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6 Tips for Easier Data Imports

Data importing is one of those love/hate admin tasks. Either you find it satisfying, or a total pain in the caboose. 

(If you sit in the latter camp, the goal is to move you to the former.)

When I first started importing data to Salesforce, by no means was it a smooth experience. The smallest error in my csv file meant records failed. The sheer number of files could make my head spin. And if I was rushing to get it all done, well…

Credit: Giphy (Arrested Development)

Not the greatest time.

But it’s much better now! I’ve imported millions of records. And while practice does help, the key for me was figuring out a data import process that would keep me sane. It’s part mindset and part process, with heaps of patience sprinkled in.

So if data imports feel like a necessary evil, here are some tips to hopefully get you to the other side.

1. Clean what you can *in* your sheet

Don’t fall for the “we’ll clean it after” trap. 👀 It can actually be harder to fix data once it’s already in your system (vs taking a few days to fix it in Excel or Google Sheets).

Do all your formatting fixes & cleaning in advance. A good Excel class will take you far here, but in the meantime, check out this blog for common spreadsheet issues & fixes

2. Find your optimal time

Data work can be mentally taxing. Even for those of us who enjoy it.

So save your imports for a day/time when you’ll feel most up to the task. For me, that’s either first thing in the morning (when my mind still feels fresh) or very late in the day (after I’ve had a solid break). Those are also the times of day when I’m least likely to be interrupted

p.s. If you’re importing as part of a larger migration, give yourself buffer time to get it done. Data importing sounds like it should be quick, but better to hope for the best and plan for every little error the worst

3. Don’t rush. Take time organizing

Resist the urge to make this go quickly. That tends to backfire. 😬

Instead, take your time. Do whatever you need to feel organized & confident at each step. For me, that has included:

  • Taking a few minutes to write down steps. This is especially helpful if you need to import multiple sheets, in a particular order
  • Creating a clear, naming convention for import files. I like to include what I’m importing, when, and the version in case I run into errors (ex. 2022-01-01 Accounts for import, v1.csv). More spreadsheet tips here
  • Creating a temporary folder for storing/organizing your files

4. Get comfortable

This one doesn’t actually help your CRM. But it can help you power through if you run into issues, and need to spend more time at the desk than you hoped.

So get comfortable: grab the mouse instead of relying on the trackpad. If you have one, plug your laptop into the monitor so you can see your spreadsheets better. Grab your computer glasses, a pillow for your chair, a glass of coffee or water, etc…

I’ve also found that playing jazz [or other genre of choice] instrumental music helps!

5. Check imported data as you go

For big import jobs, don’t wait until the very end to peek inside your database. Make sure each round of imports is appearing in your system as expected. That way, if there are issues, you aren’t just finding out at the very end

6. Archive import files when you’re done

Now that the hard work’s done, you don’t want a bunch of personal data sitting needlessly in your hard drive. Come up with an archival plan: whether that’s saving those files to a .zip in your org’s shared drive, or getting the green light to delete them altogether

And tips for Salesforce Data Import Wizard specifically…

Turn off your record-triggered automations, since they can slow you down. Flow Trigger Explorer is helpful for this, though don’t forget about Process Builder & any Workflow Rules!

Change your date columns to the required format in advance. For me, that’s YYYYMMDD (though I’m not sure if that’s the default for everyone)

Save your field mapping the first time, especially if it took you longer than 30 seconds to map. There’s nothing worse than thinking the next import is the “one”, and having to remap every. time. it’s. not

Save your success & error files to a specific folder, since it can be a lot to mix it in with your Documents/Desktop

Got tips of your own? Please share below!


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