How to Import Data Into Salesforce – Complete Guide

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When the time comes to import data into Salesforce, you are no doubt thinking about how you should import data into Salesforce when there are many options available to you.

CRM implementations take time, money, skilled people, and are full of complexities (which become reasons why organizations are hesitant to begin a Salesforce implementation). Saving resources during each phase of your implementation is a nice win for your team. You may not realize that the phases that involve data loading are ready for you to optimize.

This guide will cover typical common data loading challenges, how to choose the right data import tool for your Salesforce project, and 5 options for importing data into Salesforce. First, let’s look at the phases of a typical Salesforce implementation that involve data loading.

Importing Data into Salesforce (Project Roadmap)

A typical Salesforce implementation consists of 10 steps, 3 of which require data loading and can account for up to 25% of the time of the total implementation process and additional expenses.

Common Data Loading Challenges

Unfortunately, clean data, migrate data and integrate (the steps highlighted above), are often an afterthought. Not properly planning for these steps, which all require data loading, can lead to unexpected costs and extended implementation timelines. To understand the importance of data loading let’s first review the common problems that occur from not properly planning or using the wrong tools for these steps.

  1. Dirty data. Whether a customer is migrating their CRM, implementing a new CRM, or combining multiple Salesforce instances, clean data is essential. Because the CRM is often used as the source of truth, you want to avoid pulling in incomplete, inconsistent and duplicate information.
  2. Complex data transformations. When going through an ERP and API integration or data migration, complex data transformations are typical. Without assessing the complexities of the data you are moving, it will be difficult to assess the proper tools to use or plan out the appropriate resources, timeline and budget for this task.
  3. Choosing between manual and automated data loading. Setting up your CRM is one thing, but making sure all the data that needs to go in to and out of your CRM from other systems and tools is a whole other can of worms. When you are planning your Salesforce implementation, this is when you should decide whether you want to automate the integrations between Salesforce and the other systems and applications that contribute / share information. Some key benefits of automating integrations are: a decrease in manual reporting errors, an increase in staff productivity, and an increase in Salesforce adoption.

As you can see from the issues above, to ensure a successful Salesforce implementation you must plan out the data loading steps of the implementation and be sure you have the right tools to complete these steps. But how do you plan these steps out? What factors should you consider?

How to Choose the Right Data Import for Your Salesforce Project

To help, we have come up with a checklist of questions you should ask when planning out a Salesforce implementation. By considering each of these factors early in the implementation process you can ensure that the right tools have been selected, the appropriate resources are in place and the required budget has been allocated.

Migrate data

  1. How much data are you moving? A CRM is only as powerful as the data that it manages. During the planning phase of the implementation it is very important to identify all of the applications that data needs to come from or be sent to in relation to your CRM. Are you moving thousands, a hundred thousand or millions of rows of data? Knowing this will influence which data loading solutions are available to use. Basic data loader tools can only support a small amount of data. iPaaS solutions can support large amounts of data but are expensive and complex to manage.
  2. How complex are your data transformations? Is your CRM data coming from a legacy ERP with SFTP, an API, or flat files? Knowing where the source data is coming from will help you to identify how complex your data transformation may be. If you are moving data from more than one flat file or there is a considerable difference between your source data model and the Salesforce data model then you will most likely require some kind of data manipulation and advanced mapping.

Clean data

  1. How are you going to clean the data? Are you comfortable using v-lookups in Excel, is your data coming from multiple sources, are you dealing with multiple records of truth? If the data you are working with is sourced from web forms or large in volume then you should consider tools that provide duplicate identification, data cleansing using data validation, and error handling with exception management. Some data loading tools have these features built in, while other tools don’t offer this at all and you will need to use standalone solutions.

