Practical Advice for Your Salesforce Data Migration [Part 1: Defining Scope]

This article is the first in a 4-part series on Data Migration. Make sure to follow us on LinkedIn so you don’t miss the others.

What data should we bring? How far do we go back? Will anyone miss this?

These are all common and valid questions to ask when staring down a data migration to help frame the scope and establish the parameters and criteria for the project – and they’re the right place to start. This article will provide some techniques and methodologies for determining the scope of a data migration and help you decide what to migrate.

First, let’s define what we mean by ‘data migration.’ Data migration “is the process of transporting data between computers, storage devices or formats. It is a key consideration for any system implementation, upgrade or consolidation.” (Thanks, Techopedia) In our case, transferring data to a target system from some sort of source system, whether that is another cloud-based application or a series of Excel sheets. While this article will be geared towards a Salesforce data migration, it’s important to remember that the principles and techniques behind good data migrations are relatively system agnostic and involve many of the same techniques and strategies.

First, Focus on the ‘Why’

Why are we migrating data to a new home? What processes are we trying to accommodate? Data does not live in a silo; it’s meant to be used to answer business questions and fulfill process needs. The first place to start when trying to define the scope of a data migration is to understand the use of the new system, specifically why it’s needed. What problem are we trying to solve?

Capture the why behind the system and put it at the top of your data migration strategy. This may be a mission statement or a list of goals that a Salesforce implementation should achieve.

Align with executive leadership to hear, in their words, the vision behind the new system they’ve adopted.

Once this is understood, you’ll be able to evaluate each data migration decision in the context of the problem it’s trying to solve.

Next, Define the ‘What’

What are the business processes involved in serving the ‘why?’ Now is a good time to break out the business process documentation and flow charts. Before even thinking about ‘popping the hood’ and looking at source system tables and diagrams, we need to define the processes that the data will serve. Here are some examples of documented business processes.

The following business process reflects the current process (pre-Salesforce migration).

data migration process

Looking at this documentation, we can get a sense of what data will be needed. At the very least, we need the individual users that make up the billing department and the customer data about the person sending the order. We will also want a record of historic invoice numbers, so we don’t create another invoice with the same value.

data migration flowchart


In the above customer order renewal business process diagram, we see that we will also need historical customer information, including order data. We apply discounts based on customer loyalty, so we will need to know the customer’s spending history. The discovery would trigger other questions: How much history do we need? What are the discount thresholds? Is there an indication in the current system that identifies customer loyalty?

Work with the rest of the implementation team to establish clear business process documentation, which is an important step in any implementation. For more information about business process documentation, check out some of the following resources:

DIY Salesforce Implementation Guide (eBook)

How to Capture Accurate Business Processes (blog post)

Identify the ‘Who’

Who are the process owners behind the ‘what?’ These individuals will be extremely important when it comes to defining the scope of the data migration. They should know their data better than anyone!

It’s simply not possible to run a successful data migration without heavy involvement from the business subject matter experts.

Begin by associating an individual with each business process. These individuals should be knowledgeable enough about the business and data that they can provide guidance and make decisions around the scope of data migration. It may be necessary to clearly document decisions and solicit their sign-off.

Capture the ‘When’

How far should we go back? Do we need the last five years of customer order history? Should we bring over customers who have not renewed in over three years? These types of questions are a little more difficult to answer as often there can be several factors in play.

Organizational Reporting

How does the business report on customer trends? Do they need historic data to generate forecasts?


What brings actual value to the business? Does that information help make a sale or support a customer?


Sometimes you’re required by law to either safely maintain or destroy customer data (GDPR, Castle). You also may have company policies or warranty information that would allow certain historic data to persist.

Data Migration requires careful planning. Identifying the scope of the data migration is the first step of a successful migration. Before diving into the techniques – data mapping, analyzing, transformation, ERD diagrams – take a step back and examine the business and its processes. What is important? Understand how data is currently used and how the business expects to use its data going forward. As always, document all decisions and get plenty of input from the business experts.

Continue to Part 2: Conducting Great Data Analysis >>

Author: Grant Ongstad, Senior Salesforce Consultant


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