Putting a Value on Your Legacy Data

Dreamforce_SwagWhen you really dig in you’ll be shocked to discover all the places customer data resides – ACT! and Goldmine databases, Microsoft Outlook, mobile devices, day planners, spreadsheets, legacy accounting systems, Rolodexes, home-grown company databases, SQL databases that run your back office systems, old CRM software, and stacks of business cards secured by an old fashioned rubber band. If you’re going to start managing your business in Salesforce, you’ll have to make some tough decisions on how to aggregate all this disparate customer information and how much data to bring into Salesforce.

I like to think of this process as being similar to moving into a new house. When you make a change of residence you have three options before the movers show up on your door step:

  1. Bring everything you’ve amassed for the last 30 years (pack rat)
  2. Leave it, trash it, donate it, and go shopping! (start fresh)
  3. Use the opportunity to get up in the attic and bring only what is current and relevant (clean house)

I lean towards option three. Leave the bellbottoms, old vinyl records and the Commodore 64, but bring the pants you just picked up at the cleaners and the iPad you’re probably using right now!

The same goes with your customer data. If Fred the salesperson has 10 years worth of contacts, but can’t tell you the last time he talked to that contact and doesn’t know if that person still works for xyz company, I doubt you want to bring in that record into Salesforce.

Don’t underestimate the amount of work it is going to take to collapse all these repositories of information into a file that can be imported into Salesforce AND to pull out the duplicate records. In fact, you might need to look into acquiring some data utilities to get the information into a structured format that can be imported into Salesforce (though careful work in Excel works well too!). Once you have all your information in a master file, you then need to "de-dupe" the table. You’ll be amazed at the number of duplicate records you’ll find, and unfortunately, this can be a very manual "stare and compare" review.

You could do the import into Salesforce and then do the cleanup. There area a few utilities in Salesforce that allow "one-of" manual merging of duplicate Leads, Accounts and Contacts, but that’s it. If you have duplicates in other areas (say Opportunities or Activities) there are no "wizards" in Salesforce to help you remove the duplicates. If your database has more than a hundred duplicate contacts, I’d suggest doing the data scrubbing prior to importing the information into Salesforce. Your new users won’t want to spend their first couple of weeks doing cleanup!

There are a couple of other points to consider when preparing information to be imported into Salesforce. Let’s say your importing a business contact. You’ll need to determine in advance who will "own" the record (which has security implications) as well as whether you are going to be using Account and Contact Hierarchies (i.e. the "Reports To" field on the Contact Record and the "Parent Account" field on the Account Record). If you are, you’ll need to prep your file so these relationships are established during the import.

Lastly, out-of-date data just creates a lot of "noise" for your Users to sift through in search results, which can drive frustration and ultimately hurt User adoption. Remember – just because you can bring it into Salesforce, doesn’t mean you should!

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