9 April 2019

Want to Migrate Data to Dynamics 365? Here Are 9 Best Practices to Follow!


Considering the wealth of information that exists around data migration and the level of technical expertise that project management teams have, expecting your data migration project to go smoothly seems like a given.

Except that it isn’t.

According to a study conducted by the Cloud Security Alliance, only 26% of organizations that participated in their survey had successfully migrated data within the planned timeframe (which, on average, is around 12 months). This number seems shockingly low when you realize that a whopping 70% of the companies surveyed were in the process of migrating data. And out of all these survey respondents, more than 50% of SMB companies were migrating to Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP.

So, what exactly was the challenge?

Not realizing when and how a data migration could become complex.

Not understanding that planning is necessary to ensure timely migration of data and applications.

Not accounting for data flowing into your legacy ERP or applications while the migration is still going on.

And then some more.

As an established ISV that has been involved in data migration and ERP implementation projects for Microsoft Dynamics for the last 17+ years, we at To-Increase understand the challenges involved when undertaking data migrations to the cloud. Fortunately, we also have the expertise to deal with such challenges as we have helped over 600 customers to date achieve D365 implementation success.

Related: Read about the kind of challenges you can expect when preparing for a data migration here.

In this blog, let’s take a look at some of the tried and tested methods we have used in the past to help our customers transition smoothly to Dynamics 365, and the best practices we recommend for a hassle-free and timely data migration.

But before we delve into data migration best practices, let’s look at why should these best practices matter to you.

Why should you follow best practices for data migration?

Companies undertake data migration when they decide to replace or upgrade their ERP, SaaS applications, or other business management systems. Microsoft defines it as the process of transferring digital information to a different location, file format, environment, storage system, database, data center, or application. This includes moving applications or databases or migrating your on-premises infrastructure to a cloud-based setup.

Data migration from a legacy ERP or from on-premise applications can quickly become quite complex, due to:

  • Data flowing in from several sources
  • Upgrading multiple legacy systems to the same ERP
  • Migrating to multiple companies or legal entities globally
  • Issues or restrictions pertaining to data access and/or security
  • Having multiple lines of business and differing historical datasets
  • Legacy systems that come with limited import and export capabilities
  • Data being available in varying formats (some of which might be obsolete)

Related: Would you like to learn about the specific challenges in migrating data to Dynamics 365 F&SCM? Read about them here.

In spite of these complexities, though, many companies follow an unstructured approach to data migration — while some rely completely on their technical team to hand-code migration using only Excel or .CSV files, others leave it completely to a data migration solution provider without planning a clear data migration strategy — leaving it prone to failure (read mounting costs and implementation delays!)

This is why it is imperative for companies to follow data migration best practices.

Top 9 Best Practices for Data Migration

According to analysts at Bloor Research, businesses should plan data migration as a distinct, separately resourced project that is not simply a component of an implementation. Business stakeholders (and not just technical experts!) need to be involved in planning and testing the migration and validating its alignment with their goals.

Companies should also ensure high data quality by using automated tools to perform data profiling and cleansing before undertaking a migration. Instead of hand-coding migrations, they recommend using a proven data migration solution with a sound methodology for speed and efficiency.

Below we detail our top 9 best practices for data migration, based on our experience with helping customers migrate successfully to Dynamics 365 F&SCM.

1. Define the complexity of the data and the scope of work

Before you create a data migration strategy, it is important to understand the complexity of the data that is being migrated. You need to learn where it resides currently. This not only involves identifying the physical data storage location(s) but also locating the various databases, systems, or platforms hosting your data. You also need to decide on the form your data needs to be in when it reaches the destination. This includes understanding the specific data format and schema and identifying whether it would be in the form of databases, files, or a combination of both.

2. Lay down the data standards

After the data evaluation process, you need to lay down a set of standards in place. This will help you identify potential issues and pinpoint problem areas during the early stages of data migration, thus helping you mitigate some of them and avoid a potentially damaging escalation.


As data is rarely static and keeps evolving over time, having set rules and standards will help develop, define, and recommend definitions that will help in data consolidation. Consolidating data in a cohesive manner not only helps lay the foundation for a robust data migration strategy but also helps you develop a good data governance framework for your organization.

3. Evaluate existing rules and define future business rules

When you have business rules that can help you meet compliance standards and be compatible during the migration process, the process becomes clearer. These rules serve as a guiding framework that not only facilitates a smoother migration process but also ensures compatibility across diverse business environments.


Your existing rules also need to be compatible with diverse business rules that you may formulate in the future so that you can migrate data in a systematic manner based on strict migration policies. Moreover, having rules that are adaptable to various business scenarios not only makes your migration strategy flexible but will also enable you to seamlessly transition data in a systematic and controlled way. This will help you adhere to different sets of regulations and operational requirements in the future.

