A CRM migration is a big undertaking for any organization. Even if your IT department has all the expertise you need for smooth, secure CRM data migration project, it’s daunting because the consequences are so huge.

Many teams are surprised to find out that the change management costs as you train your staff is a hidden expense. That’s especially true with any diehard holdouts for the old system. It will probably take months, at least, for your end-users to adapt to a new system. If your team is considering taking this project on, we have resources to help you today. And of course, the veteran CRM migration team at Cobalt is here if you’re looking for a trusted partner in cloud migration services.  

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In this CRM Migration Guide, we’ll give you an overview of the biggest pitfalls, considerations, and migration options on the table for your team today. And here are links to some of the most helpful parts of this puzzle that will give you more actionable details, tips, and hard-won expertise:

4 Major CRM Migration Plan Pitfalls (and How to Avoid Them)

Your data is everything. And your data is what we really mean when we talk about how to successfully pull off a CRM migration.

The primary task is to securely get the data from your current CRM into a new one, or a newer version of your current CRM, without data loss or corruption.

With highly robust, complex customer relationship management systems like Dynamics CRM or Dynamics 365, the underlying data structure is extensive. That’s part of the reason it is a top-tier CRM solution — it has the infrastructure guts and data integration flexibility to do a million things. But there are four hidden pitfalls that could cause huge headaches or a failed CRM migration plan that you should know about.

Pitfall #1: Downtime During Your CRM Migration

Your CRM should be the hub and heartbeat of your organization’s tech stack. In-house IT teams or CRM vendors without extensive data migration experience likely won’t be able to move everything to your new CRM seamlessly. That means you’ll need to plan for downtime that freezes out your CRM users.

How much downtime should you plan for? That’s impossible to say for everyone, but it’s not unreasonable to expect anywhere from 2 to 5 days, if your data structure is fairly straightforward and things go very smoothly for your IT team.

Cobalt has stepped into CRM migration projects that got sideways and left teams without access to the CRM for several weeks. That’s why CRM project rescues have become a niche, specialty offering we provide.

The threat of extended downtime is one of the most common factors in teams delaying a CRM migration or implementation project. It’s also one of the main reasons that organizations opt to outsource these projects. Cobalt’s expertise means our CRM data migration projects have zero downtime for your users. It’s a core part of the value we bring to the table.

If you opt to keep the project in-house, though, there are three things you can do to try and minimize the downtime for your team and whoever you serve.

  • Take your time in the data mapping stage of the migration. Extra effort, conversations, and documentation from your SMEs will help the entire process move smoothly and minimize downtime headaches later.
  • Before your go-live, migrate and test data in your user acceptance testing (UAT) environment
  • Plan to conduct a smoke test as a part of your go-live process.
  • Consider a phased approach where you migrate historical, static data ahead of your cutover so you aren’t trying to migrate everything at once.

Pitfall #2: Lack of Documentation Prior to Your CRM Migration

Flexibility and the ability to customize your system is always one of the biggest values for organizations that adopt one of the top-tier CRM systems like Dynamics D365. But with great flexibility comes great responsibility … to diligently document those ad hoc modifications to your system.

Has your team done this? The reality is that almost no one does this consistently and methodically from the beginning. When the time comes to migrate data from your old CRM, there’s missing (or no) documentation of data relationships. You might not even have a complete list of entities and fields.

In the end, the true pitfall here is the threat of lost data in your migration project. In order to avoid this, it’s absolutely critical to create reliable data maps before you begin moving data to the CRM system. Believe us when we say that we know how painstaking this part of the project can be, but it’s worth all the hours.

Pitfall #3: Complex Relationships in Your CRM Data

We’ve already touched on this, but it’s worth underscoring again. Systems like D365 are wildly complex. Microsoft has spent billions in research and development, countless hours of refinement, and amassed one of the most comprehensive, robust software developer communities in the world. It’s built not only for core CRM functionality, but also to integrate virtually infinitely with other systems.

So, it’s no surprise that D365 is more powerful and complex than smaller, proprietary CRM solutions. Salesforce is the only other CRM on the market that even comes close to what Dynamics 365 can do.

One of the beautiful things about Dynamics 365 however, is that it does a great job of hiding all that complexity under the hood from the end-user. But there are some extremely complex relationships when you look closer. If you’ve ever looked at all the records that make up an email record, you’ll understand.

If you do not have experience handling this complexity, it will be frustrating. And once again, the real pitfall lurking ahead for your team is another possibility of lost data. What can you do to avoid this?

Consult with an expert that does understand those data relationships. Even the high-level investigation and recommendations our team provides in a CRM migration consultation can help your team identify the thorniest data relationships to watch out for in this project.

Generally speaking, though, you’ll want to pay particular attention to:

  • Emails and other activities. The ability to track emails in Dynamics 365 is one of its most powerful features but it also provides the biggest headache when it comes to migrations. Mapping the to, from, cc/bcc, and regarding relationships can be overwhelming if you aren’t familiar with the structure. And don’t forget attachments. They aren’t complex, but they’ll definitely slow your migration down to a crawl so you may want to consider migrating them separately.
  • The product catalog. If you leverage different units of measure and/or price lists in your quotes, opportunities, orders, or invoices this will add another level of complexity to your migration. This is also great example of migrating data in the correct order. If you don’t get all of your products pushed in before you tackle the tables that reference them (e.g. quotes) you are going to see a lot of failures.

These are the first two items we look at when estimating the level of effort for a migration. That’s how much of an impact they can make.

