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Overcoming the Real Challenges of a CRM Migration Project

Humans can build smart AIs, develop immersive games, build space stations, and manipulate genes. We can do an amazing range of extraordinary things, so why can’t we fully automate migrating from one CRM system to another? With the pace of technological advancement you’d have thought this would be really easy – but more often than not, it isn’t.

When so much is possible, why does CRM migration remain a challenge?

This is a good question. I have been migrating CRM systems for nearly 20 years and, at the risk of sounding arrogant, I know the process inside out.  Yet I still become involved in projects that are complex, time consuming and costly, even when they involve the best tools and deepest experience.

Part of this results from the increasing scope and flexibility of CRM systems themselves. Different CRM infrastructures, high levels of customization, and unique business processes all make it difficult to develop a one click solution to transfer CRM details. Even when there is only one CRM application is involved, for instance when migrating from Dynamics CRM on-premise to the cloud, the data transfer process can be tricky.

On top of this, the difficulties grow as data volumes and complexity increase. With so much to consider, what is the be best way to approach a CRM migration?

Prepare, prepare, prepare – and then prepare some more.  

While this may sound obvious, many companies continue to underestimate the amount of effort involved in their changing CRM systems and dive quickly into the mechanics. Without a realistic assessment of what is involved, however, time and costs quickly blow out and it’s easier to make mistakes than it is to correct them.

In fact I have often been asked to step in and fix CRM projects that are turning sour, and the culprit is frequently the result of incorrect mapping, inconsistencies, and other data errors that could easily have been avoided with a more thorough scoping phase.

Scoping is especially important for catching one of the biggest complications – bad data. Problematic data ranges from poorly formatted and incomplete details to “newly discovered” client information. Knowing the structure of what needs to be moved has repercussions for matching, reformatting and omissions.

Even with diligent preparation, however, there is another potential obstacle that is easy to overlook.

How does new CRM system’s setup and configuration affect data transfer?

The manner in which information is moved is largely dependent on where it will go so the importance of correctly setting up the new CRM system cannot be stressed enough. For instance, before old opportunities can be transferred the new system has to be configured to accommodate ownership and teams, project types, product codes, product details, service codes, pricing, associated pick lists, and so on. These parameters may be the same as those used in the old system, or they may be completely different, either way they need to be in place before opportunity information is moved.

The new setup also has to be approved and agreed by all parties using it. Too often the end point becomes a moving target as different data owners jostle for priority. A typical example is the management of territories. The structure of territories may be setup completely differently in the new CRM system, effecting the way that transferred contacts and opportunities are assigned. If another business group later decides this is all “wrong” and wants changes this can result in a total mess – information transferred across in one format will suddenly need to be changed. Buy-in and final agreement of all relevant parties on how the new CRM system reflects business processes needs to be sorted before data is moved, not after.

Understanding and Agreement are Critical Tools for Success.

A new CRM system consumes a lot of time and money and benefitting from this investment requires thoughtful management of the data migration and CRM setup. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how successfully information is transferred if the CRM system isn’t configured to use it properly. To do this, understanding and agreement on the business objectives and associated operational processes and data flows, is imperative. For it is only when CRM migration is tackled as part of a much larger picture that the anticipated gains from the new CRM environment can be fully realized.

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