Importing Data in Microsoft Dynamics 365

Data Import Best Practices in Dynamics 365

Good data results in better long-term user adoption in Microsoft Dynamics 365. One of the ways to get better data is to make sure your data imports are well-planned. This prevents duplicate records, reduces confusion and increases the likelihood of your Dynamics 365 implementation success.

Below are several things you should consider before importing data in Microsoft Dynamics CRM:

Data Import Options

There are many options for entering data into Dynamics 365. These include:

  • Manually entering data into CRM
  • Tracking Outlook contacts
  • Importing Outlook contacts
  • Importing spreadsheets via the Data Import Wizard

Dynamics 365 Import Tools

Microsoft Dynamics 365 comes with several tools to help make importing data easier.

Import Data Wizard: This is a tool in Microsoft Dynamics 365 that allows you to load a large number of records without having to enter them manually or turn to IT for help. This tool can be found in the Dynamics 365 ribbon and walks you through the data import process. It works well with the import templates described below.

Import Data Template: This is a template file that you can download for both out-of-the-box and custom entities. Use it to format your data using the rules CRM requires for import.

CRM Data Maps: Data maps take the information in your import file and map them to CRM fields.

Tracking Outlook Contacts in CRM: Each contact record can be tracked in Dynamics 365. This is a manual process so you can keep your personal contacts separate.

Dynamics 365 for Outlook Add Contact Wizard: To use this feature, you must install and configure the Dynamics 365 for Outlook client.

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Related Tools

Although not directly related to imports, there are several other tools that make importing more successful.

Duplicate Detection: Set up correctly, you can reduce the number of duplicate records on import.

Auditing: Enabling auditing helps track changes to records and user login data.

Bulk Edit and Bulk Delete: These tools work well if you import bad information that needs to be deleted or updated.

Tip! You can import sample data into Dynamics 365 for training and development purposes. Giving users access to sample data and training them to use the system with this data allows users to play with the data without worrying about “messing up” the data. It’s also a great way to improve user adoption.

Planning considerations

Here are some questions you need to ask yourself before importing to ensure your data imports smoothly.

What records do you need to import? More than likely, you’ll be importing Accounts, Contacts, and/or Leads. Accounts and Contacts are the customer records in Dynamics 365, and everything ties back to these two entities.

Out-of-the-box Dynamics 365 requires that you start with either or both, depending on your customer base. Ultimately, you can import any record type into CRM. If you are importing other record types such as Opportunities or Cases, you may want to consider doing a formal migration using advanced tools such as Scribe or SSIS.

Will you be associating contacts or sub-accounts with their parent accounts? Associating a contact or sub-account with an existing parent account means you must create an account record first. During import, the child (contact or sub-account) record must be able to reference the parent account record. It does this by having a value that matches exactly to a value within the parent account. This is typically the Account Name, making it important that there are no two Account Names that are identical.

What is the source of the data? The information may exist in one or a variety of places: Outlook contacts, spreadsheets, post-it notes or legacy systems. This means you may have to use different methods of import or combine your data into one import source file. Do your best to determine your source data before performing an import.

Will you be importing any data fields that are unique to your business? You may have unique information you want to import and a related field may not exist in CRM. This requires you to create a custom field to capture that information.

Beyond the Basics

If you want a more formal introduction to Dynamics 365, check out Dynamics 365 University’s CRM Boot Camp for Dynamics 365.