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      8 Mins

      Data Migration vs Data Integration

      Data Migration vs Data Integration Featured Image
      Published on Oct 11, 2021 by Nicola Payne

      Data migration or data integration? It's a question we’d like our clients to ask themselves more often as it's  been known to trip up a project! If you are investing in a new CRM or website with the intention of improving your decision making data, then you need to think about the data from the outset.  

      This blog defines data migration and data integration, what the components are, and why they are different.  It's written in the context of moving data into HubSpot, but the same will be true of any CRM.  

      Data migration

      This is the process of moving data from one location to another: generally from a spreadsheet or old CRM into a shiny new HubSpot CRM. It's about permanently moving data.

      Do I need data migration?

      Yes, if you are retiring an old tool or CRM.  

      If you are spending ages pulling data from lots of different sources and want a single source of truth for reporting then migrating various data sources into one system will have definite benefits. It should reduce the risk of user error, provide efficiencies and a broader view of what’s going on.

      How do I migrate my data?

      It can be relatively straightforward to move your data from one place to another. There are five key steps:

      1. Understanding what you need to achieve

      This means understanding where in your business processes the data sits and how you’d like it to be used eventually. Often data migration is part of a change management process that impacts individuals and the way they interact with your systems and data - eg changes to improve efficiency. So you’ll want to consider the impact changing the data will have on stakeholders and how they’ll adopt the new system.  A lack of buy-in at an early stage is where projects like this can fall down.

      Key outputs from this stage are the data fields in the new database. Also defining the documentation and training required to ensure the data migration is successful in the longer term.  

      This is such a critical step as it will define how complex the data migration process is going to be and whether or not you will need help and/or training for it to be successful.

      2. Getting to know the data 

      This is an audit of what information exists, whether there are duplications or redundancies, checking the suitability against GDPR and seeing how the old data source(s) map to the new system.  

      Getting a sense of your legacy object types and how they relate to new object types is critical.  It's not just about individual mappings, but what data will sit in the relevant record types and data sets.  

      Data sets and the relationships between are important to map as well. For example, a contact record might have a many-to-many association with companies, deals and tickets.  At this point, you may need to rename data types and define the associations.

      3. Clean up

      Ideally you’d always clean up the data before you move it.  There’s no point populating a clean system with inaccurate data!

      4. Migration

      Bringing the data into the new system. We’d always recommend including a test stage with a small data set to check it will work before the final migration. 

      5. Launch and training

      Once the data is in the new system, there is a formal launch stage when everyone starts to use it. Before this, you’ll need to consider training people on the new system.

      Of course the story doesn’t end there.  

      Data needs to be regularly maintained - deleting and de-duping regularly - this ensures you have clean data and that you are GDPR compliant.  

      Plus you should have systems and processes in place to protect the integrity of the data - this is also known as platform governance. This is particularly true for a CRM that is being used across your business. You need everyone to add the same kind of information to the database in the same way - adding, changing or deleting data in a consistent fashion  This requires training and often culture change, particularly if teams aren’t used to recording data systematically.

      Although it can be straightforward, data migration is often a much more complex job than you expect because it requires an in-depth understanding of what you want to achieve with the data as well as the data itself. Also a clear understanding of the impact that changes will make on the people using the data.

      Data integration

      Data integration is the process of combining data from different sources into one source so that you have a single view. It's about creating links between data sources and then synchronising the exchange of data between them.

      Do I need data integration?

      Yes, if you have different systems that you know and love but want to create connections between them to improve their functionality. For example, linking your quoting software to your CRM, or importing Eventbrite data into HubSpot.

      Data synchronisation definitions 

      Definitions are useful here! We’ve used data integration between two sources: A and B.

      Single direction 

      In this case any changes made in source A are changed in source B only.  The synch is in one direction only.

      Bi directional 

      Any changes made in source A are changed in B and any changes made in source B are changed in source A.  The synch goes both ways.


      Changes to the data are happening all the time - they are continuous. 

