Preparing for CRM: Data

Data is the lifeblood of a CRM system.  If you do not have good data, your CRM system is in big trouble from the start.  Getting good data into CRM is often the most expensive element of any initial implementation.  There are Five primary things to consider reducing the risk of data failure:

  1. What’s your Data Governance policy?
    Not only from a GDPR compliance perspective.
  2. Where’s the data coming from?
    What are the data sources, and which should be deemed as the primary/master source?
  3. Will there be a one-off data migration, or an ongoing feed?
    If so what are the considerations for ongoing integration?
  4. How old is the data?
    If it has not been touched for a long time, what value does it have now or in the near future?
  5. Are there any data security considerations?
    Should everyone be able to see, update, add everything/anything?

The work required to move data from one place to another is generally significantly underestimated.  What looks like a simple row in a spreadsheet may have to be split into any number of tables within a CRM system.  For example, a row in a spreadsheet that holds:

  • Company name
  • Contact name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email
  • and perhaps the last contact date,

Would mean populating the:

  • Account/Company
  • Contact/Person, Address
  • and Activity tables at least

Things get even trickier when a lot of information is held in one column, i.e. in the spreadsheet.

CONTACT NAME
Mr John Doe Ba Hons

This detail needs to be split into different columns so that it can be imported into the separate CRM fields:

TITLE FIRSTNAME MIDDLENAME LASTNAME SUFFIX
Mr John Doe Ba Hons

This issue also often applies to a contact or account address that’s been put into a single column within a spreadsheet.

Another challenge is the consistency of the data.  How many ways can a spreadsheet hold the name of a country?:

  • US
  • USA
  • United States
  • US of A
  • United States of America

Prepare for CRM: Data
Multiply the work above by the number of sources of data (they are each likely to have different formats) with additional data associated to it and all this impacts the time and cost of data import.  Review the value of the data you’ll be moving across: your process maps should go some way to helping you prioritise what you need. See Preparing for CRM:  Processes for details.

Then there’s the activity history.  If this is a migration from a previous CRM system then the formats of how this data for historic or pending emails, phones, meetings, etc. (including attachments) is held is likely to be very different and again, has its own set of challenges, such as the referential links between Accounts/Companies and their associated Contacts/People, etc.

When moving from one system to another there are often data “holes”.  Your new system expects to have certain fields populated but the source system does not have that data.  So you have to decide how to create that missing data.

A common statement at this point is, “It’s OK, the data is in SQL/Server”, or similar database format. However, with respect to this topic, SQL/Server is simply a more complex version of Excel. So you still have to consider all the points above.  But the good news is it’s not all doom and gloom.  There are a number of very good data migration utilities out there to help in the data migration process.  Some offer out-of-the-box migration templates that can hook up the source data and move it to your shiny new CRM system.  As always, weigh up what suits your timescales and budget.  However, as most systems offer some level of customisation and some organisations have possibly misused (never!) the source system, these templates should be reviewed before you hit the button to ensure that you will get the result you expect.

Now it’s over to you to get the life blood flowing.  And don’t forget that QGate are always on hand to help with any clots 😉

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