SugarCRM – Importing Made Easy

Step 1:  Extracting the data

Sugar’s import tool requires only two things:

1.   A CSV (comma-separated values) file containing the data to import
2.   A single CSV file for each Sugar module, like Accounts and Contacts and Leads

See the Sugar Application Guide (Sugar 5.5 and later versions), or the Sugar Installation and Administration Guide (Sugar 5.2 and earlier versions)  for all the ins-and-outs. We’re covering the simplest of cases so we’ll deal only with CSV files and ignore advanced options. This is the fastest path to getting your data in Sugar.

It’s up to you to obtain the data from your existing system. For instance, if you’re using Excel, you can File?Save As and specify a file type of “CSV”.  Client-based tools like Act! and Goldmine have their own export capabilities. If you are moving to Sugar from or other CRM systems, you’ll need to contact them to arrange for data dumps.

In Sugar’s terminology, Accounts are “Company” records, Contacts are the people that belong to account records, Opportunities are your sales opportunities (deals), and your prospects will be imported as Leads.

It’s a good idea to name the files meaningfully, like Accounts.csv or Leads.csv.
You should provide a header row in your data file that contains the names of the associated fields. This will ease the mapping process.

Step 2:  Cleansing the data

Open your CSV files and what do you see? Chances are there’s a lot of good, clean data mixed with cringe-worthy data. Now is the best time to clean it up; don’t wait until it’s in Sugar. That’s like putting a dirty air filter on a brand new car.

So, what to do with the crummy data?

  1. Remove any identifiers in your existing data. Sugar creates its own unique identifiers on import. Identifiers are usually identified by “ID” fields. If the field value is important to you by all means keep it around but call it something other than “ID”. Sugar places special meaning to “ID”.
  2. See any duplicated records? If so, remove the duplicates.
  3. Sugar treats columns like date_entered and date_modified specially. It’s probably worth your while to create custom fields to store the original date values if they have meaning for you and not interfere with the special Sugar columns.

It may be a good idea to save the resulting, pristine version of your files with a special name like “Accounts_clean.csv”. This preserves the original data … just in case.

Step 3:  Prepping Sugar to Accept Your Data

If you see fields in your CSV file that don’t map directly to Sugar fields then by all means create new custom fields to store your data. You’ll need some place for that data to reside. Add new fields using Sugar Studio, located in the Admin area. Remember that you don’t need to spend lots of time with screen layouts just yet; it’s enough just to “throw” the custom field on the layout and finalize the layouts after the import completes to your satisfaction. You can even place the fields only on the DetailView for now and come back later to adjust the EditView and ListViews.

Now that Sugar’s ready to accept your pristine data here’s a tip for you: create a smaller version of your data file exclusively for test purposes. Say you have a file “Accounts_clean.csv” from the previous step. You can open that file, remove all but the first 5 rows, and save it as “Accounts_test.csv”. This gives you just enough rows to quickly test the process and make adjustments as needed. Why wait for 1000 rows to be imported while you’re testing when you can gain assurance of the process using only 5 rows?

Step 4:  Performing the Test Import

Using the smaller set of test data, run the Import wizard and create a data mapping. Save your mapping so you can easily find it later, both for subsequent test imports and for your actual import. Start with the Accounts data (if you have that data to import) and then import contacts, then everything else.

Follow the import steps and examine the results of your import to make sure all the fields you expect to appear do in fact appear in the correct fields. You can use the “Undo last import” button to undo your test import if you have to fine-tune a field mapping. When you are satisfied with the field mappings, delete the test records from Sugar. You can quickly do this from the List View for the module by selecting all records, then clicking on the Delete button.

Step 5: Performing the Actual Import

Now that you’ve run your tests and have saved the correct mappings, it’s time to perform the actual data import. Use the custom mappings you have built from the previous step.

Sugar can handle imports of several thousand records but can sometimes stress the
system if there is additional system activity occurring. If you are having problems
importing your master files, chances are you need to divide them into batches to get
them into the system. To test this theory, try importing 10-20 records, then 50-100, 200-
400, etc. If you are just evaluating Sugar and aren’t yet ready to import everything into your production system, consider importing just a meaningful subset of your data, as mentioned before.

For the import, always import Account records first. If you import an account first (Example: “ABC Company”) then any contact, case, or opportunity record that contains that same account name (with exact spelling) will automatically attach itself to that account record. A relationship between these records is automatically built. For example, after you complete your ABC Company Account import, you import 3 contact records with “ABC Company” as the name of their account; those contacts will automatically become contact records associated to the ABC account. The account field in these different types of records knows to build this relationship for you.

Once you have imported a .csv file, the system will notify you if the records were imported successfully. If they do not import, Sugar will tell you why. Sugar will also allow you to look at duplicate records that might have previously been imported into the system. You will then have the option to delete these records or merge the data.

After you have imported Accounts, import Contacts and then any other records.