Data migration is a challenge for any enterprise, and the challenges around migration are often both organizational and technical. Large databases managed by disparate parts of the organization - or databases that were part of acquisitions - are usually organized differently from your Salesforce instance, and often lack documentation. Legacy systems present even more challenges because they might not communicate with the latest APIs, or they might contain unnecessary data.

In this article, we will share the 4 best practices for integrating Salesforce with other systems, and show how Xplenty can be part of your Salesforce data migration process.

1. Data Governance 

2. Start With Your Own House

3. Start Small and Be the Flexible One 

4. Integration Monitoring 

1. Data Governance

Our first best practice is an obvious one - your organization needs to have a process to make sure all stakeholders are on the same page about the data being migrated to and from Salesforce.  Whether this is an offshoot of an enterprise-wide data management initiative, or if its a simple agreement between the groups responsible for Salesforce and the system being integrated, some kind of plan and ongoing process is critical best practice. Any system, no matter how simple or complex, needs to identify details about the data being exchanged, a process for determining how to add or remove data from the exchange, and the decision makers on both sides of the exchange.

2. Start With Your Own House

As a user, administrator or manager of a powerful and flexible Salesforce system, you are using one of the most flexible and customizable data platforms ever created.  But, as Voltaire, Winston Churchill, Spiderman and any seasoned Salesforce professional will tell you, with great power comes great responsibility. One of the biggest risks of any Salesforce implementation is going wild with custom fields and objects. In an afternoon, any competent administrator can add tens of fields and a few objects to Salesforce, leaving a legacy that could take years to clean up.  

To address this issue, your Salesforce org should have a data governance process good enough to serve as a model for integration projects. That process should ensure that every field added should have an explanation of what the field is for and how it will be used, a clear security discussion, and a quality definition that distinguishes between “good” and “bad” data. Administrators will use this information to create validation rules, pick lists and field dependencies (if applicable) and help text. If validation rules and pick lists aren’t sufficient to ensure quality data, the field should be audited by running regular reports to make sure junk hasn’t been entered. Your process should include regular review that removes or hides fields and objects that are no longer used.   Salesforce has a good article on data quality that’s worth consulting as you build your governance process.

3. Start Small and Be the Flexible One

Organizational politics vary, but Salesforce is generally a technology newcomer when compared to other systems in an enterprise.  Many organizations also have a longstanding and relatively inflexible data governance process because the systems being governed are much less flexible than Salesforce. This kind of inflexiblity tends to smother big integration projects before they get started.  Instead of fighting this tendency head-on, we suggest trying simple pilot projects. Using Salesforce’s native technology, as well as high quality integration tools, the Salesforce team has an opportunity to earn a (deserved) reputation as the easygoing partner in the data replication relationship.  You can filter out “garbage” data, accept weird legacy formats, and perform other integration tricks that your integration partner can only dream about. Once you have a short, successful pilot project, your integration partner and your data governance team, will be ready to work with you on bigger projects.

4. Integration Monitoring

If your data migration is ongoing, and most migrations and integrations are, that migration must be monitored to make sure that data being shared conforms to standard.  The best way to do this is to have an integration tool that identifies data issues and sends emails or other alerts to process owners to let them know that there’s an issue with the data.  Another method is to run regular exception reports that look for data outside of the agreed-upon data standard.

Neither of these methods is perfect.  Alerts are great, but you need to watch out for false alarms that fill up inboxes and cause monitoring fatigue. Reports work, but someone needs to run them and examine the output, and like alerts, if the report criteria aren’t good, the report is going to be full of good data that will probably be ignored.  This is why we believe that the best practice is to not only use a good integration tool, but also to have your integration written by someone who knows the tool well. This will ensure that busy people charged with monitoring the integration will take alerts seriously. You may also want to use Salesforce’s dashboard tools to create an integration status dashboard. Such a dashboard can go beyond simple text reports. For example, you can create a dashboard component that counts integration errors over time, to track progress on reaching quality metrics. 

Read more about data sharing with Salesforce to Salesforce here.

Putting it All Together

You might be surprised that a data integration vendor starts with process rather than technology when discussing integration best practices. In our experience, all the technology in the world won’t make up for a bad integration plan.That said, there’s nothing worse than a good integration plan falling short because of weak technology. 

We believe that a tool like Xplenty is uniquely positioned to help you have the best integration experience between Salesforce and your other key systems. Our drag-and-drop tools allow you to build data pipelines with steps that cleanse and check data. Our pipelines enable alerts for bad data that are fully configurable. We can securely integrate processes behind your firewall with cloud services like Salesforce. We have a team of experts who can help you build an integration pipeline if you don’t want to concentrate on technical integration details.  If you’re ready to consider us as part of your integration best practices, we’re happy to provide a demo, a seven-day free trial, and a free setup session with our implementation team. Just drop us a line at +1-888-884-6405 or set up a meeting with us here.

Need more information? Read our 101 guide to Salesforce Data Migration now.