In any Microsoft Dynamics implementation, you need data. Without good data, you cannot get what you need from Dynamics or any other CRM or ERP system.
But where is that data when you first start a Dynamics implementation?
Most often, the data you need is already in other systems or in digital format somewhere inside the company.
To get that data from where it is now to where it needs to be – Microsoft Dynamics - you will need to go through:
a Dynamics 365 Data Migration process – if you want to have the data imported one time only – or
a Dynamics 365 Data Integration process – if you need the data to be constantly fed from another system into Dynamics.
Dynamics 365 Data Integration and Migration projects are challenging projects. There are many things that can go wrong, many things you might overlook, and many things that might take much longer than you had anticipated.
Nonetheless, we believe these types of projects can be smooth, even if they are not a bed of roses. To help you get that smooth experience, in this article, we will go over a simplified guide for both these processes, presenting you with strategies and alternatives. I hope you can use this guide as a checklist to make sure you are not overlooking any aspect.
Step-by-step Guide to Dynamics 365 Data Integration and Migration
Discover what data already exists and where that data is
A note to emphasize that data migration needs to start very early in the process. You should consider these questions even before the kickoff of the Microsoft Dynamics implementation, and you should start your data migration or integration right after the kickoff meeting.
Step 1 – What Data?
Have a look at the Dynamics 365 system you have. What kind of entities will you be storing? Does similar data already exist somewhere? Where is it? Who owns it?
Once you have the answers to these questions, you’ll move on to deciding how much data you want to bring into the new Dynamics 365 system. Determine whether all data you are considering is needed by asking, “What will I use this data for?”. The more data you bring in, the more history you will have in your system. But, on the other hand, the more data you bring in, the more it will take – both in terms of time and effort.
It is important to know also which of the original systems has the biggest volume of data and also which entities/tables have the largest number of records.
If you have data coming in from multiple systems, another thing you need to decide is which is the master system. Often, you’re doing your Dynamics implementation because you didn’t have a single source of truth for your data – and Dynamics will now be it. If that is your case, you should determine which source will “win” in any situation in which the data from two sources is not identical.
Step 2 - Dynamics 365 Data Integration or Migration?
If you want to move data from your current system(s) to your new Microsoft Dynamics 365 system and you want to do it only once, the process is called a Dynamics 365 data migration. You’ll normally go through the E (extract), T (transform), and L (load) steps. You’ll normally do several iterations, but all happen before the go-live and only the last one “matters”.
On the other hand, if you will need to keep pulling data from existing systems on a regular basis, then what need is a Dynamics 365 data integration, meaning the existing systems and Dynamics will communicate, and the data will keep getting into Dynamics in an automated way. CRM data integration projects sometimes also move some data the other way round: from Dynamics into other systems. These can either be systems that previously existed and that you want to keep up-to-date without manual labour or systems that you chose to implement alongside Dynamics to get a specific feature or functionality.
Step 3 – Is my data clean?
Most often than not, the data in the original system is not clean, meaning there are inconsistencies, duplicates or missing values. How can you make sure the problems don’t move on (and probably aggravate) when in Dynamics? You need to clean your data before moving on.
We recommend developing a Data rule book so that it is clear to all involved how that should be. This rule book sets the standards for:
Which type of data is expected
What format should text data have
What information is mandatory
How to handle duplicates
Step 4 – What is the best tool for the job?
Once you have a general idea of the data that should be migrated or integrated, you should investigate and determine the right tool to use for the migration. The tool you choose will end up affecting how you extract, transform, and load your data.
Several tools are available that have prebuilt features to help you extract, transfer, and load data into Dynamics 365, so using such tools gives you a big head start. So where’s the catch?
In terms of tools, the tradeoff is usually between
Adjusting well to your specific needs
Being ready to use right away
The right tool will also depend on the flavor of Dynamics 365 you are implementing.
At Connecting Software, we have developed solutions that can be adjusted to your specific needs in a matter of a few hours to a few days:
These are all built on our integration platform, Connect Bridge, and its connectors. Connect Bridge is a tried-and-tested solution that has been on the market for over a decade and has received lots of customer love from customers
If you can take advantage of one of the above tools for a migration project, you will find the number of iterations is lower, and you can schedule your go-live earlier – and stick to the schedule! If it is an integration project, the benefits will be greater, as they are ongoing. Using connectors guarantees there is no maintenance needed from your side when Dynamics or the other systems are upgraded.
Step 5 – Where do you Extract data to?
You might not need to worry about this depending on the tool chosen in the previous step, but most of the time, when you extract data, you will need to find a place to park it so that you can then transform it. Having that intermediary location gives you a sandbox where you can test transformation scripts without potentially damaging the original data. This is especially crucial if this is live source data.
Step 6 – How many Transform and Load cycles?
Again, this Transform and Load step is very dependent on the tool chosen in step 4. Nonetheless, you need to be aware that this step will normally involve multiple iterations or cycles, normally three or more, during your implementation project.
A data migration iteration or cycle is an attempt to extract the data from the source system, transform it into the format needed for Dynamics 365, and then load it into Dynamics 365 and validate the data.
The first iteration works as a technical preview. In this iteration, you don’t really care how good the data is. You just want to validate that the technical connections work and the data can get in Dynamics 365.
The iterations in the middle work as dry runs, hopefully getting closer to the final goal each time. Your go-live iteration will be the final one.
Step 7 – Is data in Dynamics 365 accurate and complete?
The data validation is the final step. It is crucial and must be well documented. In this step, you should focus on completeness, data quality and formatting. You can start by checking record count and then move on to visual inspection, comparison of records between source and target, functional testing of critical scenarios and User Acceptance Testing (UAT).
Once you have considered all these steps, I hope you have a better understanding of what a Dynamics 365 Data Integration or Migration project involves. The next steps will certainly be about seeing how this can fit your specific scenario. Establishing your plan and going with it.
For now, do you have some questions you would like answered? Would you like to try a technical preview with one of our Dynamics 365 Data Integration and Migration tools?
We would be more than happy to arrange a quick web meeting to show you around the tools. Think about it; you can even get a free trial and try the tool with your own data.
Now it’s your move.
Are you serious about wanting a smooth Dynamics 365 Data Integration or Migration project?
Connecting Software creates integration and synchronization software. We have been on the market for nearly two decades. We operate globally, and we are also a proud “Top Member” and "Top Blogger" at the CRM Software Blog.
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