or refresh data into the client UAT environment.
  • Perform a test using the documented champion contact record in the CRM.
  • Ensure the data conversion was successful and no errors are displayed on records — or make necessary changes to the data conversion.
  • Repeat until all cases marked for initial data conversion are resolved.
  • Once all sprint-specific data conversion is completed or feedback has been implemented, the client should perform UAT.
  • If a case has no feedback on case it should be “closed” in FogBugz.
  • If there is feedback, open a child case with feedback.
  • Once all feedback and cases have been resolved, prepare to move into the Data Sign-Off phase.

Because of the thorough groundwork and data mapping, the actual data migration portion of the project typically takes less than two weeks for our team. It could take a month or even longer for in-house teams or CRM migration partners with more limited experience.

Data Migration Checklist (Phase 10): Data Sign-off

The bulk of the work is already done by now and the goal at this stage of your project is to finalize the data migration scripts and align on business continuity plans for the go-live. This is how we step through this part of the process with our CRM data migration clients:

Data Fixes

  • Fix transformation logic from initial conversion to account for feedback in the data migration phase.
  • Update data in UAT environment by executive data fixes.
  • Conduct testing, using documented champion contact records in the CRM to ensure any data fixes were successful and no errors are displayed on the records.

Client UAT

  • At this point, the client needs to test data cases, closing cases where there is no feedback, or providing feedback if there is an issue.
  • Perform final UAT of data by testing champion records identified during data mapping calls for all converted entities.

Update Your Software Project Management System

  • Triage and resolve any new, opened feedback.
  • Review all cases and determine if any additional data mapping calls are necessary.
  • Conduct a data review call (if necessary) to ensure any needed changes have been made.

Review the Data Charter and Business Continuity Plan

  • Now it is time to review the objectives and success criteria with the client (or your internal team) to ensure that all of them have been met (or are no longer relevant).
  • Should any previously unidentified work still remain, discuss and execute a remediation strategy.
  • Review the business continuity plan and create a detailed task list for each person responsible for the go-live.
  • Execute mock business continuity steps in UAT to confirm execution accuracy with the client and make any final adjustments.
  • Secure official documentation sign-off from the client or your internal stakeholders.

Data Migration Checklist (Phase 11): Go-Live

Finally, after weeks or months of planning, groundwork, and coordination, it is time to move the data into Dynamics 365 (or your new CRM solution). After all the complexity of the previous phases, the go-live checklist is fairly simple:

  • Schedule a go-live date and review the go-live task list (including business continuity steps) with all stakeholders.
  • Verify all necessary solutions are installed on production.
  • The client should now upload the final data source
  • Cobalt or your IT team should perform final data conversion.
  • Conduct a smoke test and resolve any issues that are discovered.
  • Execute the detailed business continuity task list.
  • Identify and resolve any issues that arise in the first days after the go-live is executed.
  • Transition to long-term, ongoing support in your new Dynamics 365 environment.

Data Migration Checklist (Phase 12): Post-Migration Support and Maintenance

Once the data migration process is complete and your CRM system is up and running, it’s crucial to shift focus to post-migration support and maintenance. This phase ensures that your newly migrated CRM operates smoothly and efficiently over the long term. Here, we offer guidance on navigating this critical stage, including strategies for troubleshooting issues and optimizing system performance.

1. Troubleshooting Issues

  • Establish a Support System: Implement a robust support system to address any issues or challenges that may arise post-migration. This includes designated personnel or teams responsible for handling user inquiries and technical glitches. This proactive approach should be a part of your data migration checklist because it ensures a swift response to any post-migration issues.
  • Monitor System Performance: Regularly monitor the performance of your CRM system to identify and address any potential issues promptly. Utilize monitoring tools and analytics to track key performance metrics and detect anomalies. Incorporating performance monitoring into your data migration checklist helps maintain system health and stability.
  • Address User Concerns: Encourage users to report any issues or concerns they encounter while using the CRM system. Promptly address these concerns to maintain user satisfaction and productivity. User feedback mechanisms should be an integral part of your data migration checklist to ensure continuous improvement and user engagement.

2. Optimizing System Performance

  • Review System Configuration: Periodically review and optimize the configuration settings of your CRM system to ensure optimal performance. This proactive approach should be included in your data migration checklist to address potential performance bottlenecks.
  • Update Software and Plugins: Stay updated with the latest software updates and patches released by your CRM provider. Regularly update plugins and extensions to leverage new features and security enhancements. Incorporating software update procedures into your data migration checklist ensures ongoing system security and functionality.
  • Implement Best Practices: Adhere to best practices for data management, security, and customization to maintain system integrity and performance. Training users on efficient CRM usage practices minimizes errors and improves productivity. Integrating best practices into your data migration checklist establishes a foundation for long-term CRM success.

3. Continuous Improvement

  • Collect User Feedback: Solicit feedback from users regarding their experience with the migrated CRM system. Use this feedback to identify areas for improvement and implement necessary enhancements. Incorporating feedback collection mechanisms into your data migration checklist facilitates continuous improvement and user satisfaction.
  • Iterative Enhancements: Adopt an iterative approach to system enhancements, implementing changes in incremental stages based on user feedback and system performance metrics. This iterative approach should be a part of your data migration checklist to ensure ongoing optimization and adaptability.
  • Training and Education: Provide ongoing training and education sessions for users to familiarize them with new features, updates, and best practices. Empower users with the knowledge and skills they need to leverage the CRM system effectively. Including training and education initiatives in your data migration checklist promotes user adoption and proficiency.

By prioritizing post-migration support and maintenance, you can ensure the long-term success and sustainability of your CRM initiative. Proactive troubleshooting, performance optimization, and continuous improvement efforts are essential for maximizing the value of your CRM investment and driving organizational growth.

Other Factors to Consider in a CRM Migration Project

This CRM data migration checklist is one of the last pieces of the puzzle for this project. Our team has written extensively about front-end considerations it pays to address before you make a move to new CRM.

Many of those priorities relate to what — and how much — data to move from your old system. Those choices have huge cost and complication factors in both the CRM data migration process and the long-term monthly storage costs for your CRM system. Take a few minutes to review these other resources:

Connect with a Data Migration Expert

We understand the needs of associations and organizations considering a move a new CRM or AMS. Let’s connect for a quick intro call about your CRM data migration questions or an initial product showcase of Cobalt’s association and certification software at a time that works for you!

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A photo of Varun Kaushik, director of consulting services at Cobalt, who leads Cobalt's data migration team.