Data quality is absolutely critical to a successful Higher Education Customer Relationship Management (CRM) implementation. It can literally make or break an implementation. On-going success is reinforced by clean and complete data. It also allows you to measure your Return on Investment (ROI) accurately, proving your success. Conversely, poor data can slow business processes, dilute benefits and reduce users’ confidence and compliance. Getting your existing CRM data into your new system can be tricky. But, there’s more than one way to peel a potato and different CRM systems and providers will offer you different data migration options. Where do you even start?
You know you want your data imported in as complete and accurate a state as possible. To do that you’re going to need some help from your system vendor. After all, they’re the experts, aren’t they?
Your CRM provider might supply a set of technical tools, leave you to use those tools yourself and take responsibility for your own data quality. Alternatively, they might offer a more customised (and expensive) service either including the tools or even doing the final data import for you. With each of these data migration approaches there are advantages and disadvantages. The key is to understand these, so you can choose the option that works for you.
The simple approach: here you go – good luck!
One approach taken by many Higher Education CRM providers is to provide standard data migration tools for you to use with minimal support. The stance is: It’s your data, you should understand it and have access to your own IT resources. This keeps the relationship simple, the responsibilities clear and the costs low.
This is all good, as far as it goes. And if your existing data is really clean and you’ve access to good IT resources then everything’s pretty straightforward. It does put you under extra pressure when you’re already busy getting to grips with matching your business processes to a new system though.
Fixed import tools
Your Higher Education CRM system should have a data import feature, even if you’re using a cloud-based system, also known as Software as a Service (SaaS). This should come with a user guide and a data source template. Typically, this template is a spreadsheet with columns named and ready for you to fill in your data.
Hopefully your vendor will have set up a staging or development copy of your system for you. This means you can test your imports and review your data in there.
You should always test an import of that spreadsheet in your staging system and thoroughly check the imported data before you import into your live production system. You need to ensure that all your data is there, each record is complete and all values are correct. If it’s all good, then you can carry out the exact same import in your live production system. If you’ve not had any errors then you’re good to go.
But that’s a big “if”. This is the real world. And “perfectly clean data” doesn’t exist anywhere in the real world. So, you’ll probably find issues and you’ll need to deal with them. But on the whole, if your testing was good and your IT resources are good then you should cope.
Help from your import tool instead
If you are working with minimal support from your CRM supplier, then let’s hope that the data import tool gives you a bit of support instead. These might be simple “get the job done” routines with no frills that just take good data and load it. However, if there are issues with the data it may not check for those and may load incomplete or incorrect data. As a result, you’re left with some “rubbish” in your Higher Education CRM system that you need to get rid of. That might be a manual process and involve some pain. Let’s hope you found the issue with a small test data set!
Alternatively, some providers’ tools are more capable and actually check the data in the file before it’s imported. They could check that you’re not about to try to import text values into a numeric or date field. For text fields they could even check that the incoming data matches the acceptable values defined in the field’s picklist. This ensures that your starting data fully matches your business rules. It also maximises your users’ confidence in the system and your confidence in the ROI measures.
The partnership approach: let us help you
Data validation by the import tool is great but, let’s face it, you’re not data cleansing or data transformation experts. You know what you need your system to do and you may know your way around a spreadsheet. But that doesn’t make you an IT expert. You may appreciate the benefit of your vendor’s experience with data during implementations.
There’s a good chance that this is the first time you’ve implemented a Higher Education CRM system. You certainly won’t have done it many times. But your CRM vendor certainly should have! And if they’ve carried out the data import element many times then you could benefit from their experience. They may provide this as a separate chargeable service or as an advanced “data import package”. Either way, consider the benefits of time saved and improved data quality when assessing the extra costs.
If a CRM supplier does offer enhanced services these might be in the form of a totally bespoke service charged on a day rate. That’s the First-Class option and it can be very expensive. But, just think about the on-going benefits of fully cleansed data. The improved user buy-in, ease of processing after go-live and the accuracy of your ROI measures. And it helps you to ensure you’re measuring the right things!
Structured data migration package
There might also be more structured data support options such as a package of guidance documents, process flows, project plans, etc. based on your CRM provider’s experience of how such a project phase is most efficiently run. This would allow a vendor to provide the benefit of their CRM data migration experience in a standardised way at a much lower cost.
A data solution package could also include an amount of consultancy time along with template versions of project plans, process charts and meeting agendas. Best practice advice about data cleansing and utilities you could use may be included as well, all drawn from their years of experience.
You may be able to use the consultancy time for any elements that you feel most unsure about or it could be on-site handholding during the import itself. Basically, it’s up to you. While it’s not as flexible as the fully bespoke option, it’s much cheaper and, in most cases, will match your requirements. Only the implementations with really poor data, few in-house skills or weird requirements should need the higher level of handholding.
The data migration services and tools can vary greatly between Higher Education CRM system providers along with the costs. However, if you’re aware of what’s out there then you’ll be better armed to ask the right questions. Plus, you’ll be able to assess the various vendors’ options when deciding on or actually implementing your chosen solution. Remember – no truly successful system roll-out was ever based on poor data.