Pitfall #4: Paying Too Much for Online Storage with Your CRM in the Cloud

Many organizations recognize the cost-savings potential of moving their on-premises CRM to a cloud-based CRM solution. Along with the peace of mind that comes with Microsoft’s industry-leading data security and never needing to wait for another system update, it’s a huge benefit.

Just imagine the surprise and infuriating news when a company pulls off a CRM migration project and then gets hit with a heavier bill from Microsoft than they anticipated. We’ve seen it happen when organizations don’t fully understand the online storage cost pricing structure for Dynamics 365.

Important side note: many companies also pay more than they should for D365 user licenses. This can often add up to tens of thousands more per year and it’s why Dynamics 365 pricing optimization is another niche expertise we provide.

When it comes to avoiding a big online storage cost bill from your CRM, there’s a critical conversation to have before the project is even in motion. How much of your data do you really need to move? That’s one of the most important early questions you can ask as you build a CRM data migration project plan.

Since the default for most companies is to bring it all — just in case — if you can avoid that before you migrate, you’ll be saving money over the long haul. Helping you see what data is (and is not) critical to bring is another place that a trusted CRM migration partner can help.

Another way to avoid the bloated online storage cost pitfall is to make some savvy decisions about what kind of files and data your team will need in the future. With an on-premises CRM solution, all the PDFs or image files that aren’t optimized for digital presentations are relatively cheap to house. But these are the kinds of assets that can quickly spike your online CRM storage costs each month, which just multiplies over time.

And all of this means we have some unexpected, good news for you. This CRM data migration project is actually the perfect time to do two things that every organization has on their to-do list (but never seem to get to).

  1. You can use this project as an excuse to clean your CRM data.
  2. You can also spend the dedicated time it takes to think about your internal workflows, data management best practices, filing structure, and more.

Our team at Cobalt can show you how to do both things (relatively) painlessly.

Your Team’s 4 CRM Migration Options

There are a number of ways you can approach a CRM migration project. Discerning the best option for your company may feel overwhelming. Here is a quick overview of the options you will find on the market today with some specific suggestions for Dynamics customers.

Option #1: Partner with Microsoft, Salesforce, Etc.

With the two largest CRM providers (Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Salesforce), there are some powerful migration options with your respective provider. Salesforce houses this under their professional services offering. For Microsoft Dynamics customers, the Fast Track Migration Program has many benefits for the organizations that qualify. If you are a larger Microsoft Dynamics CRM customer and will require more than $100K per year in Dynamics 365 licenses, this might be your best route. Microsoft’s Fast Track migration program provides a turnkey option for migrating to the cloud. Unfortunately, we’ve found that the minimum spend requirements eliminate a lot of Dynamics customers.

Option #2: Migrate Data with Your CRM Partner

If you’re lucky, you already have a CRM partner or managed services provider (MSP) that provides you with great ongoing support. If your partner also has migration experience, that’s even better. But, if they don’t, you might be paying for their learning curve and their quote might put a strain on your budget and timeline.

Wondering if your MSP has the depth of migration experience to protect your data in the move and keep things on budget? Here are three great questions to ask them, and what you should be listening for in their responses:

What should you listen for? Cobalt has led 200+ successful migrations in the last 16+ years and even though our process is solid and highly refined, we’re still fine-tuning our processes. If your prospective CRM migration partner comes back with anything less than 50 successful migration projects, they are still on the long uphill learning curve — and you’ll end up paying for it.

Listen for lowball offers (which is often a sign of hidden costs to come or a lack of expertise — they don’t understand what this project will actually entail) or offers with a range that’s wider than $100,000 (they are hedging because they don’t truly know how much effort it will require from their migration team).

If they have really been developing CRM data migration expertise, then this plan will be well-documented, transparent, and effective. If it’s not all of those things, you might be in for a very difficult transition. You can read more about Cobalt’s CRM data migration checklist here.


Option #3: DIY CRM Migrations

Many organizations at least initially plan to tackle the migration to their new CRM as an in-house project. And with a seasoned, confident IT team, the right plan, documentation, and support from your other staff, there can be a lot of advantages for the DIY option.
You might feel that you understand your CRM system better than anyone else and that you have the technical resources to complete the migration without outside assistance. This is definitely possible, but the cost in staff resources and lost productivity from downtime during the migrations could be more than hiring the right partner.
If you’re still weighing this option, definitely check out our other CRM migration resource articles to help you finalize your plan to move forward.

Option #4: Partner with a CRM Migration Team

This is often the ideal option for organizations that have medium-to-large databases and are somewhere between having no budget for a migration and shelling out for an enterprise-level move to a new CRM.

We’ve mentioned many of the ways our deep expertise with Microsoft Dynamics 365 migrations is valuable for our partners, but there are four things that set us firmly in the top-tier of Dynamics migration vendors:

  1. Our customized migration tool has already been successfully used in hundreds of simple, safe, smooth CRM migrations with zero downtime.
  2. We use a refined, iterative process with client feedback and reviews from the beginning of the project through support after your migration.
  3. Our fixed-cost migration projects take the pricing guesswork out of things for you because we’ve already done the hard work of learning exactly what it takes to pull off these projects.
  4. Our free evaluation and CRM migration quote process is truly a customer-first experience and quickly gives us a clear look at the core needs of your project.

Connect with Our CRM Migration Experts for a Free Assessment

We’ve successfully completed 200+ seamless, secure CRM migrations and have deep experience you can lean on. If your team is still trying to sort out the best path forward for your CRM migration project, we can help.

Cobalt can surgically assist your current CRM partner with a complicated migration or take your team from start to finish if you need a new partner. Just request a free CRM assessment. We’ll schedule an introductory call to meet your team and help you clearly see the options for your organization.

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