      Trigger dependant

      Changes to the data happen only when a particular trigger happens, eg the deal stage changes.

      API integration

      This is a connection between the APIs of two data sources.  APIs can be open where the data is free or paid for.  APIs are a solid, dependable source of data.


      A lighter weight connection, often from a third party provider (see connector integrations below).  


      Creating integrations between different software solutions has become a focus for Software as a Service providers like HubSpot in recent years. Integrations allows customers to combine data from different systems without changing the systems themselves. No longer do they need to buy a single, multi-functional expensive piece of software that does everything; rather they can stitch together data from different ‘best in class’ products and get an overview. What makes this possible is APIs and webhooks that allow data sources to talk to each other.

      Integrations can be easy to put in place when you know how - many are part and parcel of the software platform. For example HubSpot integrates with literally hundreds of other applications. Although, in reality, there are cases where you need a little more knowhow to really make them work properly, particularly if they are going to drive automated processes.

      Various tools and approaches have been developed to simplify data integration:

      Analytics dashboards & visualisation tools

      These pull data from a whole variety of sources into a single dashboard.  Examples include Google DataStudio and Microsoft Power BI - these pull data into custom dashboards that allow you to report on data from multiple sources. These are examples of single direction, continuous sync using API data.

      ‘Out of the box’ integrations

      These are the integrations between a piece of software and a third-party application so they can share information with each other to provide you with more features and options while using your software. You are almost definitely using these already either personally or professionally. These can be single, bi-directional, continuous or trigger synchronisation, using APIs or web hooks depending on the data sources and the data sharing protocols.

      They are usually very straightforward to put into practice.

      Webhook tools

      Where an out of the box integration doesn’t exist, there are a number of cloud based tools that are designed to allow you to create your own such as Zapier and HubSpot Operations Hub. These data connector tools, or webhooks, are designed to automate routine processes by creating connectors between data sources.   

      They are also known as iPaaS - integration platform as a service.

      At Noisy Little Monkey we have integrations for Facebook ads, Google Ads, Instapage, MailChimp, Wistia, Teamwork, Zoom, GMail, LinkedIn, Momentive (SurveyMonkey), Eventbrite, Soapbox, Unbounce, and PandaDoc. Bringing in data from other applications into HubSpot helps us see the wider picture of what drives leads and sales (for example syncing up Google Ads with HubSpot). It also helps us automate our internal processes. 

      How do I integrate my data?

      This depends on the APIs that your chosen software uses. Many SaaS companies - like HubSpot - actively develop a network of integrations to their software so that you create extensive combinations of tools.  

      In other cases, you may need help to link data between sources using custom software or webhook tools. In all cases, it's worth putting in a test stage with a smaller data set so you can test that the integration works in the way you expect it to.

      Integrations can be tricky. Different tools have different field names so you can end up following a very similar process to data migration to audit the data and define what you need. You may need to compromise sometimes to allow the data to map in both tools based on whether it is bidirectional.

      You may also need to upgrade your software as some tools require you to have a premium license to use the APIs.   

      You also have to deal with issues like tools losing permission and tool updating - occasionally integrations break by themselves, so you need to keep monitoring that they are working correctly. 

      Remind me again why it matters?

      Although they sound similar, data migration and data integration are very different things.  

      Data migration is the big piece of work that is at the heart of the successful implementation of HubSpot or indeed any CRM as it ensures you have quality data. It’s a one off piece of work that is fundamental to your investment in the software so you need to get right: getting some experienced help will make a huge difference.

      Data integrations make your life easier and certainly make reporting easier.  These can be quick and easy to put into place particularly if they are provided by your SaaS software.  However, they are generally a one off set up task and it can be helpful to get expert advice rather than wasting time through trial and error.

      Contact us to discuss how we can help you migrate your data on to HubSpot and use integrations to improve your business process and reporting.

      Nicola Payne

      Managing Director at Noisy Little Monkey, Nicola posts about Google Analytics and managing marketing teams.

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