Integrate

  1. What are your teams’ technical abilities and skills? Are you planning to automate any data processes as part of your Salesforce implementation? If so, you will most likely need an iPaaS, which requires database or programming skills. Does the team responsible for migrating and integrating the data have these technical skills? Understanding this will help you determine what tools your team can use and if additional support will be needed.
  2. Is your team open to low-code or SQL training? If you will need to manipulate your data to migrate it, as the majority of organizations do, then you will need resources with database or programming skills. You can leverage your team’s existing SQL skills beyond traditional database tasks to support data integrations. Many iPaaS solutions offer jump start training and a few also offer low-code solutions.If you don’t have qualified resources available do you have a budget for outsourcing data loading support? These are all questions that need to be answered when planning your implementation.
  3. What is your Budget? Are you dealing with complex data transformations but don’t need all the features, or costs, of an iPaaS? Do you need to outsource data loading then train your team to manage it ongoing? iPaaS solutions are extremely robust, but also require a significant budget and resources. Basic data loader tools are more affordable but have limitations in terms of data size and complexity. If you don’t have a large budget but need more than a basic data loader tool, look for a solution with volume-based pricing and advanced transformation capabilities.

How to Import Data into Salesforce – 5 Options

There are many data loading solutions available to you. I focus on 5 options to get you started, including pros and cons:

1. Salesforce Data Import Wizard

The baseline data loading tool built into Salesforce and available in all editions with an easy to use wizard to insert, and upsert the records.

+ Available with all Salesforce editions at no additional cost

+ Cloud-based, doesn’t require any installation

+ Great usability

– Can only import up to 50,000 standard objects, records cannot exceed 400KB, and limited to 90 fields per record

– Supports CSV format only, which can be time-consuming and duplicate prone

– Only one import job can be run at a time

2. Salesforce Data Loader

More advanced data loading tool available from Salesforce that allows you to insert, update, upsert, delete and export records.

+ Available at no additional cost

+ Can update records that already exist, bulk delete records, and export records

+ Supports all objects

– Has to be installed directly on your computer

– Can only import up to 5,000,000 standard objects

– Only available for orgs using Enterprise, Performance, Unlimited, Developer, and database.com

3. Dataloader.io

A unified cloud-based solution, powered by MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform, that imports and exports information from Salesforce.

+ Drag and drop design with great usability

+ Affordable solution for batch importing new records and batch updating existing records

+ Can schedule tasks

– Can only support a limited amount of data

– Only supports basic data transformations

4. Jitterbit Cloud Data Loader

A free data migration tool that enables Salesforce administrators to quickly and easily automate the import and export of data between flat files, databases, and Salesforce.

+ Create queries, upserts, updates, inserts, deletes, and bulk operations to move data between Salesforce and flat files or databases

+ Import and export from any flat files or databases

– Only community support is available

– Requires a local installation

– It is a 32-bit application and is incompatible with/will not run on macOS 10.15

5. Lingk.io

A cloud-based data integration platform that can support basic to advanced data transformations at low pay-per-use prices.

+ Supports advanced data transformations such as Salesforce org to org data loading and multiple orgs and writing to multiple objects simultaneously

+ Supports thousands to billions of rows of data, local flat files, local databases, and cloud applications and is built on Apache Spark

+ Data duplication prevention tools included

– Low-code solution requires some SQL knowledge

Summary

We hope that using these questions will help you to accelerate your next Salesforce implementation and avoid unforeseen costs and delays. To help you identify which data loading solution is right for your project we recommend downloading our infographic, How to choose the right data loader to accelerate your Salesforce Implementation. Happy importing!

5 thoughts on “How to Import Data Into Salesforce – Complete Guide

  1. Great Article, Erin! Thank you! What we recently stumbled upon and also found extremely helpful and a lot faster/more useable esp. for smaller data migrations or just day-to-day bulk updating jobs is “Xappex XL-Connector”. This plugs in directly into excel which makes it a lot easier to use for many “no-code” users. It seems similarly powerful like Dataloader(.io) and comes with a wealth of other really impressive features (e.g. directly pull SF reports for data manipulation, editing field level security etc.). Probably something to add to your list + definitely worth checking out!

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