Lessons from the Cloud – How I Learned to Love the CSV

This last couple of weeks, I have been assigned what seems to be a relatively simple imageproject – get our Member’s Database into Salesforce.com.

Turns out we have had a Salesforce Professional Subscription for the better part of a year but my Manager had not yet had the time to use it as he would like. Now it was my opportunity to move our data into the cloud.

Here are a few Lesson’s I learned that I thought I’d share.

1. Training, Training and more Training

Salesforce.com actually has quite a lot of training modules and help available for every subscriber. Mane sure you use it. the commentary is dry (oh so very dry and monotonous) but well worth it. I suggest turning down the sound as it mostly just reads out what is displayed on screen.

2. NEVER assume the Source Data is complete

Turns out I took this for granted. After all, our Service Fees are based on this data and it is the central record on which all data in other systems is supposedly based. If I had any clue how wrong I was, I could have saved myself a week of issues. Here are the most important task I found:

  • Make sure your unique index fields are actually unique
  • There WILL be duplicates, find them and fix them.
  • Take the time to choose the field formats for numbers (i.e. phone numbers, dates etc.)
  • Be very careful if any of your fields have leading zeros (0851 is NOT the same as 851)

The more time you spend on the quality of your import data, the more time it will save you afterwards.

3. Check that all your existing Data is still in use.

Just because there are columns and columns of data, doesn’t mean you need to import it all. Also, the people that use the data every day don’t necessarily understand what the columns and/or the data means. They probably inherited it from the last person that worked on it so on through generations of admin staff, each with varying degrees of efficiency and capability.

Check every field and chase down what it is for and whether or not it is still required. I was able to cut around 40% of the data as it no longer applied to this company.

4. Save a Master-list of your Import Data

Once you have checked it, cleaned it up and got your column naming and number conventions right, make sure you have saved a copy elsewhere. this becomes the Golden Master from which all your import files are created.

5. Learn how to Mass-delete your Records

Whether you made a mistake or your manager wants to change the index field, you need to be able to start again when doing mass imports. I used a particular field that I could do a query to select it all and remove everything to start again.

6. Get Someone Else to Check after Each Import

If someone else checks your work after each import, they can often pick  up a number of errors that you may have missed. At the very least they will pick out that the ABN (Australian Business Number) only imported the first 2 of 10 digits. For bonus points, you should try and get the stakeholder to check on it so if he decides to change anything he can do it then and there. Trust me, at some stage, there will be a change part-way through.

In Conclusion…

These are just a few of the things I came across during this project. now that all the data is in, now I am moving onto adapting our business processes into Salesforce to make them even easier and, more importantly, less error-prone… but that is a story for another day..

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