June 21, 2015

Implementation Best Practices: Data

Cloud for Good has recently published an eBook to highlight best practice recommendations for CRM implementation, including considerations for executive sponsorship, business processes, data, automation, usability/scalability, and analytics based on our and our customers’ success stories and lessons learned.

The first question any time that we hear phrases like “Best in Class,” “Best of Breed,” or “Best Practices” is: who decided the best? What we have learned is that best is relative and often dependent upon experience, trials and, most often, failures. We believe that one has to go through a challenging if not difficult experience at least once in order to learn how to do it better the next time.

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Nothing sinks a new implementation faster than bad data. Users will quickly lose faith in the tool as well as those leading the implementation effort if incomplete, incorrect, or irrelevant data is present. Start your data migration journey by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Why do you need to migrate your data? Is the “why” the same for your team, colleagues, and others involved? What is your purpose?
  • What use cases and critical functionality do you need to preserve? What are the underlying data implications?
  • Who will be involved in the data migration process? Who are the key players in this project? What about the stakeholders and the subject matter experts?

Additionally, what compromises can you make to simplify the data migration?  Should you consider excluding records based on such factors as:

  • Is the older data in your system(s) being used?
  • How far back do you want to migrate data from? Do you really need call logs from 1975?
  • Are there tables or fields in your database(s) with little to no information?
  • Do you have a large amount of duplicates?
  • What new data/functionality do you need to support?
  • Where should the data go? How will the design and customization of the target CRM impact the new data structure?
  • What are your data reporting requirements and does the data model support those needs?
  • Will you need to migrate multiple data sources into one system? What are the unique identifiers for these systems? How will you avoid duplicate records?

There are a lot of questions you’ll want to ask to make sure this is done right. The questions I shared are the most common. After you answered these questions review the following best practices.

Data “Dos”

  • Put a great deal of effort into data cleansing, and task users with the cleanup process. Focus not only on de-duplication, but also data quality including completeness and adherence to data policies that you wish to implement and enforce in the new tool. For example, you might enforce complete contact names (Mary Unknown is not a valid contact) or a requirement that every Opportunity/Donation must have a Contact Role.
  • Assess objects and fields for usage and appropriateness to current business processes and reporting. Changing tools is analogous to moving; ideally, you will not pack up every single item in your old home and move it to your new home. You want to review your data in the same way and start with only relevant data in the new tool.
  • Create a data map that identifies each object relationship as well as each field’s data type (text, picklist, date, number, etc.), precision or length and security requirements.
  • Consider the interdependencies of data and process (which is the driver and which is the result, for example).
  • Have a data management strategy to moderate and maintain clean data over time.

Data “Don’ts”

  • Don’t bring over unnecessary or irrelevant data. Far too often we have seen organizations put tremendous staff hours (and consultant hours) into the migration of severely aged data that is required neither for compliance nor for regulatory purposes only to hear months or even years after go-live that the data has never been accessed.
  • Don’t create data requirements and validations as substitutes for process, management, or end-user training.
    • As an example, there was a customer whose administrator was hearing complaints from the fundraising team that they were not getting timely notification of newly won donations in order to plan their acknowledgement process. The system administrator’s solution was to enforce an approval process before any donation could be closed as won. A better solution would be to create a workflow rule to notify the fundraising team when a donation record reaches a certain stage and then again when the donation is won.
    • We often see marketing teams struggling with incomplete prospects that they are unable to qualify because they have no means of contacting the prospect to follow up. We most often see that the system administrator will require both the email and phone fields on the lead page layout. What they later learned was that many leads were never entered because users had an email or a phone number, but not both. A better solution would be to create a validation rule that requires all new leads to have a phone number or an email.

You can download the Implementation Best Practices eBook to learn more about how to maximize your investment in your CRM implementation.

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Tal Frankfurt
Tal Frankfurt (@TalFrankfurt) is Founder and CEO of Cloud for Good, a certified B Corporation and an Inc.500 company, that works with organizations to create and implement strategic Salesforce solutions. While working as a spokesperson and director of resource development for a nonprofit organization, Tal was looking for tools to better manage his constituents (donors, volunteers, the media etc.). He heard about The Salesforce Foundation and this started a snowball effect. The rest, as they say, is history. He founded and led a Salesforce Nonprofit User Group and was exposed to the growing need for many nonprofits to integrate technology tools such as Salesforce to achieve their mission. Subsequently, Tal founded Cloud for Good, a consulting firm that works primarily with nonprofit organizations and educational institutions. ​​Tal ​was chosen in 2010 to be one of the first Salesforce MVP Program members and has maintained that status to date.