4. Have data governance rules in place

For the sake of accountability, it is important to establish the roles responsible for the access, usage, and quality of your data. (After all, the goal is to ensure that your data is useful to you!) The way to go about it is to have a manager or council who can delegate data governance roles to the right people, and define who is responsible for what. This approach not only helps in streamlining workflows but also facilitates a more efficient response to challenges and issues that may arise in the course of managing data.

Related: Interested in learning who should be responsible for what in a data-governed organization? Read this blog to find out the answers!


5. Evaluate the quality of data

For your data migration to yield the best returns, evaluating the quality of the data being migrated is crucial. Data migration definitely does not mean only the movement of data from one point to another. It is important to check and validate the quality of your data to ensure utility and integrity.


But how do you evaluate the quality of your data? Look for these 7 signs that indicate you have bad data in your applications and/or your ERP.


Once you have checked your legacy data for key quality metrics such as accuracy, consistency, validity, completeness, timeliness, and integrity, it is best to initiate a data quality strategy. This could involve:


  • Installing firewalls to weed out poor-quality data
  • Performing a data clean-up
  • Identifying and removing duplicate data
  • Allowing only validated, clean data to be migrated

6. Seek and evaluate the right solution

Once you have a complete picture of your data migration goals, you can start looking for a suitable data migration tool. Since the success of your data migration efforts relies heavily on an efficient data migration solution built for the ERP, you need to carefully consider various factors.


For instance, ensure that the software is flexible enough to adapt to diverse data structures and formats during migration. The software should be scalable enough to support growing volumes of data after you go live. (Remember that, on average, a data migration can take anywhere around 12 months; therefore, there will be a lot of data flowing into your legacy ERP or systems during that period!)


You should also take into account the level of support required during and after a migration. Moreover, aim to choose a solution that’s intuitive and user-friendly. This will help streamline the data migration process, reduce errors, improve migration performance, and minimize the need to involve your internal team in troubleshooting issues.

7. Establish a system to manage risk

Regardless of meticulous planning beforehand, some data loss during the data migration process is inevitable. This is usually due to the complexity of the migration process itself, where you find data being imported from multiple legacy sources and where you encounter field mapping incompatibilities. For example, when importing data into Dynamics 365 F&SCM, if you find that your data structure does not match the entities in Microsoft’s Data Management Framework, you might try copying that data manually into the destination systems, leading to error and data loss.


However, if you have a good backup strategy planned for such an occurrence, you can cut down the risk of data loss dramatically. One effective way to do this is by building a test environment to test the migration process. This environment serves as a simulated space where the migration process can be tested thoroughly before being applied to the live system. This strategy will help you come up with corrective measures in case a data loss or migration failure occurs.


It is recommended to build a test environment that replicates the production environment as closely as possible. This includes duplicating the hardware, software, and network configurations to create a mirror image of the live system. You may thus discover data dependencies, compatibility issues, or performance bottlenecks that were not apparent in the planning stages. This will help you adjust your migration strategy and minimize downtime during the actual migration.

8. Test and validate data

Once you have gone through the data migration process, it is important to test the quality and integrity of the migrated data. This will help you identify and rectify any discrepancies or errors that may have arisen during the migration. As outlined before, you need to evaluate the data in your new ERP or applications for accuracy, consistency, validity, completeness, timeliness, and integrity. You can accomplish this with a data quality management tool, like Data Quality Studio, which is available for both F&SCM as well as for Dataverse. The solution will help you employ validation checks and compare the migrated data with the source data so that you can be sure that your data has been accurately and completely transferred.

9. Document and audit

Most regulations around the world often mandate organizations to maintain a record of data migration activities to demonstrate adherence to data protection and privacy standards.


This means that apart from validating data, you should also ensure that you have documented every step of the data migration process for transparency and accountability. Not only does this facilitate troubleshooting in case of any issues but also helps you create an audit trail for meeting regulatory compliance requirements.


A well-documented audit trail also serves as a detailed record of the actions and decisions made during the data migration process—this best practice not only acts as a proactive measure to fulfill your industry and regional compliance obligations but also helps you conduct a root-cause analysis in case of a data breach. Moreover, documenting your data migration process can prove invaluable to your organization in case it attempts to conduct another ERP/cloud migration in the future.


Would you like to explore our data migration solution for Dynamics 365 F&SCM?

As complex as data migrations can be, following these best practices and using the right software can help ensure that your data migration goes as smoothly as planned. If your organization is currently considering a move to Dynamics 365 F&SCM or looking for a solution that can handle large data exports between your legal entities, you may be interested in our flexible, advanced, no-code solution – Connectivity Studio.

To learn how you can leverage Connectivity Studio’s data migration capabilities for your unique business challenges, download our factsheet.

Learn how you can achieve successful data migrations in Dynamics 365

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Jerry Caous
Jerry Caous,
Jerry Caous,
Sales Specialist Business Integration

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